We require from buildings two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it… John Ruskin


Venice : pure city London : Chatto & Windus, 2009  Peter Ackroyd Venice (Italy) History Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 403 p., [32] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps (some col.) ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. [381]-386) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underl ining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

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In this vision of Venice,  Ackroyd turns his skill for evoking a sense of place from London and the River Thames to Venice, the city of myth, mystery and beauty, set like a jewel in its glistening lagoon. Ackroyd’s Venice is at once romantic and packed with detail, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the fiestas and the flowers.

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He leads us through the fascinating, story-filled history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century, to the rise of a great mercantile state and trading empire, the wars against Napoleon and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the mosaics of St. Marks’ and the glass blowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the doges and the destitute.

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And of course, the artists – Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, with their passion for colour and form. There are wars and sieges, scandals and seductions, fountains playing in deserted squares and crowds thronging the markets. And there is a dark undertone too, of shadowy corners and dead ends, prisons and punishment. We could have no better guide to Venice than Peter Ackroyd whose book is, itself, a glorious journey and the perfect holiday.

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