Dreaming of Italy

28 August 2018
Ben Pentreath

I’ve only been back a week, but Italy already feels like a dream.  Summer is shifting now; here for a week or two longer perhaps, but that moment of new notebooks and an autumn clean start is around the corner – one of my favourite times of year.

I got back to an office that’s busier that normal. There wasn’t really time to sift through photographs or write a blog.  The strange thing is that when I was away, lying in the sun and reading, it felt like I’d been gone for ever. Now that I’m back for a week, it feels like weeks and weeks since I was eating good Italian food and doing nothing. Time has strange morphologies when you go away, but also when you come back.

We were in Venice for a few days with our friend Skye.  Nothing is more thrilling than the moment when you first turn into the canals. 

Bursting out in to the lagoon and St. Mark’s tower…

Turning into the Arsenale, where Skye and her Mum lives. 

Opposite her house is a little group of chairs, for the old boys to sit in and pass the time of day. 

On our first morning we went out to Torcello.

Skirting the edges of the Arsenal.

The Cathedral at Torcello is a wonderful building, with extraordinary mosaics – some of the earliest in the Venetian lagoon.

We climbed the bell tower.

Everyone knows that I love a stacking chair in an old Baroque church. 


I loved these rusting old buildings on some of the back canals, places I’d never been to before.

A sparkling day:

We walked home.  

A happy evening out, early to bed. The following day we went to the architecture Bienale, which was fascinating – but not, perhaps, the way that the exhibitors intended. 

My favourite corner of the Nordic pavilion.

The British Pavilion was completely empty.  All the effort had been spent on building a huge platform scaffolding over the roof, where tea was served each afternoon at 4pm.  We couldn’t help thinking it was…. boring. Reading the catalogue, the architects and curators obviously couldn’t help thinking it was… extremely exciting.  Hmm.

On the way back we went to the Nautical Museum. Brilliant and full of really exciting things to see.

Museum display case leg porn:

I really wanted to take this home with me:

Rooms full of models of ocean liners:

And then, next door, the boat collection, the dream:

My instagram followers got quite excited that evening by this photograph. 

We were off to Guidecca that evening, but went via San Giorgio, to look at the Vatican City entry into the Bienale, a group of beautiful temporary small chapels but contemporary architects. Well worth seeing….

Although nothing quite competes with the beautiful church itself.

The weather was turning. Thunder was building.

Evening wear.

We had a drink in a house with the most beautiful walled garden I’d seen, filled with vegetables; the heaviest tomatoes you have ever seen. Charlie heaven. 

We had dinner overlooking the water but as the storm blew in we had to retreat inside. Rain belted down. 

The following morning we got up early…

Breakfast at Palazzo Papadopoli, the Aman Hotel. The breakfast was nice but the ceiling was a lot better. 

The fire station.

And then we were travelling. Charlie was heading back to Dorset, to the doggies and his giant pumpkin – I was heading down to Tuscany for a few nights catching up with Val.  A few hours later I was on the wall. 

The golden hour:

On the Thursday we were in Siena for the Palio – probably, I think we worked out, the fifteenth or sixteenth I’ve been to, and still thrilling. That moment of entering the narrow alley that enters the campo….

The excitement is tangible:

This is not quite the moment for my usual ‘it’s hotter in Siena‘ blog, but the best things in life don’t change, as we know:

Back to the Duomo – this was new for me – where the winning horse and Palio are brought to the altar by cheering crowds. Amazing.

Celebrations all night long.

We didn’t do very much for the next few days.  A lot of reading, a lot of lying in the sun, sleeping, eating good food, drinking good wine. My idea of heaven.

One afternoon we went swimming at the Lecchi pools. You walk for a little way down a track in the woods and then get to the coolest, deepest, most delicious swimming pools. 


Evenings drifted by. 

And on our last day, this extraordinary sky, thunder storms ringing around the valleys. 

The holiday was over. We drove down to Rome – Valentina and Cree catching their flights home to New York, me to London.  Masses and masses has happened since we’ve been home – Charlie and I have been to the Melplash Show, the Dorset steam fair, family days out – work’s been crazy too – but all that is going to have to wait for another day.  For now, let’s just take a small moment to dream of Italy.

17 comments on this post


Dear Ben, what lovely photos. I live less than an hour and a half by car from Venice and very rarely go, well not more than once or twice a year. I love going in winter when the lights are on in people’s houses and from outside you can admire their wonderful ceilings and often immense chandeliers. The floor of the hall in my flat in Trieste is exactly the same as the one in your photograph, the terrazzo veneziano, it was lovely to see it. I’ve never been to the Nautical Museum but will definitely go now. Ciao, Adrienne


Thanks! I needed that.


I’m not surprised you know Skye; I’ve bought her book and look at the pictures of Venice more than the recipes! Always good to revisit through your eyes after so many years. I did laugh at the familiar tropes – handsome men, plastic chairs, the cleaning materials! Best wishes for the new term. Nicola

Pierre B.says:

No doubt: Beauty is everywhere in Italy! Thank you for sharing!

Sally Leonardsays:

What a treasure this post was! I’ve always wanted to visit Venice, and these pics were lovely. I Have been to Siena and often day dream about my visit there. Lucky you to have attended several Palio’s!!
Thanks everso for this post!!

Lindsey Backsays:

Thank you. Despairing at the news from around the world and then this drops into my box.


Your blog is such an immense treasure! Thank you!

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Golly, what gorgeous images of my favourite place to visit – Venice! I must remember to visit the Nautical Museum if we get back to Venice again some time. I never tire of the water and the beauty of the buildings surrounded by water! Of course those handsome men in uniform are also rather easy on the eye! Enjoy the rest of the summery weather before it starts to change! Cheers from NZ where we are eagerly anticipating Spring…


Dear Ben,
as italian leaving abroad I always enjoy a lot your blogs on Italy, Venice and Siena are among the nicest cities. This time however I cannot avoid, while thinking of Italy, to have also a thought to the part of Italy I come from and mostly love, which is Genoa, and the tragedy just happened there, the Morandi bridge and the hundreds of times I’ve driven on it…Italy is beautiful but also very delicate and full of contradictions.

Teddee Gracesays:

Those boats! Those boys in blue! I can see why they created a stir. How wonderful to have friends in Italy.


Thank you, thank you, for another wonderful post. Your photographs are amazing and just take me away to these beautiful places. You made my day.


Hello Ben and Charlie thank you for sharing your photos of your holiday to Italy. The architecture is amazing and the view of Venice from the sea was beautiful.Tuscany looks magical a really enjoyable blog.As always your blog revitalises me a real treat of escapism.

David Sanderssays:

Loved the group of little chairs put outside for the “old boys” to sit on and pass the time of day. It’s a wonderful Mediterranean custom – so very sensible and so very sociable. I bet they have a marvellous time – chatting away and eyeing up the young ladies; wishing for a moment – rather forlornly – that they were much younger. Thankfully, Italians don’t worry so much about being too politically correct… if there’s a good view to be admired; have a look. In much the same way as we can vicariously admire the glorious and curvaceous architecture of Venice through your eyes Ben.

Charlotte Ksays:

When I read the words “maritime museum” I almost started scrolling faster, but as I looked at the contents I thought, you dummy, you love the Peabody Essex in Salem, Mass., which displays treasures and artifacts of the China and whaling trades. If you ever get a chance, please do visit. I think you would love it.


Hello Ben.
Wonderful report. I really like all of them.
If one day I come to lisboa I would like to show you local sites that are mythical in my country.
Have a good week


Buon giorno Ben & Charlie,
thank you for your beautiful blog from Italy. I have really enjoyed all the photos. Now we are also in Tuscany, our favourite place Cortona, a very nice town filled with many Ristoranti, local people, shops etc. We love also the tuscany food and local red wine. Italy is always worth to visit it! Today it is very hot and we want to go to the pool.
Dear Ben & Charlie, enjoy your time at home in England, hope the Melplash Show was a success for Charlie !
All the best for you, Yours Birgit from Germany 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *