Memorable Proust Quotes

“I left for Venice so
That, before I died, I
Might go up to and
Touch and see in the
Flesh, in palaces now
Declining but still
Pink and standing,
The ideas of Ruskin
On the domestic
Architecture of the
Middle Ages.”

“In the evening I
Went out alone, into
The heart of the
Enchanted city where
I found myself in the
Middle of strange
Surroundings like a
Character in the
Arabian Nights.”

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Bill Carter defines why Proust in Venice is important

Venice, more than any city—Paris excepted, inspired Proust’s imagination and provided rich material for his novel. From the time of his boyhood, he was fascinated by Venice and all its rich history and marvelous architecture—a fascination that Proust gives to his Narrator. The writer came to know and love the city when he visited it in the summer of 1900 with his mother, Reynaldo Hahn, and Hahn’s English cousin, Marie Nordlinger. He had come there not only to fulfill his childhood dream but also to do research for his translations of works by John Ruskin. In À la recherche du temps perdu, he sends the Narrator to Venice in the only section of the novel to take place outside of France. This section, Sojourn in Venice, is in Albertine disparue (The Fugitive) and takes place after Albertine’s death during the period of the Narrator’s grieving and forgetting. Venice’s Fortuny Museum contains many of the dresses that become a motif symbolizing aspects of Albertine’s character and the Narrator’s images of her. Visiting this museum provides a unique opportunity to see the dresses and costumes that inspired Proust to create similar splendid outfits for Albertine. The Venice sojourn also contains a moving homage to Proust’s own mother in the tableau that he gives of her sitting in mourning in St Mark’s Basilica.

To understand Proust’s fascination with Venice, we invite you to join us on  our Proust in Venice tour. Bill Carter, preeminent Proust scholar, led our Proust in Paris tour May 2015 to rave 5 star reviews.

As leader of our first ever Proust in Venice tour, Carter defines in lectures and readings, why Proust in Venice is important to our understanding of Proust the writer, son and observer of Venice art, music and architecture.

In his own words, Proust gives his motivation for visiting Venice:

“I left for Venice so that before I died, I might go up to and touch and see in the flesh, palaces now declining but still pink and standing “. The ideas of Ruskin on the domestic architecture of the Middle Ages also motivated Proust to visit Venice with his mother.

The Grand Canal, the mosaics of St. Mark’s the soaring art of Tintoretto and Titian,  the artistry of Fortuny, even Florian’s, the iconic café that Proust frequented are just some of the subjects of Proust musings that we will examine in readings, lectures and site visits.

Left: Piazetta leading to St. Mark's Square - Right: Hotel Danieli lobby

Visits include:

The Armenian Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro… Proust signed the guest book here on Oct. 19, 1900

Scuola Grande di San Rocco… Proust admired Tintoretto…on view here over 50 Tintorettos

Fortuny Museum… this once dreary museum has been completely renovated  and reopened a couple of years ago. Only open when there is an exhibit. Opening dates for 2016 will not be decided before December 2015. We remain hopeful that the museum will be open by May 2016,  the month it has reopened in previous years. Update: It is January 2016 and there still is no word as to whether or not the museum will be open in May.

Padua and the Giottos … it is a short train ride  to Padua and visit to Scrovengi Chapel with frescoes by Giotto around 1303-05. The frescoes depict events in the life of the Virgin Mary and Christ.  Proust and his mother visited.

Florian café…Magnificent café on St.Mark’s Square …a Proust favorite

Proust Wandering through Venice… Proust reveals what every visitor to Venice should do:” In the evening I  went out alone, into the heart of the enchanted city where I found myself in the middle of strange surroundings like a character in the Arabian nights.” Anka Begley, well known writer and lecturer on many facets of Proust, vacationed in Venice for many years, when asked what were her favorite Proust Venice moments declared  “I love the part where he is constantly surprised by the small calli and the large squares”

Throughout the tour, we will share our considerable knowledge of Venice food specialties,  found nowhere else: cicchetti. the varied  small tastes of Venice to be sampled on an evening stroll at my favorite stand up bar; plus a favorite of mine, tramazzini, triangular small white bread sandwiches with various fillings that cost under 2 euros; meals with a view and  the Spritz, Venetians drink this campari based drink all day long. A drink at Harry’s Bar, the famous bellini or an icy cold martini. Farewell dinner at what I consider the best meal in Venice.

Left: Giotto frescoes in Padua - Center: Palazzo Barbaro on the Grand Canal- Right: Florian cafe its & magnificent interior


Day 1 - Friday May 13

5pm… Make your way to the Hotel Ala where we will introduce you to Gregory Dowling. Gregory teaches at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice., is the author of several books, one, Ascension, published just this year. He has guided our Venice tours for over a decade. In his role as a Byron scholar. he is on the committee working towards the opening of a Byron Museum in a couple of years in Ravenna.

Walk through St.Mark’s Square to Hotel Danieli, home to Proust and his mother and dozens of other literary giants. Then we will take a water taxi with Gregory commenting on the Salute church and the dozens of imposing palazzi that line the canal. Because water taxis only takes 10 and we are 14, we will do our Grand Canal tour in two shifts.

Palazzo Barbaro Palazzo Barbaro

Wandering through Venice and getting lost along the way

Gondolas, the scenic symbol of Venice

Day 2

Saturday May 14

10 am…Proust wanderings through Venice…there is no route laid out in this famous part of Proust’s visit to Venice. But it is easy if you are familiar with Venice to chart an imaginary walk over bridges and through small squares
Lunch…on the terrace, weather permitting, of La Calcina. Also known as the Ruskin house. Ruskin lived here briefly. The panoramic terrace ion the Giudecca Canal offers a lovely view.

Lunch at La Calcina. After lunch we will need to catch the number 2 vaporetto from Zattere stop at 2:40pm to be sure of catching the 3:10 boat to San Lazzaro. Lunch is no longer included in tour price due to escalated cost of rooms at Kette and other pluses we have included.

3:10 pm Board vaporetto 20 from San Zaccaria to visit the Armenian Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro. We are part of the general tour with other people. A guide will lead us through parts of the monastery and recount Byron’s experience there. Magnificent Monumental Library, Proust visited and signed the guest book.

Left: Armenian monastery - Right: Fortuny gowns in Renovated Fortuny Museum


Jeremy, like Gregory is a Brit, and also teaches at Ca’ Foscari University…on most Sundays he hosts a Salon for ex-pats. We are too many to attend his tea on Sunday. He has graciously consented to host our group on Saturday after the Armenian Monastery visit. INTERESTING APARTMENT JAMMED FULL OF BOOKS AND TAPES. Across the hall, he has an apartment that I have rented many times. Jeremy will pour tea, we are charged with bringing biscuits.

Day 3 - Sunday May 15

7:30am…Leave from Giglio vaporetto stop for train station

8:50am Train 9712 from Venice to Padua arriving at 9:16 am

We must be at chapel 45 minutes before scheduled entry
Giotto Scrovegni Chapel entry at 11:15am for allotted 20 minute visit

Proust and his mother visited.

We have not booked a specific train back from Padua allowing time to look around a bit.

Day 4 - Monday May 16

11:15 am meet Luisella, our guide, in St. Mark’s Square between the two large granite columns facing the waterfront. Luisella, our favorite guide , not only in Venice but anywhere we travel.

2 hour long tour of St. Mark’s Square and its basilica

Lunch…2 minute walk from St. Mark’s Square to Rossopomodoro, believed by many to serve best pizza in Venice.To reach Rosso Pomodoro Go under the clock tower, take the first street on the right and then walk all the way to the end. The restaurant is on the left.

Venice’s best pizza - Rossopomod

you could have an expensive lunch at Florian’s, the magnificent historic café and a Proust favorite, right on the Square

2:30 Meet Luisella at the Clock Tower in St. Mark’s Square, vaporetto to 3 hour tour of the Frari church and the Scuola of San Rocco.

8 pm Dinner at gourmet Il Ridotto, tiny one star Michelin restaurant. Dinner included in tour price. Wine not included.

Il Ridotto restaurant is about 5 minutes from the vaporetto stop, San Zaccaria. #1 from Giglio. Walk down Calle delle Rasse , at the end of the street, turn left into Campo SS. Fillippo e Giacomo.Il Ridotto is next to the pharmacy at number 4510.Il Ridotto on your right.

Gregory will point out Calle delle Rasse on our first day walk to Hotel Danieli.

Or you may choose to walk from the Kette, ask concierge for directions.

Day 5

Noon: visit the Wagner apartments at Vendramin Calergi Palace, part of Venice’s Casino. Our tour lasts about an hour. In Italian with a translator. Our own Bruce Frier has graciously aagreed to translate for our group. The spacious apartment where Richard Wagner lived, composed Tristan & Isolde and died. Proust was a Wagner fan.

John Julius Norwich, Paradise of Cities, has a good chapter on Wagner in Venice. Recommended reading.


A stylish Richard Wagner at his Bechstein piano

It appears the Fortuny Museum will be closed when we are in Venice. We can see a contemporary version of a Fortuny dress at a store near our hotel. Perhaps visit the Fortuny showroom that sells Fortuny fabrics.
Afternoon free until optional tour of the Accademia.

3pm Accademia visit with Bill Carter and Nic leading you to artists and paintings Proust lied.Buy your entry ticket at Accademia for this optional tour.

Farewell drink on the terrace of Bauer Hotel facing the Salute Church… one of my favorite views in Venice.

Day 6…Arrivederci.
Homeward bound or elsewhere. We have loved sharing this wondrous city with you.

Our hotel
The Hotel Ala is my favorite Venice hotel for its superb location, just a 10 minute walk to St. Mark’s Square and just 50 yards from a vaporetto stop water bus transportation.
Staff is great knowledgeable and helpful, The Ala breakfast is what they call an American buffet…ample and delicious.

It may be necessary to book a second hotel to hold our group. If so, it is a 4 star very close to Fenice opera house and 3 minutes from St. Mark’s  Square.

Costs: $3575

5 night hotel with breakfast, free wi fi, all private tours as outlined in itinerary, guide services, entrance fees to sites,  7 day vaporetto pass, train to and from Padua, Celebratory gourmet dinner.

Not included: airfare to and from Venice, transfer to and from hotel, lunches, 4 dinners, coffee stops, wine and alcoholic beverages. Florian Café stop

William Carter - William C. Carter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama. His 900 page biography Marcel Proust: A Life has received wide world acclaim. Notable book by New York Times, Best Book of 2000 by the Los Angeles Times and Best Biography of 2000 by the Sunday Times of London. Harold Bloom has written that Carter is "Proust’s definitive biographer".

In 2013 he received the Gold Medal of the Prix Renaissance bestowed by the French Government.  In November 2013 in celebration of the centennial of Proust’s novel, Yale University Press published Swann’s Way, the first volume of Carter’s new annotated edition of Scott Moncrieff’s famous translation of In Search of Lost Time. Yale University Press will publish the succeeding volumes until the entire novel is complete.

What these accomplishments don’t convey is William Carter, the man, brilliant interpreter of Proust’s novel. Affable and humble. And a great companion.

Nicolas Drogoul received his degree in French at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and now works as a freelance photographer.

Nic’s photographs of places (Paris, Illiers-Combray, Cabourg) that inspired Marcel Proust, were published in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: Marcel Proust A Documentary Volume. These pictures have been exhibited and acclaimed at a series of other venues.

Nic continues to work as William Carter’s research assistant for Yale University Press’s new annotated edition of In Search of Lost Time

Mary Ann Zimmerman
Decades ago, on her first trip to Europe, Mary Ann and her husband arrived in Venice.It was midnight and they walked across deserted St.Mark’s Square through the fog and the mist to the Hotel Danieli.

In the morning, Mary Ann threw open the shutters and before her in brilliant sunshine lay Venice and the Grand Canal.

It was love at first sight. Through the years, there have been many month long stays in rented apartments and literary tours. Family vacations at the Hotel Excelsior on the Lido, cooking classes and Italian lessons. A memorable week at the Gritti Palace with a cooking course led by Julia Child. 

Creating this Proust in Venice tour and sharing Venice with dedicated Proustians is a dream come true.

Gregory Dowling is Associate Professor of American Literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His academic publications include a study of American narrative poetry, a guide to Byron’s Venice and a co-edited anthology of American poetry about Venice. His most recent academic book is a study of the poetry of David Mason (Story Line Press, 2013). His non-academic publications include five thrillers, set in England and Italy, the sightseeing sections of the Time Out Guide to Venice and numerous translations from Italian into English. He is a member of the committee for the new Lord Byron Museum to be opened in Palazzo Guiccioli, Ravenna, in 2017. His most recent novel, Ascension, a spy-story set in 18th-century Venice, was published by Polygon Books in September 2015 and was nominated “Historical Fiction Book of the Month” by The Times (UK)

Gregory has lead all of our Venice tours for over 15 years focusing on literary Venice. He continues to astonish us with the depth of his knowledge of the literary history of Venice. Our favorite: walks led by Gregory through little travelled  calli and hidden squares.

Luisella Romeo has guided our tours on numerous occasions and  is one of Venice’s most popular official  guides specializing in Venice  art, crafts, music and more. She is perky, fashionable and brings high energy and life to her lectures. Luisella helps us to skip the daunting lines at St. Mark’s and gives us access to a special elevator that whisks us to the top of the Basilica.A wonderful view of the façade and the famous four horses.