Arianna is a young woman living in sixteenth century Bellezza, an alternate version of Venice, Italy. Her goal in life is to become a mandolier, one who rows the gondolas for the city's Duchessa. However, no girl has ever been a mandolier and to try and become one she must disguise herself and stay on the island when her presence there is forbidden. As she is in hiding, she sees a boy her age who obviously also does not belong. Lucien fell asleep as a cancer patient in modern London and woke up in ancient Bellezza. It turns out he is unwittingly part of the Stravaganti-a group of people who can travel between places and times.
Arianna and Lucien become friends and Arrianna teaches Lucien about Bellezza. However, when Lucien catches the attention of Rodolpho, the Duchessa's main advisor, both he and Arianna become involved in a much bigger and more dangerous adventure.
This is Mary Hoffman's first in a series of novels about the time traveling Stravaganti. The characters are interesting and the story intriguing. This is a good book for most young adult readers and is a fun combination of alternate history and fantasy.