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A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance    by Marlena de Blasi order for
Thousand Days in Venice
by Marlena de Blasi
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2002 (2002)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

According to the author, the name Venice is said to come from the Latin Veni etiam or come back again. While, some cities are interesting and even fascinating to visit once, others such as Venice have a siren call which brings visitors back over and over again. In this true story of her love affair with both Venice and the 'blueberry-eyed stranger', de Blasi shows us why.

Marlena de Blasi is a 'woman of a certain age', divorced and with grown children, when she visits Venice for the first time as a food writer on assignment. She has traveled widely in Italy but has never been to Venice before. Reluctant at first to be pulled into Venice's web, she soon becomes an avid fan. On a later trip she is dining with friends when her path crosses that of an attractive middle-aged man with beautiful blue eyes. Almost as in a fairy tale, she and Fernando fall in love and she is soon uprooting her life in St. Louis to move to Venice and marry him.

Once Marlena reaches Venice, she and Fernando settle into building a life together. There are the usual compromises in a new relationship between people with little history together. This is compounded by a language barrier, since neither speaks much of each other's language. Marlena is also frustrated by the bella figura or Venetian 'keeping of the facade'. This 'quick strangling of spontaneity for the sake of a necessary deception that Italians call elegance' is at odds with her American openness. In addition, when Marlena takes charge of their apartment renovation she finds the slow work pace contrary to her more driven style. However, both their love and Venice's romantic atmosphere throws a rosy glow over all these minor problems.

Obviously, Marlena is not your average middle-aged lady, and she has already survived much sadness and disappointment and many changes in her life. This has made her aware that 'we are all waterbirds, camped in stilt houses only a breeze above a coursing sea'. So her new life and new love are just another chapter in her life, hopefully a very long one. As she and Fernando get to know each other, Fernando learns to be more adventurous and eventually quits his banking job as they plan even more changes in their lives. As they say to each other, they may not 'have time to really get old, what with one beginning and another'. The bookcover says that they are now leading gastronomic tours of Tuscany and Umbria.

While most readers probably can not imagine following her path, they can vicariously share the author's adventure, admire her spirit and enjoy an armchair soujourn in Italy. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the book are de Blasi's description of Venice, its sights, tastes and smells. The book is above all a love paean to the city. Anyone who has not already visited Venice will want to visit, and those who have been there will want to return soon.

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