Death in Venice: Snow Storm and Some Forced Imagination

Venice - Italy

Death in Venice is like all the other works of Thomas Mann – who is far out my favorite author – takes a very honest look at human psychology. The novel takes place – as the name already indicates – in Venice and the surrounding towns. I wanted to write my travel notes on Venice that I gathered during a marvelous winter trip by connecting it with Death in Venice.

You may know the story; Death in Venice is about a German author going through a writers block and traveling to Venice where he develops some sort of obsession with a young boy; an obsession, which eventually leads him to his end. As strange as it may sound, the novel as well as the movie based on the novel by Visconti is in my view one of the best travel stories of all the time. The opening section of the book where our protagonist contemplates a new trip gives so much insight into the unsuspected drivers behind our travels. 

Snow storm in Venice

I have been to Italy three times and one of my trips was during the famous Venice Carnival held annually in February. Italy is sure an amazing country with its friendly people, wonderful rural scenery, history and food. I would however never consider myself one of the great fans of Italy. But the winter trip to Venice turned out to be one of the most amazing travel experiences of my life but it absolutely had nothing to do with the carnival itself. I based myself not in Venice but in the nearby Padova town for a more reasonable hotel rate and calmer atmosphere. I took the train each day, which got me to Venice in less than 30 minutes. My first day in Venice was a little bit disappointing. Although I knew about the crowds, the actual situation was way beyond what I had imagined. You basically had to walk in line to explore the town.

Then came my second day and my second attempt to explore this beautiful but overcrowded town. While I took refugee from crowds at a restaurant for a long a lunch, a snowstorm hit the town. And this changed the entire scenery and the mood of the town. The snowstorm gave me the chance to experience Venice not as an overcrowded place but as the most scenic background that a snow benefit from. Imagine snow in a place where there are no cars, only operating vehicles are gondollas and nearly everyone managing to stay out carrying beautiful umbrellas adding color to the scenery.

Death in Venice

Empty streets of Venice

The instant decrease in the  number of people out on the streets allowed those willing to stay outside to truly enjoy Venice architecture under a completely different and intriguing look. This is where my forced imagination and in my view – the most amazing author ever lived comes into the picture. Although the novella Death in Venice takes place in summer, the snow changed the entire atmosphere of Venice by overtaking the city and making it feeler closer to the atmosphere depicted in Death in Venice or at least allowing me to more easily imagine it that way by creating a quite timeless atmosphere.  Once I got home, I re-watched Visconti`s Death in Venice just to compare the views I experienced and the scenes from that movie. Although the feeling of isolation caused by snow felt probably much dreamier than the one caused by cholera (the occurrence in Death in Venice making almost everyone desert the city), the effects of both were still similar to some degree as both events initially triggered panic leading to desertion. By the way, if you have not seen the movie, it is a great one and the soundtrack is even better.

I tried to photograph the snowstorm as much as I could even though it was one of those days I was running out of memory space causing me to shoot only in JPEG and quickly judge and delete those photos not looking like a keeper right on the spot. In the meantime, if you have not read it yet, I think you should give a chance to Death in Venice. It takes time to sink in but once it does, it will stay with you forever.