A place called Chiusi

April 19th, 2014, 11am

The first time I came to Venice was in the eighties when I was travelling on my own a lot. I love travelling on my own, but if you are doing it for any length of time there always comes a point, usually two or three weeks in, usually just after you been given another pokey room with a tiny bed and a view of a wall above the kitchen extractor fan, that you are overcome with intense lonely home sickness.

On that trip it happened to me in a place called Chiusi - Italian for closed. I got so low I decided not to continue south to Rome but return to Venice, change my plane ticket and head home.

The next day on the train north I started reading Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and quickly forgot about myself. Back in Venice I forgot about changing my ticket and spent days reading and walking, reading and walking. The reading and walking returned me to myself and when the time of my original flight came round, I didn’t want to go home.

Now I am sitting on a roof terrace in Santa Croce, level with the birds and Easter bells, above the boats, bar burble and (even out here) the trundle-click of suitcases. Among the much better than usual shelf of holiday apartment books is Wolfe’s From Our House to Bauhaus.

It was some years before I wrote about the Chuisi experience and not giving in to that lonely homesickness. Believing you should never write about a place unless you have seen it through several seasons, I made my protagonist a paint saleswoman holed up in a crap chain hotel off Junction 32 of a UK motorway. The story, Melonella. Blue Vodka. Steel Cerise. was published by the Australian magazine Westerly, you can read a slightly updated version here.

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Steve Dearden

Writer, producer and Director of The Writing Squad - www.stevedearden.com

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