WHO: Gareth Hinds, 34, of Somerville
WHEN: Two weeks in September
WHY: ''I'd always wanted to go, but the reason to go now is I'm starting a graphic novelization based on 'The Merchant of Venice,' and I wanted to draw backgrounds from life," said Hinds, who writes long-form comic books adapting classic novels.
VIEWS OF VENICE: ''Most of the time in Venice was totally unstructured because I wanted to draw," Hinds said. ''I stayed at the Hotel Bernardi, which was very tidy and the people were extremely friendly and helpful." On his trips, Hinds takes a couple sketchbooks, pens, a charcoal pencil, and a mechanical pencil. ''The book is probably going to be black and white, or two-color, but I took photos in case I needed color reference later." Hinds, whose drawings can be seen at www.garethhinds.com and www.thecomic.com, sought out locations ''where there are several interesting views in one place. That's pretty much everywhere in Venice."
VERONA'S GOOD SIDE: ''My first day in Verona I didn't have a great impression, because it was way too modern to use the way I did Venice," Hinds said. ''They do have these ancient Roman ruins plunked in the middle of town, which is cool, but they're pretty isolated in the midst of fashion shops and camera stores. But the second day I liked more. I went to the other side of the river and there was a nice garden, ruins, and nice views back to the other side of town."
OVER THE TOP: ''Florence is basically an overload of art. There's so much art it's ridiculous," he said. ''I did the dome tour of the Duomo, where you climb to the top. I did a long, complicated drawing of rooftops from up there." A friend, Wes Carroll, flew in from San Francisco, and after touring the city together for two days, they rented a car and headed north to the mountains.
BIKES AND BOARS: ''It was the best and worst part of planning that I'd gotten a B&B," Hinds said of their stay at Rustico Sara in the Tuscan province of Lucca. ''The view was drop-dead gorgeous, but we couldn't go anywhere easily." On borrowed bicycles, they explored villages (''tiny towns with five stone buildings and a church"), passing vineyards, and spying wild boars.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: Back in Venice, they stayed with a friend on Giudecca Island. ''It's a quiet part of town, and used to be the warehouse district," Hinds said. They went to two other islands, Torcello and Burano. ''Torcello had a couple of very old churches and a sculpture courtyard, and Burano was like Venice but painted in a bright Mediterranean way." Hinds had a few more days to draw after Carroll headed home. ''At that point Venice started doing its flooding trick. St. Mark's Square is the first thing that floods. One day it was under 6 inches of water and the next, 10 inches. They put out these walkways that are about 18 inches off the ground. All the locals were out in their big rubber boots, like it was no big deal."