Secrets of Venice continued

Last updated at 12:34 25 March 2002

The real charm of Venice lies in its quiet backwaters. By day, as du Maurier notes, they are perfectly lovely.

Follow John and Laura to the Greeks' church, San Giorgio dei Greci (easily located by its drunkenly leaning bell tower), and you will find yourself walking along Fondamenta San Lorenzo.

With a copy of the wonderful Venice For Pleasure by J G Links in your grasp, you will learn that it was here that Bellini set his easel to paint Miracle Of The Cross at the Bridge of San Lorenzo almost 500 years ago.

Study this view carefully: when you look for the painting later at the Accademia you will see how little Venice has changed.

Yet the Venice revealed in Don't Look Now is a very different city from the one seen by most tourists.

Julie Christie recalled the filming with special pleasure: 'Venice had that strange, ghostly emptiness you see in the picture, full of magic and portent, very wet walls, dark alleyways that were damp and glistening.

'And continual reflections; everywhere you looked there was water.'

Her remarks are an uncanny echo of du Maurier's descriptions. This is John Baxter sheltering from a downpour-in St Mark's Square: 'The experts are right, he thought, Venice is sinking. The whole city is slowly dying.

'One day the tourists will travel here by boat to peer down into the waters, and they will see pillars and columns and marble far, far beneath them, slime and mud uncovering for brief moments a lost underworld of stone.'

The film is at pains to avoid the familiar images of Venice.

'St Mark's Square is not the city of Venice,' said Roeg. 'Venice is a wonderful thing, a work of art which reveals itself slowly, as do all great beauties.'

It is interesting how faithfully the film sticks to the book in its choice of locations.

The hotel 'by the Grand Canal' where John and Laura stay in the book is only vaguely described, but on stepping out of it they are quickly on the 'Molo' and heading along the sweeping Riva degli Schiavoni quay that runs from the Doge's Palace to the Biennale Gardens.

Du Maurier may have been thinking of the Gritti Palace, the Europa e Regina or the Luna Baglioni.

The film uses the Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth, a few minutes' walk east along the waterfront from St Mark's Square.

There wasn't enough space in the Gabrielli's rooms to film the interiors.

These scenes, including the famous love scene (so raunchy that the film company cut it out for du Maurier's special preview), were filmed in a suite in the Bauer Grunwald, which is on the west side of St Mark's Square.

In the film, John Baxter is restoring the 12th Century church of San Nicolo dei Mendicoli.

In reality the church was restored by the British Venice in Peril fund in 1973. In Venice For Pleasure, J. G. Links describes the church as 'a miracle of enlightened restoration'.

From Schiavoni you can reach the church by taking a No 2 ferry to Zattere. To the first-time visitor the vaporetto network can look complicated, but it is worth persevering - it really is the only way to see Venice.

Don't Look Now's terrifying climax happens in very similar locations in both book and film.

In the book, the action takes place near the canal at the back of the San Martino church.

Roeg places the key scenes of the film a short walk away in the Calle di Mezzo, just below the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, with its gorgeous, mildewed wedding-cake church.

This is where John catches sight of the figure in the pixie hood who slips through a large iron gate before disappearing.

In reality, the building they enter is the Griman Palace. Once one of the city's most handsome renaissance palaces, famous for its rich frescoes, it seems to have been left derelict for many years.

Now, at last, restoration seems to be under way.

In the 30 years since the film was made, Venice has been transformed into one of the most fashionable cities in Europe.

The real peril for the city doesn't lie in the ever-rising waters of the lagoon but in its glitzy transformation into an Adriatic Greenwich Village.

Daphne du Maurier would probably have been horrified.

Getting there

British Airways ( tel: 0845 7733377) offers return flights from Gatwick to Venice with fares from £134.

Accommodation at the Europa e Regina starts at €299 (£186).

Starwood Hotels ( tel: 00800 325 35353)

Apartments from £475 per week can be booked through Venetian Apartments ( tel: 020 8878 1130)

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