Translation by Silvia Celesti
An artistic stroll in and out of hidden corners, alleyways, and wine bars
One of the many unique features of Venice is its ability to bewitch you before you even get there. This is no small feat and in fact few places can manage it. One that comes to mind in undoubtedly New York, which floods you with its energy (…) Well, Venice is a bit like that. It envelops you in its fairy-tale as soon as the train leaves Mestre station and, after leaving the chimneys, cranes, and sad apartment blocks behind, turns into a sailing ship and crosses the Lagoon as if suspended over the water by a spell, accompanied by the screeching of the seagulls. [p.129]
Who has never been to Venice?
The floating city is so charming that it attracts tourists coming from all over the world. And yet there is a hidden Venice, the one that is far from the main attractions and that is at the disposal of the inhabitants. This is where Gian Maria Donà dalle Rose takes us to discover a hidden and lived Venice. The book is titled Seven Days in Venice and it is published by Edizioni Settecolori.
At the end of the book (no spoiler!) we will find out that the tale develops over a period of seven days.
Step by step, the narrative expedient results in a physical and mental journey: we sail from Campo Giustina. On the boat with the author there are two friends who are two trusted advisors as well: Piergiacomo Petrioli, art historian and professor at the Brown University and the journalist Walter Mariotti, director of ‘Domus’ and ‘I Meridiani’. Among other things, the first one has the merit to have drawn in pencil the sketches which introduce the chapters of the book, while the second one to have curated the critical revision of the project. There is no beginning, nor end; but a succession of areas to sketch with a pencil on a map.
Venice is many different things, yet it is certainly not “a place”. It is more like a state of being. That elsewhere you find yourself in without having had reason to go [p.10]
What we have in our hands is not a narrative story nor a novel. It is a flânerie and it has nothing or a very little to do with those travel guides we happen to look through when we visit a city for leisure or pleasure.
Seven Days in Venice is certainly a guide but told from the perspective and personal experience of the narrator. And this is how historical facts and data are mixed with the lives of illustrious figures who lived in Venice and who paid tribute to it with their lives and works, from Petrarch to Vivaldi, from Dante to Ruskin, up to Peggy Guggenheim and many others.
«But now is time to move on with our feet and not just with our thoughts» (p. 132) And so we move from the historical reconstruction to fun facts, anecdotes and practical advice leading by the experience of the author who suggests us that cosy trattoria where at lunchtime we can grab a bite cheek by jowl or that wine bar where we can drink a spritz savouring delicious buns.
Seven Days in Venice is a tale filtered by the expert gaze of the narrative voice.
« I come from an ancient Venetian family that gave birth to three doges. The first was Francesco (1468-1553), who was the seventy-ninth doge (…) Then came Leonardo (1536-1612) the ninetieth doge of La Serenissima – the Most Serene Republic of Venice – and to whom I dedicated my book “L’antipapa veneziano” (The Venetian antipope) (…) The last doge was Nicolò (1540-1618) […] and we will talk about him as we walk around Murano, where he is buried» (p. 10)
the author tells us about himself.
A short book, divided into geographical paragraphs, with no beginning nor end, suitable for different reading speeds. We set out from Cannareggio towards Castello area to continue with Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce, San Marco, Giudecca and S. Giorgio, il Lido, Murano, Burano and Torcello.
There is one word printed on the first page of the book: loneliness. The voice of Gian Maria Donà dalle Rose accompanies the silent traveler, the one who is seeking the inner peace and who is moved by a great personal curiosity. The author acts as a flâneur and that’s why it is appreciated by readers who are flâneurs themselves: meandering slowly around the streets of the city. Like a gentle stroll this book can be savoured chapter by chapter, step by step.
A corner I had never seen in that way before. A small square – a campiello – that seemed unfamiliar to me. A passageway cut off by the canal. It is the only way you can look at something you have seen a thousand times from a different prospective. (…) Synaesthesia, the poets call it. For me, it has alway been somethng that is easier to do than define. Walking. Finding yourself somewhere you never thought you would be or go. [introduction]
Donà dalle Rose doesn’t lead the readers inside the city but, on the contrary, he encourages them to get lost in its alleys. A forgotten story, an uncommon view; Seven Days in Venice is a book which accompanies us to do the shopping and chat with the greengrocer and the butcher in the company of Ezra Pound.
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BIOGRAPHY: Gianmaria Donà dalle Rose was born in Venice and grew up in Milan. He graduated from Bocconi University and did his postgraduate studies at Yale University. From 1981 to 1994 he held management positions at Procter & Gamble, McKinsey, and Gruppo Rizzoli Corriere della Sera. Since 1995 he has worked for Twentieth Century Fox as President and Managing Director of Fox Italy and Spain, and since June 2017 he has also been President of the IVF (International Film and Video Federation). He is passionate about Venice and enjoys researching its history. His ﬁrst book L’ Antipapa veneziano, vita del doge Leonardo Donà (Milan: Giunti, 2019) was about his ancestor, the doge Leonardo Donà.