Sunday, 25 January 2015

Libreria Acqua Alta

Aqua Alta is the name of the phenomenon known all-too-well to Venetians: severe flooding. Everyone knows the drill: wellingtons, metal blocks over doors, bin liners strapped to legs and collapsible walkways installed in the main streets.

It is also the name of a bookshop, hidden away in the district of Castello. Its prices and atmosphere rival the great but big-headed Shakespeare & Company in Paris. A tricorne-wearing employee (or owner - my shameful Italian has left me sounding underresearched) will introduce you to his cats and say that you and your companions (if they are female - untested on men) are like flowers in a bouquet. When pressed as to which kind of flower, he replies, putting on a lackadaiscal front: "all of them, all kinds", and suddenly you're compelled to buy something - anything - even if it's the out-of-date novelty Casanova condoms. Yeah, get rifling - the books are only a fraction of the deal; plates ripped out of art books, actual old-fashioned posters, drawings made by anonymous art students, postcards, vintage photographs and leather-bound stationery are all filed splattersuckle amidst the bookshelves which brim with volumes in most European languages. If you go to Venice and miss Acqua Alta, you'll miss bundles of amusement, so take it on my recommendation or leave it at your loss as you retreat into another uneventful night at a delicious pizzeria.

Shift dress, c/o Warehouse
Jumper, vintage
Platforms, Dune at Debenhams
Glasses, Specsavers

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Murano (back in the 70s)

You haven't seen so much as a modicum of Venice, and already you hear talk of expensive island trips that are "unmissable". Should you really abandon the palazzos, sighing bridges and Pigeon Fashion Week vvso soon? And if so, for what? The most popular choice is between Burano, Murano and Torcello. All are easy to reach via the Venetian water buses (Vaporetti) or by water taxi (more thrilling). Unlike Murano, the other two islands are a longer journey away from Venice, so we settled on a quick whiz around rather than a full day out, because in winter most Venetian galleries and museums shut at 5pm and we wanted to be back for those. Which is a shame, because y'know, Torcello is the place mentioned in one of the belly-laughiest Harold Pinter scenes ever and Burano looks really great on Google Images.

If you don't have the luxury of time, though, Murano is good for a rapid hop around. Here, however, I must insert a disclaimer: should you suffer from crystallophobia, aka fear of glass, you absolutely must avoid this place because of glass it is full and o'erbrimming. Murano glass-makers have their signature style, which you can get a feel for after stepping into one or two showrooms (be bloody careful with those MCM backpacks, kids). More worthwhile for you is a visit to a glass-making artisan factory, where you can watch glass-blowers at work. If only to get an idea for the rapidity of the process (see that horse? well, no big deal, but that took about twenty seconds) and to realise that one chandelier takes several days to complete. Maybe that'll teach you not to swing from a chandelier after all (though I never learn).

Outside, Murano is beautiful, and a complete dead-out at this time of year and in the early morning. One of the open secrets about Venice is the island of Poveglia, complete with abandoned hospital and dense population of spirits and orbs. Well, turn around the corner in Murano and you will have ruined factories - no need to pay for a water taxi to Poveglia, it is all here. Oh, and do jump into a church when you see one - the floor mosaics are out of this world.

Jumper, poloneck, and trousers, vintage
Cape, Windsmoor
Platforms, Debenhams