This paper discusses the motif of a city in Donna Leon’s ‘Venetian’ series. In this American author’s novels, Venice is as much beautiful as it is rife with decay: under its outward beauty dark secrets hide. The author contrasts the beautiful vistas (product of civilisation, result of man’s architectural prowess) with human proclivity to sin and illegal or immoral conduct. The cityscape provides a background against which various destructive, hurtful, and dishonest goings-on are shown. An important role is played by the contrast between Venice of old (emerging from the protagonists’ vivid memories) and modern Venice, one irretrievably set in Europe’s tourist and industrial landscapes. The former cleanliness (also manifest in the city’s immaculate look) is juxtaposed with the now ubiquitous fi lth and pollution — clearly pointing to the city’s degradation.