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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 May 2007
These DVDs are a must for anyone plannng to visit Venice. They would form a basis of interest and direction for anyone's first visit. There is a historical thread from beginning to end starting with the birth of Venice and finishing with a dicussion on how Venice will fair in the future. The main historical figures are mentioned, the artists, architectects, sculptures, musicians etc and how they fitted into the fabric of Venice. This is not a stuffy historical guide, instead Da Mosto has laced the narrative with anecdotes and interesting stories, with gossip and scandal. His love for his home and birth place is infectious.

The DVDs are well shot and Da Mosto's story is well illustrated.

It is difficult to imagine how these 4 programmes could have been improved because although details are occasionally a little scant I am sure that it was never the intention to make this the definitive guide to Venice.

Francesco's Venice is a general interest guide full of facts spontaneity and humour and certainly gives anyone with the slightest interest in Venice a good idea of what the place is all about.
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VINE VOICEon 24 December 2008
If you are planning to visit Venice I recommend you invest in to this DVD and watch it before you go. This is more a historical guide than a review of the most important land marks.

As it happens Francesco ( an arcitec himself ) was born in venice and knows every corner and every dark secret of the city.

The production values are excellent and Francesco interacts with the past in a very clever way. The actors who play the main characters help to bring the history alive.

The cultural heritage is fascinating but the creation and expansion of the republic even more.

Apart from the history of his own family most the DVD refers to the most important highlights of the city and all you will need is a map to find them. There is far more information in this format than you can get in a guide book.

The DVD is made by the BBC and targeted to the British public.

Can he do Rome or Florence next ?
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on 23 October 2007
If you are going to visit Venice, spending 4 hours watching this DVD will save you a lot of time (and money) since he puts the city in context and shows some of the highlights to head for. He is a master storyteller, and delights in telling you how Venetians have struggled from one disaster to another, making some magnificent buildings in the process.

The Venice on the DVD is without the hordes of tourists, overpriced tourist restaurants, and cheesy tourist shops which cram into Venice today - you will see that for yourself when you get there.
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on 8 August 2008
The best reviews are always those whose author is well versed in the subject ~ seemingly an obvious point but something that is all too often ignored ~ and if the reviewer also loves his or her subject matter with a passion, so much the better.

It would be hard to find a more poetic, seductive reviewer than this super sexy man, who is clearly first a Venetian and second an Italian! Francesco draws the viewer in like an angler teasing a fish until you are well and truly hooked!

I had visited Venice briefly, many years ago but at the wrong time of year ~ high summer (definitely not recommended) without undertaking any pre-visit research (definitely another big mistake ~ it is preferable to research any country but essential in order to really 'get' Venice) and for far too short a time to really form an intelligent opinion on this unique city.

This year, I had the opportunity to return with a group of girlfriends to watch our daughters' choir perform over 4 days. Apart from the concerts/masses in which they were performing, our time was our own. Despite it being mid-May, the weather was atrocious ~ horizontal rain on one day, with only one hot sunny day which, fortunately, was the day we visited the Island of Murano.

Despite all this, having watched Francesco's Venice, I felt, so prepared, so well versed in the city's foundations, history and character, that the weather became (almost!) unimportant.

I would not hesitate to recommend, no insist, as I did with my accompanying girlfriends, that this DVD is a pre-requisite for any visitor to this amazing city. It would certainly be no penance for any woman to watch Francesco da Mosto for 4 hours but I would defy anyone, male or female, young or old, not to be drawn in by his amazing story-telling ability.

Here is Venice during its times of triumph and disaster, health and sickness, all enthralling and captivating to the viewer with Francesco as an attentive and informative guide. Because of his transparent love for his home city, the viewer too, gets drawn into this love affair that is still ongoing.
The mixture of fact and inserts of historical drama, add to the intrigue and, in the best way possible, we begin to understand Francesco's great love of his place of birth.

Only one word of warning, it is rated a 15 for a reason! Pre-vet before showing to any young children as it is pretty sexually explicit in parts!

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on 26 August 2006
If you have visited or are thinking of visiting this beautifull city then you must watch this spellbinding series narrated by that soft talking Venitian Francesco Da Mosto.

Each episode cronicles the development of the city from its earliest days to the city we see today.Everything is explained in intricate detail and highlited by movie like extracts to bring everthing to life.I just cannot remember seeing a series as comprehensive and well researched as this one.

If you pick up a travellers guide to Venice it will obviously miss out something of importance this series misses nothing,what you need to know about the cities history is given,it is so comprehensive you could write your own book from it.It is so good that a copy is on its way to friends in Italy who live only thirty minutes away by train from Venice.

Remember how you marvelled at David Attenboroughs incredible Life on Earth when it was first televised,your reaction will be just as great to watching this four part chronicle on Venice.

You obviously watched his very entertaining series shown recently titled Italy Top to Toe.If you think that was good his Venice is on another level alltogether.

What makes this series is that every part of Venice dates from a period in history when history was being made.The account of when Marco Polo returned home after over twenty years travelling the globe,his relatives didnot recognise him or believe his amazing stories,yet the very building he lived in still stands and has not changed in over five hundred years.

People visiting this gorgeous city willnot see museums full of Renaissance art,somthing you expect in Italys magnificent tourist hotspots.The reason behind this is that in the early part of the 19century Napoleon took the city under siege and committed an unprecedented act of vandalism vertually stripping the entire city of its magnificent art treasures,so much so that a large majority of Paris magnificent museum The Louvre is composed of Venitian art stolen by Napoleon.Attemps have been made to have many of the treasures returned to Venice but to no avail.

Many of the great museums are very reluctant to release works of art known to have been plundered centuries ago.The Elgin Marbles are a prime example of Britains British Museums refusal to return priceless artifacts illegally removed by imperialists in our distant past.

Another most impressive aspect of De Mostos tour of his home city is the regular clean up of the magnificent palaces and lesser buildings.Remarkably the canals are dammed up on a regular basis to allow the foundations of priceless buildings to be exposed thus allowing workmen to carry out vital repairs.The silting of the waterways is becoming a huge problem resulting in erosion at a much higher rate than during any period in the cities extensive history.

The love of his hometown has remarkably seen the closure of the massive industrial works on the outskirts of Venice.The industrial complex is barely thirty years old but because of its detrimental effect on the buildings a little way down the waterway it has been shut down completely.

This is the modern age trying to live alongside the medieval age.Usually progress dominates but Venice is unique and the Venitians want to keep it that way.

If Venice is renouned for its Renaissance splendor then the musicians associated with its past are equally well known.

The Accademy for girls where Antonio Vivaldi taught has little changed since his day.It was here that he drew inspiration for his timeless "Gloria" and no doubt put quill to paper in composing "Le Quattro Staggione" his stupendous Four Seasons.

Whilst Vivaldi taught at the Accademy another famous Venitian for totally differing reasons was having an affair with a sister from the Convent on one of the neighbouring islands.Decosomo Casanova every womans dream eventually died of sythullus like many Venitians of his time.The city was renouned for its immoral ways in the 18century.

On my visit to Venice in 2005 i stood on the very steps that he stood on but he was being incacerated in the Doge Palace which also saw service as a prison.Remarkably Cassanova escaped from his cell and continued his life of lust until his painfull death.

De Mostos analysis of Venice from its birth to the present must rank as one of the most impressive historical docummentries to have been aired on the BBC for some time.
Here is a man whose family can be traced back to over six centuries of Venitian history.His family is at present the oldest still residing in Venice,if he doesnot know the cities history then nobody does.

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on 22 June 2007
A stunning introduction to this marvelous city or an amazing wealth of knowledge for regular visitors, this four part series presented by a knowledgeable Venitian is wonderfully shot and scored. It perfectly gives a snapshot of the history of Venice and the Lagoon around it, some might balk at the final episode which points a finger at the tourists that have turned the city into a giant museum, but this is the quandary the city finds itself in as it tries to survive with no way of growth or any real industry. Well worth investing in.
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on 9 June 2011
What a charming way to see Venice, with Francesco Da Mosto (thank you BBC), who understandably is proud of and loves his country. I preferred the first two of the four discs because they tell of pre-18th century Republic of Venice and its Doges. As discs three and four bring us up to date I lost interest a little, but never with Francesco and not with the visual beauty of Venice itself. Throughout we are reminded of famous Venetians such as Canaletto, Vivaldi and Canova, and the infamous Casanova. Although not as polished and succinct as some series, this is an interesting and watchable series made more so by its unique Venetian presenter.
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on 27 October 2007
This was the perfect way to get ready for 3 nights in Venice. Well presented and with a good pace to it, the 4 hours flew by and we came out of this much the wiser about our short break destination. As a result, we got much, much more out of our holiday.

In these enlightened days of non-smoking the only thing that distracts is the presenter's penchant for holding a cigarette for much of the programme and even - horror of horrors - taking the occasional drag on it. When was the last time any of us saw a presenter with the chutzpah to smoke on screen?
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on 16 May 2007
...travelling on a water bus on the Grand Canal we saw Francesco!!!!

The missus, who didn't pay particular attention to the documentaries says to me "Isn't that Francesco from your DVD?"

He was in the very same boat used in the series, how surreal, and what a great series it is. Very interesting and absorbing.

Cannot recommend enough.
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The lushest and most elegant of Francesco da Mosto's series to date (see also Francesco's Italy - Top To Toe and Francesco's Mediterranean Voyage) this is written and presented by someone who is passionate about his home town and his trading ancestry. It's a history, it's a guide to the architecture, it's a social commentary on modern life in a tourist town. The historical reconstructions are nicely appropriate- generally silent appearances of Italians in the appropriate costume. The direction is superb and there are achingly beautiful zoom shots of the city from on high- setting this unusual city in its context in the Venetian Lagoon. It provides you with a guide to well known and not so well known areas of the city. There are 4 hour long programmes featured on 2 DVDS with English subtitles, but no extras.

Episode 1, Blood, tells of the founding of the initial settlement by people fleeing the incursions of Atilla the Hun. The intricate pattern of islands and underwater sandbanks protected them from invading fleets. The Basilica of Torcello contains magnificent early frescos in the Byzantine style. More settlements were made on the main island by sinking wooden piles into the marsh to act as foundations. We visit the Doge's palace (the elected ruler of the Venetian Republic) and the Palazzo Cadamosto- Francesco's family's original home, now fallen into ruin. As Venice grew in wealth and power as a trading city a sly bit of saint rustling brought St Mark's remains to the city, which adopted his emblem of the winged lion as its own. In 1202, under Doge Enrico Dandolo, a crusade was deflected to attack the Christian city of Venice's trading rival, Constantinople, resulting in the expansion of Venice's empire.

Episode 2, Beauty, explains how the city grew in wealth after the plundering of Constantinople (including the famous Classical bronze horses and some very pleasing stone carvings). Further trade routes opened up after the return of Marco Polo from China (although no one quite believed him to start with). Venice's architectural style developed as a unique fusion between Gothic and the eastern arch. Although the Ottomans seized Constantinople in 1453, Venice courted the new rulers and became viewed as dangerously unchristian by the Papacy. We visit the Fondaco dei Turchi (a lodging and warehouse for foreign traders), the Scalo de Bovalo (a fantastic spiral staircase at the back of one of the merchant's palaces) and the Ca' d'Oro (a palace which was once coated in gold leaf). In order to protect the city's power a vast boatyard was built- the Arsenale. The influence of the new classical architectural style was initially limited to the land gate for the Arsenale. However following the great fire of 1514 it was necessary to undertake a rebuilding programme. Initially the more conservative style of the architect Sansovino was favoured (Library of St Mark). However when part of the library collapsed, Sansovino lost out to the more radical Palladio, who was responsible for the church of San Francesco della Vigna (exterior) and the monastery and church of San Georgio Maggiore. Around this time Jewish people were relocated to a foundry area (the Ghetto). Sadly the flowering of wealth, and the daring of Venice's artists such as Titian and Veronese, was brought to a halt by the plague of 1575, which killed half the population. We see the old plague hospital of Lazzareto Vecchio and the Island of Santalliano, where rich plague victims were buried.

Episode 3, Sex, explains how Venice metamorphosed into the pleasure capital of Europe, despite further plagues and the rise of Venereal disease.Indulgence in gambling and the rise of ladies of negotiable affection was rife, especially at the time of Carnivale. Baroque architecture started to take hold with the construction of Santa Maria della Salute (after another wave of plague). We see the famous Florian's cafe, which originally had an upstairs Bordello. Art became a commodity for the rich indulgent visitors. Canaletto sold his postcard like paintings, and Vivaldi churned out mass tunes so he could sell the dedications to rich patrons. Casanova got about a bit! However although the authorities might have turned a blind eye to tourists, they started to clamp down on the indulgences of their own citizens. We glimpse the Bridge of Sighs, the Ridotto (the gambling house)and the area of San Barnaba (where self-impoverished Venetian nobles ended up). The hospital for rotting syphilis suffers, the Incurabile, was built and the sculptor, Canova, started a line in idealised funeral monuments. Napoleon Bonaparte despised the self indulgent city and invaded and sacked the city after the unwise Venetian commander of the fort of Sant' Andrea sank some French ships. We see the painting of the vision of hell whichthe French army failed to carry away from the church of Madonna de Lorto. The Doge was deposed and the Republic ended and given away to Austria.

Episode 4, Death, explains what happened up to the present day. The poverty and decay of the city was somewhat rallied by another wave of tourists, generally British. Romanticised by Byron, Turner, Ruskin and Dickens, tourists flocked to Venice, and eventually the uniqueness of its isolation was lost when a rail link was built in 1846. Although the British argued about restoration versus modernisation it seems they were more interested in the structure of the place, rather than the day to day lives of its inhabitants. Some iron bridges were introduced by Neville, but his largest structure, the Academia Bridge across the Grand Canal was dismantled and replaced by a "temporary" wooden structure which is still there. The Campanile of St Marks collapsed in 1902 (in the way of many Italian bell towers) and was reconstructed, despite protests from modernists. Mussolini toyed with paving the canals and built a new road bridge. Unwise industrial development of the Italian coast at Marghera and deep canal dredging, caused the great flood of 1966. Money flooded in to preserve the buildings. However Venice is once again a tourist town- only 10% of its inhabitants are Venetians - young people are leaving for the mainland.
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