Venice has held a fascination for English-speakers for centuries. Byron wrote prolifically about the city, the late nineteenth century leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement were activists for the preservation of the old city and now American tourists arrive in droves to wander the canals and fondamente of the city trapped in history. As a setting for A Match Made in Venice and the second in the series, We’ll Always Have Venice (out 28 April 2022), it was a dream.
Venice is a dream setting for many kinds of fiction, but I found the city to be utterly perfect inspiration for a romantic comedy – so perfect, that one book became two, with the second due out in early 2022.
As the immortalised Venetian son (and sometime exile) Giacomo Casanova said in his memoir, ‘I am writing my life to laugh at myself and I am succeeding.’ Venice is a city with an ironic smile.
It is unquestionably one of the most beautiful places in the world, with turquoise water, warm colours and unique architecture reminiscent of the grand past. But it is also covered in graffiti, falling down in a lot of places and heaving with tourists, more often than not (aside from the incredible pictures that emerged during the lockdowns).
This juxtaposition was the starting point for a Match Made in Venice: the character of Didi, who doesn’t want to be there, who is too business-like and practical to stop and smell the canals (probably not a good idea anyway). And then you have her opposite, Piero, who is searching in vain for a vague sort of ideal of artistic beauty, but he doesn’t take himself seriously enough to succeed.
The story is a sort of allegory of the city itself, of the tension between authenticity and consumerism, beauty and practicality, earnestness and self-deprecating humour.
I wanted to capture the self-consciousness of Venice as a world attraction, and as a place where normal people live (although of course their numbers are reducing). You can imagine that these people who were ‘born under the lion’ need a good sense of humour in a city some visitors think is a theme park, and a strong sense of identity. Hence the colourful local expressions, often very rude, in the Veneto dialect (and the ‘venexian’ variant of that dialect).
If you offend someone in Venice, don’t be surprised if they tell you to go ‘eat my tuna’. If someone has drunk too many ‘ombre’ (shadows, as a glass of house wine is known), they will be ‘out like a balcony’. The classic all-purpose phrase is ‘ghe sboro’, which translates as the extremely rude ‘I ejaculate on it’, but can be a good thing or an exclamation of surprise.
And that’s before we start on the proverbs, including the classic, ‘Women are like farts: either you let them go or remain choked,’ (except it rhymes in Veneto) and many others featuring important bodily functions which have provided challenges for the architects of the city for centuries…
So, let’s do a shadow (drink a glass of wine) and get to know Venice like our pockets. Eat and drink (and read all the books) because life is short. Irony aside, the beauty of Venice is undeniable. In a Match Made in Venice, it is ultimately the romance of the city that prevails.