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Venice for Pleasure (Pallas for Pleasure) Paperback – 1 Oct 2008
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Whether in prospect or in retrospect, or there in one's hands in the city itself, the most informative and engaging guide to the past and present of Venice. --Philip Pullman
Essential on any Venetian outing --Sunday Telegraph
My all time favourite guidebook --James Daunt of Daunt's Travel Books
Venice with Passion --The Guardian
This magic book...not only the best guide-book to that city ever written, but the best guide-book to any city ever written --Bernard Levin,The Times
The grand old man of Venice --Brian Sewell, Evening Standard
Quite brilliant --Country Living
One of those miraculous books that gets passed by hand, pressed urgently on friends --Sean French, New Statesman
J.G.Links' little charmer --The Lady
Deliciously readable --Saga Magazine
Essential reading --Cande Nast Online
One of the most delightful and original guides ever written about the city- any city for that matter --Jan Morris
One of the great travel books --The Art Newspaper
Classic --Country Life
A friend --Daily Mirror
The world's best guidebook --William Boyd, Spectator
The best guide to Venice --Daily Telegraph
A world authority on Venice --Jeffrey Bernard, Spectator
Let's do it again, J.G. --Sue Lawley, The Sunday Telegraph
Exceptionally fascinating --Reiskrant
Little treasure --Newsday
The little classic --Good Book Guide
A trusty companion --Ned Sherrin, Mail on Sunday
An absolute must for anyone going to Venice --Evening Standard
The most readable guide to Venice --John Diamond, The Sunday Times
Not only the best guide book to that city ever written, but the best guide book to any city ever written --Bernard Levin, The Times
The essential and much loved companion --Anderson's Travel Companion
It doesn't tell you about all the Tintorettos and Veroneses and Titans you must look at. It just tells you how to enjoy yourself --Ham and High
Funny and fascinating, it is invaluable on the ground but also as a beautiful piece of descriptive reading --Eothen
Mr. Links leads a visitor on a number of walks through the labyrinth ways of the most beautiful of cities, walks filled with history, art, observation, curiosities, exotica, and sophistication. It's a guide which like no other I know, leads, by gloriously digressive routes, straight into the heart of a city's genius --A Common Reader
This is the walking guide to Venice taking in the cultural highlights and illustrated with paintings, photographs and engravings to reveal how the city became how it is today. None of Venice's innumerable chroniclers have portrayed the Serenissima's character with quite such a combination of the scholarly, the informal and the intimate. Over the years thousands of readers, starting this book, have been relieved to encounter its famously undemanding approach to the city - 'Generally the first thing to do in Venice is to sit down and have a coffee': but by the time they get to the end of it, all the same, they will have learnt virtually everything that an educated stranger needs to know about the place, its art and history, besides being subtly entertained throughout. (from Jan Morris' introduction to this new 8th revised edition published on the occasion of the title's 40th Anniversary).See all Product description
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In his 52-page introduction, JG Links says that the book, "is a guide to the pleasures of Venice without its pains. Its simple object is to guide the reader to places he might otherwise miss and, having reached them, to tell him what he might wish to know and then leave him there to admire, to enjoy or, perhaps, to be disappointed." It is intended for (a) those who possess at least one other guide book; (b) those who are walkers; and (c) those who are in Venice to enjoy themselves. The last two of these criteria speak for themselves, but a word about the first. Links is honest to admit that his guide is by no means comprehensive. For instance, his narrative of Venice's history is concise, admitting that his "will not be a very profound study: ten minutes should suffice." And "... nor can I tell you much about the Venetian people." His background is in the fur trade, but he is best known as an art historian, specialising in the works of Canaletto. He died in 1997.
I was soon sympathetic to this writer when, despite being an admirer of Ruskin, he professed that "Bellini, Carpaccio or Canaletto will draw me into a church or gallery while Titian, Tintoretto or Tiepolo find me still at my coffee when it is closing time." And I can (almost) agree with remark that in the Accademia, "Room VI leads straight to Room X without having to pass through Rooms VII, VIII, and IX, and advantage should be taken of this fact." In his review of artistic works, the author focuses on the paintings of Venice itself (and rightly so) and to the St Ursula cycle by Carpaccio (where paintings of Venice appear by proxy). Links does not hide his opinions, and more often than not I am in agreement with them, but not always. For instance, in the Frari church he refers to "the monument Canova designed for Titian but which was eventually used for Canova himself, and serve him right." At least the disagreement over the artistic worth of Canova's tomb is mitigated by the author's sardonic humour.
The bulk of the book is taken up with four proposed walks around the city.
Here, Links has an engaging manner, writing as if he is taking you by the arm as he shows you the sights. One feels he is about to ask about the health of your auntie back home. He says, "I promise to write as little as possible while we are walking: nothing is worse than having to read a guide book while walking and looking round." He does not always succeed, but at least this policy does result in numerous stops for coffee or other refreshments. (But what about the toilets?)
There are two further chapters after the four walks, the first taking the reader `Around Venice and the Islands of the Lagoon'. The second incongruously combines `Venice for Children's Pleasure' and `The Delights of the [River] Brenta'. The author recounts how he introduced his granddaughter to Venice, when she was really more interested in her Dick Francis novel: "... this chapter is written in the hope of mitigating the disappointment of finding ourselves with a bored child on our hands."
There are some occasional errors. For instance, the Fondamenta San Maurizio is strictly not the only one on the Grand Canal. And do not believe him when he says that the gondoliers have a hard time: the Venetians themselves see them in a different light, with recent reports suggesting earnings of £7,000 per month, and (along with the pony and trap drivers of Rome) they are the only group in Italy that do not have to declare their earnings. But I learned much too, for instance that the waters of the lagoon once came right up to the Scuola San Marco.
Of course, time does not stand still, not even in Venice, and so there are changes needed in the text. (A new edition is planned by the publisher.) The most obvious example is that we need no longer talk of millions of lira, but of the Euro, but also there is now no need for representatives in the Doge's Palace to stand ready to change the tape of your audio guide, and the vaporetto (water bus) no longer goes through the Arsenale. References to James Morris should, with respect, be to Jan Morris.
Talking of the vaporetto, the whole of this book's first appendix, about the public transportation services provided in the city, is largely out-of-date. In addition, there is no mention of the new day/week cards that has additional benefits for visiting museums. The other appendices are very useful. They cover street signs (two pages); food and drink (four pages); and further reading (twelve pages).
The book is generously illustrated with extracts from the works of Canaletto, Carpaccio, Whistler, even Ruskin himself. There are interesting old photographs and maps too. It is especially informative to see details from Barbari's 1500 printed view of the city, so that we can compare directly, for example, the corresponding views of the Rialto Bridge by Barbari and Carpaccio. The book also contains thirty beautifully reproduced colour plates of the works of Canaletto and Guardi. This is where the landscape form of this pocket book is a blessing rather than a curse.
There are guides to Venice and there are guides to Venice. I've read quite a few. This is certainly one of the better ones for introducing the first-time visitor to the city. It is not pretentious, nor is it too academically-inclined. The author certainly knows the city and the pleasures it can offer, but above all he is writing to make sure that you too enjoy your visit. By putting your pleasure at the top of his list, this guide will ensure that your visit to La Serenissima is not a disappointment.
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