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Book Review: Secret Venice by Thomas Jonglez and Paola Zoffoli

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Through a new distribution arrangement in the US with Globe Pequot Press, Globe brings us the Secret Guides, founded by French publisher Thomas Jonglez. Jonglez guides are widely known for their original style, written by local residents, and are targeted to locals as well as global travelers, to discover the essence of a city, beyond traditional guidebooks.

Secret Venice, by Thomas Jonglez and Paola Zoffioli bring you the result of five years of research uncovering everything from ruins and graffiti to rare libraries in this unique city.

Without Secret Venice, you may visit the Museo Richard Wagner without also seeing the apartment where Wagner spent his last days in 1883.

Find your way to Venice’s only underground canal and enjoy lavish secret gardens, such as the Double Garden of the Scuola Vecchia Della Misericordia, on the site of a former Dominican friary. Schedule a visit to the vegetable garden, cemetery and enclosed garden, which served as home, as recently as 1920 for an artist, now restored under guidance from Venice City Museum.

You’ll be able to visit ancient casinos, and even learn the history on the once-used spy hole in the floor of Casino Venier. The casino, rich with marble, stuccowork, frescoes and mirrors, was used by aristocrats and restored in the 1980s and 90s.

Covering San Marco, Santa Croce, San Polo, and Castello among other areas, and a guide around the lagoon, Secret Venice includes full-color street level maps for each area, so you can find your way to The Eyes of St. Lucy, and to the Arzana collection of preserved boats, including an authentic gondolin da fresco located in a 15th century boatyard.

Secret Venice is rich with detail and an excellent thematic index, with such categories as: architecture, curiosities, history, legends, paintings, symbolism, and the unusual traces of old Venice.

You may spend a morning photographing the colors of Burano, but with Secret Venice, you will also understand the reason for the vibrantly painted houses. During the Middle Ages, white quicklime disinfected the houses where residents were stricken with the plague. Bright rainbow colored houses designated those which were spared from the disease. On days when the lagoon was covered in fog, the bright colors also helped fishermen find their way home.

Not often visited, the Chapel of the Vision of St. Mark, is where St. Mark came ashore during storm, to preach his Gospel. Today, the tiny chapel, rebuilt in the 18th century serves as a storeroom, but remains a key element of the history of Venice.

Beyond history,give yourself an artistic treat with the Orsoni Library of Enamels, with over 3,000 shades to form an infinite variety of colors with the only active glass kiln in the city.To see the life, the history, and the charm of Venice, pocket the Secret Venice guidebook and enjoy exploring the city’s rich past.

While most Venice guidebooks will help you choose a hotel and find a meal, once you’ve arrived you don’t need that information. Instead, you need Secret Venice; a revealing, insiders guide to the secrets of the city. Explore it on your own and see why people so love Venice, for the surprises off the tourist track, the secrets of the real city and its many charms.

It may open your eyes and enhance all of your future travels, teaching us to pay attention to details found in places we may pass every day without noticing. Venice, of all cities, deserves our close attention as we enjoy the centuries-old curiosities and charm.

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About Helen Gallagher