My favourite place: Tracy Borman
In the December 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine, Tracy Borman selects Venice, Italy, as her favourite historical destination. History Extra caught up with her to find out more...
Q: When did you last travel to Venice and why were you there?
My most recent trip to Venice was in October last year. This has become something of an annual fixture because my now husband, Tom, and I started going there to mark the anniversary of our first meeting. On our last visit, he proposed, so there’s even more reason to go back each year now!
Q: Why do you love the location?
I have loved Venice from the first moment I arrived. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and historic place, with so many iconic monuments crammed into a surprisingly small area. It may be a cliché, but what I love most about the city is getting lost there: turning away from the main squares and just going wherever the mood takes me.
Q: What top 3 sights wo
uld you recommend people visit while they are there, and why?
Scuola Grande di San Rocco: hidden away in the San Polo quarter of the city, off the (well-beaten) tourist track, this stunning marble edifice is filled with a breathtaking series of Biblical paintings by Tintoretto.
The Accademia: this gallery houses the largest collection of Venetian art in the world. Make a bee-line for Carpaccio’s paintings that tell the story of St Ursula.
St Mark’s Square: it’s worth running the gauntlet of the thousands of tourists who cram into Venice’s most famous site, described by Napoleon as the ‘drawing room of Europe’. The majestic basilica jostles for position with the pink and white marble façade of the Doge’s Palace, all overlooked by the towering Campanile.
Q: During what period of its history would you most wanted to have visited Venice and why?
As a Tudor historian, I have to say the 16th century. This was still the city’s heyday, but it would soon fall into decline. I would have loved to listen in on the reports by the notoriously gossipy Venetian ambassadors as they returned to tell the Doge all about the latest shenanigans in Henry VIII’s court.
Q: Where else in the world would you most like to visit and why?
I would love to go to Caen in Normandy and visit the Abbaye aux Dames. This was founded by Matilda of Flanders (wife of William the Conqueror and the subject of one of my books) and she is buried there.
Tracy Borman is joint chief curator of Historic Royal Palaces. Her books include Thomas Cromwell: The untold story of Henry VIII's most faithful servant (Hodder & Stoughton, 2014)
You can read Tracy's feature on Venice in the December 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine – on sale from 5 November