Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Venice” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  706 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
The classic evocation of Venice, acclaimed as one of the finest books ever written about the city.

'Entertaining, ironical, witty, high spirited and appreciative . . . Both melancholy and gay and worldly, I think of it now as among the best books on Venice; indeed as the best modern book about a city that I have ever read.' Geoffrey Grigson

'One of the most diverse and diver
Paperback, Third Edition, 336 pages
Published October 7th 1993 by Faber and Faber (first published 1960)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Venice, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Venice

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Michael Finocchiaro
Oct 01, 2016 Michael Finocchiaro rated it really liked it
It may be strange for me to categorise this book as a biography, but Jan Morris treats the city here as a character in a melancholic story of her history, her streets, her canals and her people. It is a fantastic read and should be in your luggage should you ever visit this one of the world's most incredible magical cities (hint: read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino too!)
Will Once
Jun 25, 2014 Will Once rated it it was amazing
In many ways this book is like the city itself. It has to be five stars, but with some caveats.

First the good news. Jan Morris has written a magnificent depiction of a fabulous city. She clearly knows the city extremely well and loves it like a mother loves a child. This oozes from every page. It is almost as if she is showing us a photograph of her dearly beloved first-born. This is his first bicycle. Here he is at his fifth birthday party. This is his pet lion.

And that makes for an incredibly
Helen Wood
What a disappointment - felt a bit guilty clicking on the 'Yes, I've finished' when I very obviously hadn't, but couldn't read any more. The history bits were interesting, but the current stuff was dated and patronising (still want to go to Venice sometime though, and the book group discussion was a lot more interesting than the book itself)
Apr 12, 2012 Bill rated it it was amazing
I think Jan Morris is the greatest travel writer of all. I've not read enough of her, but this one really introduced me to a genre that I now love.
Alison 1965
Apr 10, 2017 Alison 1965 rated it liked it
I read this as I am visiting Venice for the first time next month. Some atmospheric passages and fascinating nuggets of information, but far too much detail and too many lists. I skipped through the last third of the book as I was on information overload by then and desperate to finish it so I could read something less dry! Still very excited about my first trip to Venice though ...
Marina Maidou
Apr 30, 2015 Marina Maidou rated it it was amazing
It's a travel book, isn't it? Well, yes and no. It's a document about Venice, then and now. From a writer she's a thrill already. Jan Morris is a woman which in past was a man. That's not news, she's not the first or the last. But her view in details, in hidden places and things is precious. A calm voice, just like a gondola slipping gently in the venetian lagoon. It's not the type "go there, see this, do that", but in fact it's like the memoirs of a city as a person. You learn a lot and you enj ...more
Nov 17, 2012 Nicky rated it it was ok
I was rather disappointed considering all the positive reviews. I haven't been to Venice and now have no wish to. I thought the writers style very pretentious and boring - especially the endless lists!!!

Maybe if you know Venice you understand what he/she is writing about. I thought it was a travel book but no the author detests those and classes this as ' travel literature'. I recommended this to my book club and now wish I hadn't.
Caroline Baer
May 24, 2016 Caroline Baer marked it as to-read
Shelves: may-x-2016
I am interested in reading this book because it is about Venice, which is a city that fascinates me. I also became interested in Venice after reading The Merchant of Venice in my Shakespeare seminar and reading City of Fallen Angels by John Berendt earlier this year. It seems like a magical city and I am interested in learning more about its history. I found this book on my goodreads feed.
Jan 17, 2017 Ana rated it it was amazing
Reader beware - this is not a travel book. It's about a Venice largely gone, but you can't help but seek it. Another beautifully written book by Morris. Give yourself permission to lose yourself in this city.
Rick Harsch
Oct 17, 2015 Rick Harsch rated it liked it
Jan Morris loses one star per book for her adulation of empires. This one loses another for lack of originality--an opinion I doubt is shared by many.
Feb 23, 2013 David rated it it was ok
Too many adjectives, too overblown - another book by an author who wishes the world would never change.
Lothar Pawliczak
Mar 25, 2012 Lothar Pawliczak rated it did not like it
Auf der englischen Ausgabe dieses Buches von 1993 prangt werbewirksam als eine Art Untertitel "'The best book about Venice ever written' (Sunday Times)", auf einer neueren englischen Ausgabe (The World of Venice: Revised Edition 1995) "'One of the most diverse and diverting books ever written about Venice...' Times (London)". Abgesehen davon, daß ich mich frage, was die Sunday Times oder Times denn nun wirklich über dieses Buch ihres eigenen Korrespondenten (!) geschrieben hat/haben, und kaum gl ...more
Feb 26, 2017 Peter rated it it was ok
Although I enjoyed Morris's book on Spain I found this one just too much and (a bit like Venice) sank in a morass of detail and failed to finish. It did have some fascinating information but it needs a special sort of person to take it all in.
Peter Ellwood
Jul 26, 2014 Peter Ellwood rated it it was amazing
I allowed myself a years-long delay in taking up this book - a direct reflection of my admiration for the Pax Britannica trilogy: Jan Morris’ sinewy use of language, a sheer delight of itself, never mind the subject she was writing about: was such a pleasure that I kind of worried that she couldn't repeat the trick with a subject as different as Venice.

Well, I was wrong. She could. Before one even gets into discussion of the Serenissima, one is confronted with her breath-taking and rare command
Feb 18, 2017 Susan rated it really liked it
I read this book before, during and after a brief visit to Venice and I found that it greatly enhanced the experience for me. I was completely entranced by the myriad stories associated with the unique, magical and dreamlike city. As with most good travel writing, it makes you want to go and explore the setting of each and every anecdote or historical event, find each carving and examine each painting or building. Jan Morris lived in Venice, experienced it's seasons and explored it's canals, squ ...more
I first read this book in 1985 and have just re-read it during a long stay in Venice. Though the city today is vastly different from the one Morris was fortunate to live in as a young man I still consider it my Venetian Bible.

As Jan Morris herself says, it is a highly subjective, romantic, impressionist picture less of a city than of an experience and that is exactly what makes it such a pleasurable read. The city now is much less noisy, cleaner and better smelling that it used to be but along w
Arthur Sperry
Feb 14, 2017 Arthur Sperry rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read about Venice. Full of great stories and historical vignettes. I have visited Venice multiple times and loved how this book often brings on the feel of "La Serenissima!"
Martine Bailey
This is a review of the audio version, with an introduction read by Jan Morris herself. Husky-voiced, Jan tells of her first encounter with Venice as a soldier ('James') after the war, requisitioning motor boats from reluctant Venetians. With some poignancy, she says this book could only have been written when she was young, so full is it of enthusiasm, adjectives and analogies (and alliterations, too).
The book proper starts with the most gorgeous approach towards Venice from the Lagoon and con
Feb 12, 2017 Lesley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A wonderful book, thoroughly absorbing. If you've ever been to Venice or are going to Venice or simply just love the idea of Venice, this book is for you!
Carol Billings
Dec 06, 2014 Carol Billings rated it liked it
From the reviews here, many people rave about this book and others thought it was terrible for various reasons and couldn't finish it. I am squarely on the fence! Generally I don't like stories with excessive descriptive paragraphs or that run on about how lovely the garden is..... I just want a good tale.
Jan certainly is good with words. I had to keep the dictionary handy. She does have a beautiful style of writing but I often started drifting and could only get through this book by skimming o
Aug 17, 2015 Laura rated it it was amazing
Not a book to be read if you are in a hurry, Venice is quintessentially Jan. It is the story of a city but told through her own mental meanderings, over the course of the days and years she spent there both alone and with her family. She first set foot in it when working in the military, in her/his previous life. So many mysteries unveiled, so many clues given, this is how Venice should be tasted, like the perfect dream, rays of light piercing through our memories, as we also take a tour and get ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: italy, read-in-2011
There is good reason that this book has remained in print and, after fifty years, is still one of the classic texts on Venice. Although some of the details may now be out of date, the atmosphere of Venice is vividly evoked. Morris writes with elegance and passion about a city with which s/he is intimately acquainted and the accumulation of personal observation, anecdote and history is compelling. Morris's writing has great originality, humour and immediacy. This book will live on in my memory an ...more
Dec 23, 2011 Mady rated it liked it
Shelves: mine, venice, non-fiction, 2012
Mm, it took me 5 months to read this book, and the reason is not because it's boring. It has a look of information on Venice, its people, its location, its history and reads like a reference book, so I could never read more than a few pages at a time. Through it I have learned a whole lot about the city!

I would have liked to get a better glimpse on Jan Morris life and personal experience in Venice (she does try to make it impersonal, and maybe that contributed to the slow rhythm of my reading ex
Kalu Davies
Aug 21, 2016 Kalu Davies rated it it was amazing
I read this as preparation for my first flying visit to Venice-I haven't even arrived yet and I'm already frantically checking funds and timetables to arrange a subsequent, longer visit, so enchanted am I with the Venice contained in this book. It is beautifully written and although it contains much history of buildings, wars, people, art, etc, it is far from dry and is pleasantly organised into themed chapters ranging from locations to emotions. I suspect I shall have to read it again once I ha ...more
Sarah Goodman
Nov 24, 2016 Sarah Goodman rated it it was ok
was enthused to read this after recent trip but found the writing flowery and too dependant on lists when my brain wants more visual stimulus : a few historical views wouldnt have gone amiss. However did like her description of the changing seasons ...she is clearly passionate about the place and honest about the impact of mass tourism. Loved her description of waking at 3am in the winter and walking in city in darkness...increasing the sense of isolation and melancholy as it is dead. Didnt fini ...more
Aug 30, 2011 Lucy rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2011
This was a super, very informative and yet extremely readable book on Venice: its buildings, its people and its history.

I read in whilst in Venice and I thoroughly enjoyed recognising the landmarks and characters described in the book. Morris clearly has a great love for Venice but yet notices its flaws and describes them with very gentle mocking. It is quite lovely.

I very much recommend it for anyone who is visiting the city. I think it was far more interesting than any traditional guidebook.
Dec 14, 2013 Margaret rated it really liked it
I took this book with me on a trip to Venice and it was really a great read! Jan Morris goes way beyond the famous tourist attractions and fills pages and pages with very interesting curiosities about the people of Venice, its History, its masterpieces and how everything fits into place to make this city truly unique. I felt a little disappointed about not finding any cats in Venice, like the author points out, but, well, you cant have everything. ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Kl rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe-trip
I enjoyed this book, parts made me laugh out loud! "He was a frequent communist." - What was he the rest of the time? Also, fairly recently the upper class were still bathing in the Grand Canal under the Rialto! (Ewwwwwww!) Thankfully there was a sign nearby letting passersby know that spitting on the bathers was illegal! Because once you're neck deep in the canal it's really going to matter!
A great overview of a city full of history and spirit!
Sep 14, 2010 Mark rated it it was amazing
First book I ever read on Venice. Made me totally fall in love with the place and I hadn't even visited it then. Since then I have visited and it only confirmed the wonderful writing of Morris. Hope to visit again soon but the Morris book was one which inspired me and since then I have voraciouly consumed any book I can find on La Serenissima and its fabulous history and ...hopefully...its future. So, an enormous thank you to Jan Morris.
Cher Pong
Dec 31, 2015 Cher Pong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an insightful book on La Serenissima - it provides a brief history of the rise and fall of the Republic of Venice with its campaniles standing as testimonial to its glorious past, its unique geography with the lagoon and the Lido, and most importantly, its people. Written more than 50 years ago, it is still a very compelling read about the charming city of Venice and its surroundings. I can't wait to return to Venice to see the Grand Canal.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea
  • Venice Observed
  • Venice: Pure City
  • A History of Venice
  • Venice: Lion City: The Religion of Empire
  • Coasting: A Private Voyage
  • The Stones of Venice
  • Italian Hours
  • Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece
  • The Road to Oxiana
  • D.H. Lawrence and Italy: Twilight in Italy/Sea and Sardinia/Etruscan Places
  • Rome: The Biography of a City
  • Italian Journey
  • To the Holy Shrines
  • Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy
  • Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia and the Peloponnese
  • The Venice Experiment: A Year of Trial and Error Living Abroad
  • The Romantic Generation
Jan Morris previously wrote under the name "James Morris".

Jan Morris is a British historian, author and travel writer. Morris was educated at Lancing College, West Sussex, and Christ Church, Oxford, but is Welsh by heritage and adoption. Before 1970 Morris published under her former name, "James Morris", and is known particularly for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire, and
More about Jan Morris...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“I write sourly, for disliking artificially conserved communites I have tended to see the salvation as more distressing than the threat: but in my more rational moments I do recognize that letting Venice sink, my own solution for her anxieties, is a counsel of perfection that cannot be pursued. She will be saved, never fear: it is only in selfish moments of fancy that I see her still obeying her obvious destiny, enfolded at last by the waters she espoused, her gilded domes and columns dimly shining in the green, and at very low tides, perhaps, the angel on the summit of the Campanile to be seen raising his golden forefinger (for he stands in an exhortatory, almost an ecological pose) above the mud-banks.” 1 likes
More quotes…