Book Review: Secret Venice (Jonglez Publishing)

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A note to my readers: The world is gradually easing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, but it will be a long time before we can travel freely again. For many of us that will mean staycations and more local travel, but I will continue posting new content about Italy for you to read at home and to inspire your future travels. Happy reading and stay safe!

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Venice is unique. It is also one of the most visited places on the planet. But, if you look hard enough, there is plenty to see apart from the obvious tourist attractions. Secret Venice, a recent title from Jonglez Publishing, is an essential guide for those who want to get off the beaten path or to see the city differently.

What Is Secret Venice?

Secret Venice book cover

Secret Venice is a compilation of “unusual, hidden or as yet little-known aspects of Venice”. The authors’ aim is to record the “multitude of details found in places that we may pass every day without noticing”. As you might expect, there are lots of churches, palazzi, art and sculptures here. History and legends also feature prominently. But there are also small houses and gardens, tiny museums, obscure symbolism and hidden details.

The book features a number of curiosities, one of which is a plaque forbidding people to abandon their children! There is lots of old graffiti (including depictions of rats), an underground canal, and a collection of driftwood sculptures. Frequent information panels offer snippets of history, like “What remains of Venice’s old pharmacies?”, or “the Templars in Venice”.

Hidden In Plain Sight

The guide is organised in sections, with eight separate areas, including the islands of the lagoon. Each section has a map and list of things to see or explore. And, if you thought that there could be nothing “secret” in the well-trodden San Marco area, Secret Venice will make you think again. Here we have the remains of a well in Piazza San Marco, and a small bronze head close to the Rialto Bridge. There are hundreds of items hidden in plain sight.

Page of book entitled "curious deaths"
The book is full of oddities… (Picture copyright Jonglez Publishing)

Away from the centre you will find ancient hunting grounds and a vineyard. You will meet people associated with Venice. Not just artists and religious figures, but the architect Palladio, the novelist Hugo Pratt, and the legendary lover Casanova. And the information panels are sometimes thought provoking, posing questions like “Why is San Simeon Piccolo bigger than San Simeon Grande?”. Or even “Is the gondolier a living symbol of the battle between St George and the Dragon?”…

How To Use Secret Venice

You could carry this book as a handbook when walking round Venice, or just dip into it randomly to see what is there. Or use the thematic index – with subjects including Architecture, Secret Gardens and Traces of Old Venice – to plan your own customised exploration. Secret Venice is for anyone, whether a first timer in the city or a seasoned tourist, who wants to explore beyond the well known sights. Anyone who wants to probe beneath the surface, or to see a different side of the city, will find something to attract them. Even regular visitors, or those who live in the city, are likely to find things they have never seen before. And, of course, it is also a book for armchair travellers, a book to dip into and to savour.

Page showing one of the hidden gardens of Venice
One of many “secret gardens” (Picture copyright Jonglez Publishing)

Secret Venice by Thomas Jonglez, Paola Zoffoli and Irene Galifi. Jonglez Publishing, 2020, £15.99/US$21.95, 9782361954116

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Bewitched By Italy is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), but Italy remains one of my favourite destinations. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Venice (Jonglez Publishing)”

  1. This is such a great tip for seeing lesser-known aspects of Venice. I hope I’ll have a chance to visit this magical city again and will look into getting “Secret Venice”.

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