Preface

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This novella is the third instalment of my Epithalamium series of stories featuring Albus and Minerva. It opens just after the end of Chapter 54 of Epithalamium, but you don't have to have read that story to enjoy this tale, which is part romance, part travelogue. 

I hadn't originally thought to write this story, but after the end of Epithalamium, I wanted to write something specifically for my friend Fishy, who has been such a wonderful support and cheerleader for me during the writing of this series. She needed something cheerful, and I thought a honeymoon trip for her favourite couple would be just the ticket.

Some of the story is based on experiences I had during my first trip to Venice with my own beloved, and I've enjoyed revisiting the sites with Minerva and Albus. Several months before we arrived, the city's magnificent Teatro La Fenice had, sadly, been burned to ashes (for the second time in its history) in an act of arson apparently intended to obscure the fact that the company hired to repair the building's electrical system was running behind schedule. So I had to rely on old photos and written accounts of the previous theatre to fill out the details for this story.

A few bits in the story were inspired by David Lean's 1955 film Summertime, which features perennial "spinster" Katharine Hepburn in a torrid affair with a far-too-handsome Rossano Brazzi, but the real star of the show is Venice herself. See the film (and the city) if you can.

I've taken some liberties with the itinerary of the Simplon-Orient Express, which has had a colourful history and run several different routes since its inaugural journey in 1883. According to my research, the route Minerva and Albus enjoy began service in 1919, starting from the Gare de l'Est in Paris, taking riders on a pleasant traversal of the Swiss and Italian Alps, via Zürich, Innsbruck, and through the scenic Brenner Pass, to Verona, and finally to the Santa Lucia station in Venice. It's unclear if this route was in operation in 1957, when this story takes place. To me, it seemed the most romantic of journeys, so I used it.

I took great pleasure in imagining a wizarding history for Venice, the most magical of Muggle cities, and placing its version of Diagon Alley beneath the Jewish Ghetto seemed right, given the persecution of both the Jews and anyone accused of sorcery by the religious and political powers of various ages. I beg the reader's forgiveness for any factual errors I may have committed in describing the rich history of the ghetto, one of the oldest in Europe, and its people.

When I visited Venice, it was late springtime, and the beginning of the tourist season. I can only imagine with envy what the city must have been like in the off-season of 1957, without the omnipresent crowds and the tourism industry that can make today's Venice more like a quaint Italian offshoot of Disneyland than a living city.

Fortunately, steps are now being taken to preserve Venice from the twin threats of overtourism and climate change. There is an active international effort to preserve and protect the city and its artistic heritage, and in 2021, the Italian government finally enacted a long-overdue ban on cruise ships—those bloated wedding-cake hulks that for years clogged the Giudecca Canal–docking at the city centre.

While these monstrosities will continue to disgorge hordes of eager tourists into a medieval town not built to accommodate what are essentially cities' worth of people, now they will come via the mainland port of Marghera rather than directly from the ecologically delicate Venetian lagoon. Progress, I suppose.

In addition, the city now imposes a daily cap and an access fee in varying amounts on day-trippers, to discourage visitors from converging on the city at the same peak times and to encourage them to spend the night–and money—in the city.

Despite the crowds, if you have never visited La Serenissima, I highly recommend a trip. It really is one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world.

Just ask Minerva and Albus.


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