Quotes about Venice

Quotes about Venice. The ethereal nature of Venice has fascinated and captivated many poets, artists and authors. Their words over time, have helped us express our fascination of this fabulous city; that still resonate with us today.

In this aquatic city, nestling in its own lagoon; light and water combine to create a restless magic.  It is a unique and evocative place, where all borderlines are eradicated; somewhere between dream and reality, present and past. 

This post presents my favourite quotes, together with a selection of photographic images, that demonstrate the interplay of direct and reflected light on the surface of water; producing wonderful and unpredictable abstract and colourful forms.

As reflected in some of the quotations below, they reinforce the notion of “a city floating on water – a city of mirrors – a city of mirages –  at once solid and liquid – a city of stone, water, colour and texture”. 

I hope this combination of words and images, will inspire you to visit or return to this wonderful and unique city. To move into the future, we must learn from the past.


Quotes about Venice – Words and Images



“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”
-Truman Capote


“Venice, it’s temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley


“When I seek another word for ‘music’, I never find any other word than Venice.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche



“At the bridge I stood
lately in the brown night.
From afar came a song:
as a golden drop it welled
over the quivering surface.
Gondolas, lights, and music —
drunken it swam out into the twilight.

My soul, a stringed instrument,
sang to itself, invisibly touched,
a secret gondola song,
quivering with iridescent happiness.
— Did anyone listen to it?”

-Friedrich Nietzsche


“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.”

-Alexander Herzen


“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.”

-Erica Jon


Venice, half fish, half woman, is a siren dissolving into a morass of the Adriatic“.

-Jean Cocteau


“Venice is not only a city of fantasy and freedom. It is also a city of joy and pleasure.”

“It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal place for a honeymoon. This is a grave error.  To live in Venice, or even to visit it, means you fall in love with the city itself.  There is nothing left over in your heart for anyone else.

-Peggy Guggenheim




“A realist, in Venice would become a romantic, by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.”
-Arthur Symons


“When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become-incredibly but quite simply – my address.”
-Marcel Proust


“Getting lost is the only place worth going to.”

-Tiziano Scarpa


“Nothing is simpler than to lose oneself in Venice; and nothing is more fun than to be in this labirinth without a Minotaur, as a Theseus without an Ariadne’s thread.”

Jean-Louis Vaudoyer


“The Grand Canal, the most beautiful thoroughfare in the world that I know of, has the best houses along it, and runs from one end of the city to the other.”

-Philippe de Commynes


“Cities of the heart should be seen through the eyes of others”



“Between the still-slumbering walls of brick and marble, beneath the ribbon of the sky, more and more brightly gleamed the ribbon of the water.”
-Gabriele D’Annunzio


“As sailors and merchants, town-builders and politicians, the Venetians were the forerunners and the youth of today’s civilization.”
-Le Corbusier



“I have never witnessed such an ecstasy of joy as that shown by the audience when they saw themselves and their families so realistically portrayed on the stage. They shouted with laughter from beginning to end.”


“It is charming to disembark at the polished steps of a little campo – a sunny, shabby square with an old well in the middle, an old church on one side and tall Venetian windows looking down.”

-Henry James


“And at night they sang in the gondolas, and in the barche with lanterns; the prows rose silver on silver, taking light in the darkness.”
-Ezra Pound



“Here it is S. Marco, the tower, the piazza, Palazzo Ducale. Probably such a jewel doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”
-Hippolyte Taine


“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

-Italo Calvino





“There is still one of which you never speak.’

Marco Polo bowed his head.’Venice,’ the Khan said.

Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’

The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’

And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city, I am saying something about Venice.”

-Italo Calvino


“And off in the far distance, the gold on the wings of the angel atop the bell tower of San Marco flashed in the sun, bathing the entire city in its glistening benediction.”

-Donna Leon


“She leaned against the bridge’s warm marble balustrade, and looked as far down the darkening canal as the setting sun would allow. She wondered if others appreciated Venice’s beauty and fragility as deeply as she had come to or if, like a raging fever, the city infected some while avoiding others. She sighed at the grandeur and at the resilience that surrounded her, and she promised herself she’d try to be more like Venice.”

-Marie Ohanesian Nardin


“Streets flooded. Please advise.”

-Robert Benchley


“She dreamed of Venice. However, it wasn’t a city alive with stars dripping like liquid gold into canals, or Bougainvillea spilling from flowerpots like overfilled glasses of wine. In this dream, Venice was without colour. Where pastel palazzi once lined emerald lagoons, now, grey, shadowy mounds of rubble paralleled murky canals. Lovers could no longer share a kiss under the Bridge of Sighs; it had been the target of an obsessive Allied bomb in search of German troops. The only sign of life was in Piazza San Marco, where the infamous pigeons continued to feed. However, these pigeons fed not on seeds handed out by children, but on corpses rotting under the elongated shadow of the Campanile.”

-Pamela Allegretto



“The experts are right, he thought. Venice is sinking. The whole city is slowly dying. One day the tourists will travel here by boat to peer down into the waters, and they will see pillars and columns and marble far, far beneath them, slime and mud uncovering for brief moments a lost underworld of stone. Their heels made a ringing sound on the pavement and the rain splashed from the gutterings above. A fine ending to an evening that had started with brave hope, with innocence. (“Don’t Look Now”)”

-Daphne du Maurier

The trouble is, walking in Venice becomes compulsive once you start. Just over the next bridge, you say, and then the next one beckons.

-Daphne du Maurier


“In winter you wake up in this city, especially on Sundays, to the chiming of its innumerable bells, as though behind your gauze curtains a gigantic china tea-set were vibrating on a silver tray in the pearl-gray sky. You fling the window open and the room is instantly flooded with this outer, peal-laden haze, which is part damp oxygen, part coffee and prayers. No matter what sort of pills, and how many, you’ve got to swallow this morning, you feel it’s not over for you yet. No matter, by the same token, how autonomous you are, how much you’ve been betrayed, how thorough and dispiriting in your self-knowledge, you assume there is still hope for you, or at least a future. (Hope, said Francis Bacon, is a good breakfast but bad supper.) This optimism derives from the haze, from the prayer part of it, especially if it’s time for breakfast. On days like this, the city indeed acquires a porcelain aspect, what with all its zinc-covered cupolas resembling teapots or upturned cups, and the tilted profile of campaniles clinking like abandoned spoons and melting in the sky. Not to mention the seagulls and pigeons, now sharpening into focus, now melting into air. I should say that, good though this place is for honeymoons, I’ve often thought it should be tried for divorces also – both in progress and already accomplished. There is no better backdrop for rapture to fade into; whether right or wrong, no egoist can star for long in this porcelain setting by crystal water, for it steals the show. I am aware, of course, of the disastrous consequence the above suggestion may have for hotel rates here, even in winter. Still, people love their melodrama more than architecture, and I don’t feel threatened. It is surprising that beauty is valued less than psychology, but so long as such is the case, I’ll be able to afford this city – which means till the end of my days, and which ushers in the generous notion of the future.”

-Joseph Brodsky


“General Grant seriously remarked to a particularly bright young woman that Venice would be a fine city if it were drained.”

-Henry Adams

“You’ve got to see Venice,” he began. “You’ve got to see a city of slender towers and white domes, sleeping in the water like a mass of water lilies. You’ve got to see dark waterways, mysterious threads of shadow, binding all these flowers of stone together.”
-E. Temple Thurston

“In Venice, if you didn’t know where you were going, you usually ended up in the Piazza and since that was always true, maybe it was always where you were going”.

-Scott Stavrou



“Mestre. Say the word without hissing the conurbated villain, and pitying its citizens. As quickly as they can, two million tourists pass through, or by, Mestre each year, and each one will be struck by the same thought as they wonder at the aesthetic opposition that it represents. Mestre is an ugly town but ugly only in the same way that Michael Jackson might be described as eccentric or a Tabasco Vindaloo flambéed in rocket fuel might be described as warm. Mestre is almost excremental in its hideousness: a fetid, fly-blown, festering, industrial urbanization, scarred with varicose motorways, flyovers, rusting railway sidings and the rubbish of a billion holidaymakers gradually burning, spewing thick black clouds into the Mediterranean sky. A town with apparently no centre, a utilitarian ever-expandable wasteland adapted to house the displaced poor, the shore-bound, outpriced, domicile-deprived exiles from its neighbouring city. For, just beyond the condom- and polystyrene-washed, black-stained, mud shores of Marghera, Mestre’s very own oil refinery, less than a mile away across the waters of the lagoon in full sight of its own dispossessed citizens, is the Jewel of Adriatic. Close enough for all to feel the magnetism, there stands the most beautiful icon of Renaissance glory and, like so much that can attract tourism, a place too lovely to be left in the hands of its natives, the Serenissima itself, Venice.”

-Marius Brill


“I had to slow down. If I was going to listen to Venice properly, I needed to hear the cadence of the place. I needed to stand still. I thought of Whitman observing the parade of humanity with lewd concentration. Walt had a good ear. He loved opera and knew how to sit perfectly still.”

-Stephen Kuusisto


“But the daily tasks and prayers of men, the ancient city tired from having lived too long, the ravaged marble and worn out bells, all those things oppressed by the weight of memories, all those perishable things were rendered humble in comparison with the tremendous blazing Alps that tore at the sky with their thousand unyielding spikes, a vast, solitary city that was waiting, perhaps, for a new race of Titans.”

-Gabriele D’Annunzio



“It was like a Stygian plain, like a vision of Hades: a land of shadows, vapours and water. Everything was going misty and disappearing like spirits. The moon was enchanting and pulling at the plain just as she enchants and pulls at the sea, drinking all that vast earthly dampness from the horizon with her silent, insatiable throat.”

-Gabriele D’Annunzio


“Oh yes, it was my Venice! Beautiful,
With melancholy, ghostly beauty—old,
And sorrowful, and weary—yet so fair,
So like a queen still, with her royal robes,
Full of harmonious colour, rent and worn!”

-Ada Cambridge



“The poison of Venice is the magic of a dream architecture in the softness of an atmosphere of silk; these are the treasures of the centuries, amassed there by a race of merchants and pirates, the magnificence of the Orient and ancient Byzantium miraculously combined with the grace of Italian art, the mosaics of Saint Mark and the coating ducal palace rosé; the poison of Venice is the solitude of so many deserted palaces, the dream of the lagoons, the nostalgic rhythm of the gondolas, the grandiose of so many ruins; in pearl colourings – pink pearls at dawn and black at dusk – the charm of sadness and splendour of so many glories irretrievably gone; and in the most lyrical setting in which the world has ever been intoxicated, the morbid languor of sublime rot”.

-Jean Lorrain (English translation by Google)




“Well, he’d gone this far, animated by nothing more noble than curiosity, he told himself as he studied the face of the man in the mirror, pushing his collar down over his neatly knotted tie. The man’s mind slipped into English: The cat’s got your tongue. Curiosity killed the cat. To stay in vein, the man in the mirror gave a Cheshire smile, and Brunetti left the house.”

-Donna Leon


“The Lido, with its acres of sun-pinked or pyjamaed bodies, was like a strand with an endless heap of seals come up for mating. Too many people in the piazza, too many limbs and trunks of humanity on the Lido, too many gondolas, too many motor-launches, too many steamers, too many pigeons, too many ices, too many cocktails, too many menservants wanting tips, too many languages rattling, too much, too much sun, too much smell of Venice, too many cargoes of strawberries, too many silk shawls, too many huge, raw-beef slices of watermelon on stalls: too much enjoyment, altogether far too much enjoyment!”

-David Herbert Lawrence


“Venice is a Dorian Gray city. Somewhere up there in the world’s attic, there’s another place with the haggard, poxed and ravaged face of unspeakable evil. And I suspect it’s Cardiff.”

-A.A. Gill


“Beds unmade for days on end, piled high with bedding crumpled and disordered from the weight of dreams, stood like deep boats waiting to sail into the dank and confusing labyrinths of some dark starless Venice.”

-Bruno Schulz

“The energy companies are burning and Venice is drowning.”

-Steven Magee


“Because, my dear Eric, I have tasted the secret knowledge. I know how much to say and when to pull back. I know what to see and not see. And now that I have become whole again, I can never go back. All these things he has given me. Better than my supposed mother and father ever could. For that, I owe him my life and allegiance.”

-Melika Dannese




“The surface of Venice is constantly metamorphosing [and] painting Venice is almost like being a restorer, peeling off the layers to find the picture after picture underneath.”

-Arbit Blatas


“At the bridge I stood
lately in the brown night.
From afar came a song:
as a golden drop it welled
over the quivering surface.
Gondolas, lights, and music —
drunken it swam out into the twilight.

My soul, a stringed instrument,
sang to itself, invisibly touched,
a secret gondola song,
quivering with iridescent happiness.
— Did anyone listen to it?”

-Friedrich Nietzsche



“Venice…A splendour of miscellaneous spirits.”

-John Ruskin


“Venice, it’s temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven.”

-Percy Bysshe Shelley





“I loved her from my boyhood,—she to me
Was as a fairy city of the heart,
Rising like water-columns from the sea,
Of joy the sojourn and of wealth the mart;
And Otway, Radcliffe, Schiller, Shakespeare’s art,
Had stamped her image in me, and even so,
Although I found her thus, we did not part,
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe
Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show”

-Lord Byron


“Venice has always fascinated me. Every country in Europe then was run by kings and the Vatican except Venice, which was basically run by councils. I’ve always wondered why.”

-Alan Furst


“A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.”

-Arthur Symons.


“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty this city, half fairytale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.”

-Thomas Mann

“An orange gem resting on a blue glass plate: it’s Venice seen from above.”

-Henry James


“If I were not King of France, I would choose to be a citizen of Venice.”

-Henry III of France


“I will never forget experiencing Venice for the first time. It feels like you are transported to another time – the art, music, food and pure romance in the air is like no other place.”

-Elizabeth Berkley



“Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there is no one around.”

-Woody Allen


“Paris is an ideal place to become informed, while Venice is a place to think and write.”

-Pontus Hulten


“In the winter, Venice is like an abandoned theatre. The play is finished, but the echoes remain.”

-Arbit Blatas


“Venice, the most touristy place in the world, is still just completely magic to me.”

-Frances Mayes


“Venice has always fascinated me. Every country in Europe then was run by kings and the Vatican except Venice, which was basically run by councils. I’ve always wondered why.”

-Alan Furst


“Venice is eternity itself.”

-Joseph Brodsky,


“I had had my dreams of Venice.  But nothing that I had dreamed was as impossible as what I found”.

-Arthur Symons


“When I seek another word for music, I never find any other word than Venice”.

-Friedrich Nietzsche


“He liked the fact that Venice had no cars. It made the city human. The streets were like veins, he thought and the people were the blood, circulating everywhere”

-Patricia Highsmith


“If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is – Venice is better”

-Fran Liebowitz


“Like Venice, Italy, this is a place of fleeting beauty.  The knowledge that we won’t be here long, gives everyone an intense appetite for living”.

-Andrei Codrescu


“The women of Venice are beautiful but, more to the point, they are flirtatious.”

-Ange Goudar


I hope you enjoyed these quotes and my images.  For my own thoughts on this unique and wonderful city, please click the link to see my blog post – Why I love Venice

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