I recently reviewed Secret Venice, a guide to some of the hidden spots in one of the world’s most visited places. Now the publishers, Jonglez, have come up with a new title, Soul of Venice, an in-depth look at thirty of the city’s unique experiences. I spoke to the author, Servane Giol, about the book and how she came to write it.
Writing Soul Of Venice
As the introduction to Soul of Venice says, Venice is “the victim of rampant tourism… there’s nothing that hasn’t already been written about Venice”. Yet there is another side to the city, a side that is only known to those who live there. It is that side that the book attempts to capture, to help you “understand a certain Venetian spirit, off the beaten track”.
Servane Giol is French by birth but has lived and worked in Venice for more than twenty years. She told me that she has come to know the city very well, but still retains some of the instincts of a tourist. For her Venice is both familiar and exotic, making her the ideal person to dip into the soul of the city and to share it with us.
What you will not find in this book is the standard offerings of traditional guidebooks. There are no serenading gondoliers, or descriptions of the Rialto Bridge. It is almost a different city, a place where people work, shop, and meet for drinks. A place where churches are places of worship, not tourist attractions.
Servane said that she looked for experiences that were unique to Venice, taking a number of different aspects including food, hotels and walks. She chose the places and experiences that had been a part of her life for the last twenty years. “Basically where I, as a Venetian, would go and what I would do.”
Palazzi, Books And Velvet Slippers
Some of the experiences here are spectacular, like the sumptuous palazzo where you can rent a suite of rooms while you stay in Venice. Others are more humble, such as the inconspicuous bar that serves “the best sandwiches in Venice”. Food and drink feature prominently but you will also find velvet slippers, a bookshop on a boat and a “magical spiritual retreat”.
Interspersed with the experiences are interviews with some of the people who are part of the fabric of the city. We meet a second-generation restaurant owner, a costume designer and the manager of a hotel where Ernest Hemingway once stayed.
I asked Servane which was her favourite of all the experiences. She found this a hard question, because they are all so different, but eventually decided upon lunch at the Locanda Cipriani on Torcello. This “is a true piece of paradise, full of Hemingway’s spirit and the food is delicious”. She added that the Cipriani also has “the most wonderful garden”, something that Venice, for all its splendours, is often lacking.
Quick Fire Questions
Can you sum up for my readers what Soul of Venice is about?
Soul of Venice is my 30 best Venetian experiences, from food to hotels to walks to museums. 30 less obvious picture perfect places. I call it my Instagram on paper!
What advice would you give to a first time visitor to Venice who wants to see more than the usual tourist sights?
Firstly to stay for a minimum three of days. Then to rent a boat and explore the lagoon and its islands as well as the city. And to see it with Venetians if you can.
Finally, how would you describe Venice in 5 words?
Unique – island – fragile – magical – timeless
I enjoyed experiencing Venice through the eyes of a local. This is the perfect book to accompany you on your travels, or just for a bit of armchair exploration.
Soul Of Venice: A Guide To 30 Exceptional Experiences, by Servane Giol and Thomas Jonglez. Jonglez Publishing, 2020, 9782361953317