This is one of those books I probably wouldn’t have read if I hadn’t visited Venice. I’ve written before about how I like my holiday reading to include something relevant to where I have traveled. I also find that having visited a place I understand a little more about it and I become interested in any literature associated with it.
My trip to Venice was a highlight in 2016 but I can’t really pretend I came away understanding the heart of it any more than before I went. It’s a bewildering, fascinating, beautiful place to visit but difficult to fully understand as a tourist — especially one visiting for a few packed days of sight seeing. On our last day in Venice, when the acqua alta or high tide was rising and the rain was falling heavily, we found ourselves in a book shop with a good selection of travel guides and english books. I immediately picked up The Politics of Washing and read it soon after arriving home. It has proven to be an excellent way of scratching beneath the surface of Venice’s watery streets.
Polly Coles, her husband and four children, moved to Venice. This is the story of the year she and her family lived there.
“it is about the city, its corners and backwaters, and it is about the Venetians themselves and the ways in which they navigate their extraordinary home. But most of all it is a plea to halt the daily violation of one of the earths most precious treasures by unregulated tourism: to preserve not only its stones but its living culture; to allow Venezia to become, once again just a bit more normal.”
This book gives an insight into what it might just be like to live in a floating museum besieged by tourists. I loved the detail. If you’ve been to Venice and been puzzled by the notion of actually living there and questioned how a washing machine would be delivered along tiny streets and into the narrow doorways which lead to peoples homes, then this book is for you. Of course it is much more than that, it is packed with history, would serve you well as an alternative travel guide, but it’s mainly a personal account full of anecdotes around real life in Venice.
Polly Coles writing is warm and affectionate toward a place she clearly adores but also finds perplexing and worrying in equal measure.
Although I read this post-Venice, I would strongly recommend it as pre-Venice reading if you are planning a trip. I suspect it’ll make you a more inquisitive tourist, one who looks beyond the facade of the Grand Canale and the ridiculous beauty of St Marks Square. It’ll make you a more respectful tourist and one who is sympathetic to the fragile glory of this beautiful city and the needs of those who are proud to call it their home.
Polly Coles On Social Media: Twitter
» Reviewer, Traveler, & Lifestyle Blogger: About Angela Vincent
Angela is a 40 something fully paid up bookworm and a regular contributor to The Black Lion Journal. She lives and works in London. By day you will find her working in a busy hospital as a Macmillan Palliative Care Nurse Specialist. Her aim is to do those things which make her heart sing and spend time with those who make her smile. A love of books, reading, and writing has always been a big part of her life. ‘Changing pages’ began as a natural extension of that in 2014, and is a continuation of many years of dedicated scribbling and journal keeping. When she is not reading books, she can often be found writing about them or thinking about what she might read next.