Next Station: Venice
Venice, with its seductive charm and rich history, is a city that beckons sightseers and crime fiction enthusiasts alike. Beyond its romantic allure lies a hidden world of mystery and intrigue. In this article, we embark on a
mental walking tour through the labyrinthine streets of Venice, exploring its fascinating sights while delving into the captivating realm of crime novels set in this enigmatic city.
The most convenient way to reach the city centre is by train. We arrive at the main station, Venezia Santa Lucia, and step out onto a large plaza filled with tourists as well as pigeons waiting for the leftovers of a breakfast
Right in front of us lies the pulsing heart of Venice: the iconic Canale Grande. We are about to step onto a gondola when a loud wailing noise interrupts us, and the gondoliere commands us to step back. A royal blue and bright white motorboat screams past, displaying the word Polizia on its side. Has yet another murder occurred in this mysterious city? The middle-aged man standing at the bow of the boat, with his dark hair and barbed features, is finely attired in Italian style and bears an uncanny likeness to Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti
Our journey continues, and we encounter the iconic opera house La Fenice (The Phoenix), which reopened in 1792 after a devastating fire. Serial sleuths such as Philip Gwynne Jones’ Nathan Sunderland and Beverle Graves Myers’ Tito Amato eventually solve a murder mystery in this esteemed building.
As our lunch break unfolds at a charming Venetian bar, a symphony of flavours dances upon our palates. The delicate tramezzini, filled with layers of savoury prosciutto, creamy mozzarella, and fresh basil, tantalise our taste buds while we relish the effervescent delight of a spritz, its vibrant orange hue reflecting the warm Venetian sun.
As we wander through the city’s narrow, tangled streets, we discuss our favourite mystery novels set in this beautiful city. La Serenissima is so alluring that authors have even sent characters there for one-time investigations, some of whom include
L. B. Hathawayin Murder in Venice, and
J. C. Briggs in At Midnight in Venice.
Before we visit Venice’s tourist highlight, we have a fortifying coffee break in probably the most legendary coffee house in town. Nestled in the iconic St. Mark’s Square, Caffè Florian is a testament to Venice’s enduring elegance and cultural heritage. Established in 1720, it has been a popular setting for historical crime novels. A place of conspiracy, it is where a privileged few have met not only for their coffee but also for secret conversations or the clandestine trade of information. If you read German and relish stories of criminal activity from the past, do not miss the Commissairo Tron series by Nicolas Remin.
The coffee and delicious pastries have restored our energy, so we are ready to take on a sporting challenge. We are now in the bustling Piazza San Marco, where artists capture the atmosphere of the surroundings on canvas, musicians fill the air with melodic notes, and visitors from all corners of the globe marvel at the captivating architectural beauty. To our left, the graceful Campanile di San Marco reaches towards the heavens.
We ascend endless stairs and reach the platform overlooking Piazza San Marco 99 metres below. We witness gigantic cruise ships bringing in thousands of tourists for the day. By now, it is late afternoon, though, and the stream of visitors has begun to slow. Only one other tour group on the bell tower is there with us. Its members are easily recognisable by the earplugs and small transmission receptors they wear around their necks. Having marvelled at the breathtaking view of Piazza San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, and the port, we set off towards the exit.
Suddenly, a shriek pierces the air as we approach the door that leads to the stairs. We spin around and spot its source: a dead body on the floor, a knife blade thrust in its chest, next to the transmission receptor.
Our leisurely, joyful mental trip through the City of Doges ends with a simple question: Whodunnit?
If your murderous brain is now working at full speed, feel free to share your plot ideas with me. I’d also be happy to receive your recommendations for murder mysteries set in Venice. I will share them upon our arrival at our next travel destination.
In the meantime, happy reading!
Daniela M. Hartinger grew up raiding the shelves of her local library for children’s detective novels and ended up devouring Agatha Christie and the like. She has combined her literary passion with her enthusiasm for foreign languages to work as a freelance book translator. She also dabbles with writing and can’t resist a bar of chocolate – which, nowadays, she must share with her ever-hungry toddler son.