Author Peter Ackroyd presents this four-part documentary about the cultural history of Venice.

It may be the most beautiful city in the world. Venice – known as La Serenissima – has captured the hearts and minds of writers and musicians down the centuries.

Now, best-selling author Peter Ackroyd introduces us to the city as architecture, art, music and theatre. He discovers the hidden world of private palazzos; examines the architectural development of the city, from Byzantine to Gothic and Renaissance; and walks in the footsteps of the 19th century English writer, John Ruskin, who saw Venice as a city in terminal decline.

Episode One -The City as Architecture
Author Peter Ackroyd discovers the architecture of Venice by walking in the footsteps of the 19th century English writer, John Ruskin. He traces the development of the city’s buildings, from Byzantine through Gothic to Renaissance, and explores the remarkable cemetery island of Isola di san Michele, final resting place of writers and poets. Henry James called Venice the most beautiful tomb in the world where the past “has been laid to rest with such tenderness, such a sadness of resignation.”

Episode Two  - The City as Art
There is hardly a scene in Venice which has not been painted: even the fruit in the fruit market looks as though it has come from a still life. Renowned author Peter Ackroyd explores the work of the 18th century ‘vedute’ artists, including Guardi and Canaletto, who created the most recognisable views of this serene city. And, he meets leading art historian Peter Lauritsen to examine the paintings of Tintoretto, the Venetian artist who worked with such speed that he was nicknamed ‘Il Furioso’.

Episode Three - The City as Music
Author Peter Ackroyd tells the story of Venetian music, from the songs sung by women on the seashore waiting for their fishermen to come home…to the sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi. Appointed to the Ospedale della Pieta in 1704, Vivaldi trained orphan girls to sing and play instruments in a way which made them world-famous. New evidence of his work has been uncovered by the English author Micky White and Vivaldi’s music is being re-interpreted by a British choir.

Episode Four - The City as Theatre
Venice is known for its carnival, but it has always been a city of theatre. As author Peter Ackroyd discovers, even the buildings and their sight-lines were set as out as if on a stage. In Venice, theatricality is everywhere – even in the inner drama of the streets and alleys in which the natives do not lose their way but the traveller always gets lost. And with theatre comes controversy, not least about La Fenice, the world-famous opera house which burnt down in 1996 and has now been re-built. It has been criticised by some Venetians as being a pastiche.


4 x one hour


Sky Arts




Colonial Pictures



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