My new book, In Just One Day, is set partly in one of my favourite Italian cities, Venice. I first visited as a teenager, one of our stops on an inter-railing tour across Italy and France. I remember walking the streets of this floating city hoping that one day I might come back and stay in a hotel rather than on a campsite and with more than £2 a day to spend! I returned years later with my husband Ross for our ten year wedding anniversary, staying in a small hotel just off the Grand Canal.
Venice was just as I’d remembered – glorious but with an air of faded splendour. I loved everything about it from the numerous glasses of Prosecco in quiet wine bars in the back streets to the jaw-dropping sight of St Marks and the many churches dotting the city. It felt like the perfect backdrop for part of the novel when Johnny takes his wife Flora for a surprise visit in the hope it might help ease the pain of recent events.
Here are some of my favourite places, a few of which inspired settings in the book.
SLEEP: Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo
This is the hotel we stayed in when I went to Venice for the second time and it was quite the step up from the campsite! Typically Venetian – think brown furniture and brocade – it manages to make you feel a little decadent without breaking the bank. It’s a good fifteen minutes’ walk to St Marks’ Square meaning it’s delightfully quiet compared to the thronging streets nearer the big landmarks. Perfectly located to explore the city.
EAT: Ristorante Lineadombra
A friend who’d visited Venice on numerous occasions gave me this great restaurant tip, a gorgeous restaurant in Dorsoduro with the most incredible views across the water to the churches dotting the landscape on the island of Giudecca on the other side. The pasta is fresh, the seafood is wonderful and the wine delicious. Make sure you get a table on the terrace by the water rather than inside the restaurant.
DRINK: Vini da Gigio
Another tip off from a fellow professional wine friend, this tucked-away wine bar is the stuff of Venetian dreams. At least, it is to me. Located in the Cannaregio district, this has a quiet neighbourhood feel to it and you’ll find yourself eating and drinking alongside Italians (always a good sign). The wine list is particularly lovely with plenty of local producers to try.
VISIT: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
I know it seems mad in a city stuffed with beautiful churches and old paintings to go and see a room full of modern ones but there is something about the Guggenheim Museum that stayed with me long after we’d left Venice. From Paul Klee to Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock to Vasily Kandinsky and more, there are familiar works of art at every turn and it’s not unbearably crowded.
Helen’s book In Just One Day is out now.