• Sheryl Gwyther

#20 Venice ... city of dreams

Venice, more than any other city in the world, has a seductive charm that's entranced travellers for centuries. It was nicknamed La Serenissima, "The Most Serenely Beautiful One" — and for good reason.

We arrived in heavy and humid fog four days ago. We've walked through the calles and over bridges in light rain for a day. Then, as if she wanted to make sure we experienced her charms in all manners of weather, Venice lifted her foggy veil and showed off her colour and her beauty. I have (naturally) gone a bit crazy with a camera.

Sure, there are tourists galore here (as there were in 1715, minus the bling-encrusted selfie-sticks), but the world has been coming to Venice for pleasure, trade, holiday, romance, and yes, even to die, for centuries.

They say you are either too overwhelmed by getting lost in her labyrinth of calles, dead-ends, fondamentas, bridges and canals, and hoards of tourists, or you'll reach beyond those things and be captured forever by La Serenissima.

If you come to Venice, check out one of the Monastery (or Convent) Stays ... cheaper than hotels, a bit more basic but still comfortable double or single rooms (with your own shower), and sometimes even with Continental Breakfast included. Email the property directly if you can, not via the Monastery Stays company as they take their cut, of course.

Our 3 days at a monastery was superb. Close to everything (but then, so is everything in Venice), but our 4th floor window had a view across the rooftops to the 16th C Benedictine church, San Giorgio Maggiore, designed by our friend, Palladio. This sestieri is residential, so you'll wake to the sound of bells and birds. In the rest of Venice, it's bells and people walking along the cobbled or paved streets below your window.

From yesterday, we're staying at the Santa Margherita Guest House in the Dordosuro sestiere. It's lovely, and so are the owner, Maria and her sister, Cecelia. I'm sure we are in good hands for the 7 days we're here.

In my next blog post, I'll tell you about visiting the site where my story is set, the Ospedale della Pieta's Museum and 'Vivaldi's church'.

It's not so hard for this writer to imagine following the footsteps of my novel's Caterina as she races through her Baroque Venice - the canals, the government corruption, the smell and sound of salty water, the 139 churches and their bells, the music, the hawkers, the entertainers, the palazzi's facades of beauty covering centuries of wear-and-tear, the gabble of foreign languages, and a sense of history unfolding.

Am I overwhelmed by La Serenissima? You bet! and loving every minute of it. Today, I'm off to talk to the best researcher and archivist in the world of Vivaldi's link to the Ospedale della Pietà.