By the time poet David Malouf wrote Johnno (1976), his first work of prose fiction, he was in his late thirties and living in the Renaissance city of Florence. Both European Florence and antipodean Brisbane mirror and enfold the novel's eponymous hero, Johnno, and his narrator-creator, Dante. The Florentine poet, and by extension his medieval trappings, resonate throughout a tale about growing up in a frontier town far removed from the cosmopolitan centres of the Northern Hemisphere. This Italian connection can be explored further by considering Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities (1997) alongside Johnno. The depiction of Venice in Calvino's novel can operate as a point of contrast and comparison to the river city of Brisbane, conjured by Malouf's Dante.