“I’m an old fan of the Veneto region and it’s here that I’ll let my heart”: dear Ernest Hemingway, you’ve just won the hearts of all Venetians. But why did he say that? Let’s go tracing the steps of Hemingway in Venice and the Veneto to find it out.
The first journey to Italy: Schio and the war
Everyone has at least heard his name once. What maybe not everyone knows is that Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) has been in the Veneto region, and quite often, too. But the first time he met Italy, he wasn’t on a holiday. Not at all.
At only 18 years old, he joined the army and was assigned to driving ambulances for the Red Cross. And that’s how he ended up in Schio, near Vicenza: the city sits at the foot of Mount Pasubio, which was on the Italian front lines during the First World War.
Want to know what this year was like for him? Then his novel A Farewell to the Arms has all the answers you’re looking for.
Back to Veneto: Hemingway in Cortina and Venice
The war is over: it’s time to get back home, at last. But Hemingway didn’t stay in the USA for long: in 1922 he already went back to Veneto, to visit Schio and the nearby Vicenza, Verona, Garda Lake and Trento as a tourist, rather than a soldier.
Next year, he was in this region once again, but this time to go skiing: he stayed in Cortina D’Ampezzo, where he came back to in 1948. The same year when he finally got to Venice.
Needless to say, it was love at first sight: to such an extent that the city inspired part of a novel he had begun in Cortina, Across the River and into the Trees.
Actually, he had already been in the city in 1918, but that was during the war, so he hadn’t had the chance to visit it. Now it was different, he could see all of it, take a boat to Torcello, stay at the Gritti Palace Hotel and have his own table in Harry’s Bar.
To be honest, he didn’t merely love the scenery and the cities of Venice and the Veneto region: he liked their wines, too. That’s why, after a plane accident in 1954, he decided to spend some time in Venice and Valpolicella – a region in the Verona area which gives its name to a delicious wine -, for a cure based on “scampi and Valpolicella”. Yes, he said that.
“Italy was so damned wonderful. It was sort of like having died and gone to Heaven, a place you’d figured never to see.”