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I am currently reading Jan Morris' "Venice", an extraordinary book about the city - part tourist guide, but mostly an ode to the city by a devotee.

I'd quickly read a little of it before our brief trip in December and have only recently returned to it. There is so much incredible detail, capturing the history, quirks, oddities and marvels that have accumulated, were transplanted to, or been created in Venice over the last 1300 or so years. And it's written with love and is a compelling story, making me feel like I should go back and explore it in greater detail.

But maybe, when one doesn't have a lifetime to devote to a city, a brief visit that lets one enjoy her beauty and experience some of her incredible sights and history is enough - with "stripping back the layers" an exercise to be undertaken in a lounge room on the other side of the world, squeezed between work and the other realities of life.

If you've been to Venice and haven't read this book, I think you should buy or borrow it. If you haven't yet been, maybe it's not such a good read - if I'd had time to read it properly before our trip, I think I might have obsessed with running all over the city trying to see as much of the "list" as possible.

I would love to hear from some of the Venice "regulars" - Have you read this book? Do you use it to hunt out secret, fascinating places?

And are there other books that capture the essence of Venice or other European cities for you? (please note that any references to Dan Brown will be ignored - I try to wait for the movies - the story is no better, but the visuals are pretty good!)

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