A Thousand Days In Venice

I bought this book, A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi, several years ago when I longed especially hard for Italy. Just by sitting on my shelf it comforted me, as if I could go there any time.

But, a friend of mine is going in August, long before I will have a chance to return, and so I gave the book to her. Today we are meeting at her home to cook tilapia, and discuss A Thousand Days in Venice.

If Marlena’s life hadn’t mirrored mine in many ways, I never would have thought this story could be true. Like me, she has curly brown hair, wears red lipstick, and feels a sense of separateness from this world. “I didn’t have the language to tell her it wasn’t sadness she sensed in me. Only separateness. Even in English it’s difficult to translate “separateness.” I broadened my grin, but she was still looking beyond it. I raced off, and she yelled at my shoulders, “Allora, sei almeno misteriosa. Well then, at the least you’re mysterious.” (p. 174)

Unlike me, she’s a chef and an editor for an unnamed magazine, and she traveled to Europe frequently to review restaurants and write articles.

One day, she is sitting at a cafe with two friends when she notices a man looking at her. He gets up and disappears. Then, a waiter comes to Marlena and tells her she has a phone call. “How could I?” she asks, “I don’t know anyone here.” Nevertheless she goes to the phone and discovers it is this man who had been staring at her from across the room. He invites her to dinner, to which she declines. When she goes to the cafe the next day, he is there again. He is always there because he loves her, and he is determined to marry her.

The love of an Italian man is very intense. I suspect that at first they are drawn in by looks. Once I was walking in Milan, when I was twenty four and much more fetching than I am now, when a red Fiat stopped suddenly in the middle of the street. Two young Italian men came out. “Come with us!” they begged. “We will have a wonderful time!” Probably we would have. But, I am much too timid of a person to get into a red sports car with men I’ve never met. And anyway, this is not the love of which I speak, only the initial attraction part.

So, Marlena meets him, and this is what he tells her, “I saw you last December. December 11, 1992, ” he says…You were walking in Piazza San Marco; it was just after five in the afternoon. You were wearing a long white coat, very long, down to your ankles, and your hair was tied up, just as it is now…I began to follow you, but I stopped because I had no idea what I’d do if I came face to face with you. I mean what would I say to you? How could I find a way to talk to you? And so I let you go. That’s what I do, you know, I just let things go. I looked for you the next day and the next, but I knew you were gone. If only I’d see you walking alone somehwere, I could stop you, pretending I mistook you for someone else. No, I would tell you I thought your coat was beautiful. But any way, I never found you again, so I held you in my mind. For all these months I tried to imagine who you were, where you were from. I wanted to hear the sound of your voice. I was very jealous of the man who was with you,” he says slowly. “And then, as I was sitting there at Vino Vino the other day and you angled your body so that your profile was just visible underneath all that hair, I realized it was you. The woman in the white coat. And so you see, I’ve been waiting for you. Somehow I’ve been loving you, loving you since that afternoon in the piazza.” (p. 15)

What else is there to do but marry him? Marlena sells her home in St. Louis, comes to Venice and moves into his apartment sight unseen. It’s almost a fairy tale, but for the fact that she is very honest about her adjustments to life in Venice as well with her new husband.

That is what makes the story great. One feels one is actually living in Venice, riding the gondolas, shopping the markets, walking under the bridges, eating the food, dealing with the Italian mentality. There are huge compromises each must make, and the unpretentious way she has of telling her story makes it all the more compelling. It is a marvelous read. (Not to mention all the recipes included in the back which I want to at least try.)

16 thoughts on “A Thousand Days In Venice”

  1. I loved this book too. She has a sequel – A Thousand Days in Tuscany – that delves deeper into her relationship with The Stranger. Again, she includes recipes. Thanks for reminding me about those, by the way. I love to cook, and the 50% of me that's Italian would enjoy preparing some of those dishes.


  2. Oh my, I'm going to have to go out and get this book. It reminds me of how my Knight and I met. Too long to share here. Guess I'll have to blog about it. :o)Thanks for the heads up about this book. I'll be visiting Amazon later on tonight. ;o)


  3. I could really use a vacation in Venice, but that's not going to happen soon, so maybe I'll just get this book :)Plus I love books with recipes!And on another note, I'm tagging you for the Blogging Tips Meme–hope you don't mind! Check it out on my blog, and no worries if you can't play!


  4. Marg, thanks for visiting; it's nice to meet you! Cupcake, the women at the party/book club yesterday were saying she had another book, as you wrote, and I had no idea. I wonder if I'd like A Thousand Days in Tuscany, or if it would seem too much like Under The Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. I think Marlena de Blasi has an amazing sense of adventure, which combined with a willingness to embrace change makes her such a fascination. (That is not like me!) The cooking part makes me want to cook what she has that second. If only I had my kitchen finished!Myutopia, thanks.Lady G~. I want to hear about how you and your Knight meet. If you don't answer here, would do a post on your blog?Gentle Reader, you know, this book seems like a good choice for all of the blogger/reader people who are doing the Armchair Traveler Challenge. This definitely takes you to Italy! I'm coming right over for the Blogging Tips Meme, and you know me, I'll play.


  5. Les, I'll come over and read your review…in a way, this book was so extreme (who just sells their home in St. Louis and marries a guy you just met in Venice?), but wonderfully fanciful at the same time. I'm looking forward to trying a few recipes when my kitchen is restored.


  6. When you do, let me know which (recipes) are keepers. I don't have the book anymore, but I do remember thinking I'd like to try some out.


  7. The one that especially appealed to me was the leeks au gratin. I have a similar recipe I make with onions for Christmas; hmmm, cheese, wine, butter, onions, how could you go wrong? So, I'll try that one first. The only problem is, some of the recipes had exotic ingredients which may be tricky to find stateside.


  8. Reading your review makes me want to go out and read this book immediately. Having lived abroad for a year in Greece, I remember that urge to want to go along with a stranger, but I too was always too afraid. But I always imagine what amazing adventures would have transpired. Luckily for me, I was able to have some great adventures on my own, or with friends!Great review!


  9. Alyson, I've never been to Greece, although my mother took my son with her on a trip which retraced the footsteps of Paul from the New Testament. Somehow, when I was in Italy, we never quite made it to Greece which I regret. Lucky for you to have lived there for a year! Those experiences help us appreciate the daring of others when we read about it in a book such as this. It's probably a good idea that we didn't go with strangers, though.


  10. Loved this book! The author totally has that Elizabeth Gilbert thing going on. In fact, I just posted a review of this book on my blog here, if you want to check it out:)http://www.bridezilla.com/2007/12/bridezilla_reviews_a_thousand.cfm


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