Armchair travel extraordinaire

Those lucky enough to travel to Venice — surely considered one of the world’s most romantic cities — no doubt make memories that last a lifetime.

And this month proves a most popular time to visit, with the Carnival of Venice set for Feb. 11 through 28. The pre-Lenten festival known for its elaborate costumes and dramatic masks is an enduring annual celebration of history, culture — and not just a little intrigue.

But that’s simply a reflection of Venice itself, a treasure trove of elaborately detailed architecture, rich artistic traditions and familiar (though ever-fanciful) scenes of canals, bridges and gondolas that spark countless daydreams.

Now readers around the world have the chance to explore this storied Italian destination with a savvy insider thanks to “Venetian Chic,” (Assouline, $85), released this month.

Our guide is Francesca Bortolotto Possati, the Venetian art connoisseur, interior designer and hotelier who knows well the intricacies of her native city, one that she describes in her opening essay as a “wonderfully addictive, mercurial place.”

It’s one, too, where daily visitors outnumber the population.

Venice, she adds, has “a world of hidden entrances, chance encounters, and new opportunities, underscored by a wonderful sense of blurred boundaries as architecture literally gives way to the sea.”

Clearly, this will be no standard tour, as Possati’s words — and stunning photographs by Robyn Lea — take us on private excursions to artists’ studios, elegant residences and historic palaces.

We are immediately immersed in a world of velvet and brocade, mirrors and Venetian glass, breathtaking rooflines and stunning staircases, intricately painted ceilings and quiet corners in secret gardens.

It’s clear that Possati, CEO of the Bauer Hotel group, knows her city in a way few will experience, and her passion is translated both here and in her preservation efforts. She is a board member of Save Venice Inc., a foundation dedicated to restoring important works of Venetian architecture and art.

Venice, it seems, touches all who visit, a point made clear in the foreword by British actor Jeremy Irons, who speaks of being welcomed by the city “on a few fine occasions” and being left “with a multitude of plangent memories.” From walking through the deserted city at night to a moment on the Lido in the pouring rain to filming “Brideshead Revisited” with Laurence Olivier, his treasured memories of Venice are about, he writes, “Reveling in this ancient place that refuses to change.”

Quotes about Venice are also sprinkled throughout the pages that follow, adding a charming touch and dramatic pause. These are words uttered or written over the centuries, from the 16th-century French king, Henry III, to 19th-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to contemporary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

But it is in the words of French novelist Marcel Proust (1871-1922) that perhaps we have the most evocative summation: “When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become — incredibly, but quite simply — my address.”

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