Venice Spawns a New Word

If you know any motorcyclists, or if you ride yourself, then you’ve probably heard the term lanesplitting. It’s when a motorcyclist rides between the slower rows of cars and other vehicles, straddling the painted line. It’s actually illegal in most of the United States, and yet it can be done safely by a thoughtful and respectful rider.

Well one day as I tried to cross Venice en route to a meeting at the Piazzetta, I had to battle the legendary Venetian tourist crowds. As I wove skillfully amongst the throngs, sensing an opening and sliding through, or scurrying by a tour group, or dodging the couple who suddenly stopped atop a bridge to peruse their map, I was struck that what I was doing was similar to a motorcyclist in slow traffic.

I was crowdsplitting.

I checked UrbanDictionary, and no one has coined this term there. I claim it! I’ve posted my definition, and hopefully it will be accepted and posted. If you belong to UrbanDictionary, you can vote for it (or something like that. I haven’t actually voted for a word before.)

In the past I referred to the crowds in Venice as the “peste turistico.” I can’t claim ownership of this term. I overheard it the first time I went there for Carnevale. But it’s a pretty good one, isn’t it? Especially in a town that suffered a number of black plagues. Is the tourist plague the modern equivalent? (I shouldn’t bash the crowds too much–I contribute to them myself by being there, right?)

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Try crowdsplitting through these Carnevale crowds!

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Luisa Bergalli Gozzi

I was walking by the Linea d’Acqua bookstore when this caught my eye:

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Okay, so it’s some old book. But one name jumped out at me.

I was in Venice to study Italian but also to finish up some research on Venetian women. Imagine my shock when I spotted a book by one of the women I’m writing about: Luisa Bergalli Gozzi. I had already read a number of biographies and analytical pieces about her, including a list of her works. This book was not even mentioned!

It’s a translation of the book of Genesis, with commentary. IMG_7508

I couldn’t just walk by, even though I knew that this book probably cost more than my entire trip to Venice and I’d never be able to purchase it. I had to be buzzed into the store. The clerk was exceedingly nice. Without a blink, she let me handle the book, turn pages, even take photographs (yes, I asked first). I expected to have to put on gloves or have her show me pages, but no. I didn’t ask the price, though.

Luisa Bergalli Gozzi was a writer and translator living in the 1700s. She wrote a number of plays that premiered in Venice at the Teatro San Moise and the Sant’Angelo. In fact, she and her playwright husband Gasparo Gozzi managed the Sant’Angelo for a while. Luisa incorporated everyday objects into her plays, like brooms and aprons, before Carlo Goldoni, though he gets the credit for this reform.

One of her greatest contributions, though, is her anthology of women poets. In 1726 she published Poetic Compositions of the Most Famous Women Poets of all Ages, which contained 250 women poets. Its breadth surpassed anything that had come before it, with poems collected from private collections, church documents, and unpublished works. She basically gave immortality to a couple generations of women writers who had been ignored  or who would otherwise have been forgotten. Of course, she also included some of the recognized female poets of her day: Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, Isabella Andreini, to name not even a handful.

I’ll have a whole chapter on Luisa Bergalli Gozzi in my forthcoming book, so if you want to know more, don’t go to Wikipedia! Be patient for just a few more months and I’ll give you all the details.

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Quattro Minuti con Casanova: Campiello Querini Stampalia

Here’s the last of February’s Quattro Minuti videos. I have more to come, that I filmed this summer!

The Campiello Querini Stampalia has two Casanova sites–a palace and a pleasure apartment (well, the palace was pretty pleasurable too!) Casanova had a lot of friends in the city, and these were places that they hung out together. (What would Casanova think of the slang term “hanging out?” Probably way too casual for him, but who knows. He loved words.)

Get even more details about these locations in Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide, available in Venetian bookstores, or it’s also known as Seductive Venice in the United States, available at http://www.seductivevenice.com.

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Dr. Kiss Fish

People warned me, “Don’t do it!” “It’s a scam.” It’s disgusting.”

But finally my curiosity got the better of me and I entered the realm of… duh duh duh… Dr. Kiss Fish.

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Apparently these place are in many cities and countries, though I haven’t seen them before, not even in crazy California. I have a pronounced disposition to try out massage and other body work in foreign countries (the medicinal baths in the Czech Republic, Germany, or Italy, inexpensive massages in Costa Rica or Mexico, water massage in New Zealand, and even a chair massage that I can’t even begin to describe while I was at Asia Beer Fest in Singapore, by a guy wearing enormous sunglasses and angel wings.)

So fish nibbling at my feet? Why not?

The technique is supposed to be quite safe, especially if you get the true breed of kiss fish, not some imposter fish. The Dr. Kiss Fish shop in Venice’s Cannaregio has the garra rufa breed, who will “kiss your feet and your hands softly. Much more than just a massage.” I had to read and agree to the sign on the wall that I had no infections, and I had to wash my feet first (they didn’t even provide soap! How effective is that??)

Then I plunged my feet into the illuminated blue box of fish. They glommed onto me faster than ants at a picnic. When I looked at the guy sitting at the box next to me, I saw that he didn’t have nearly as many fish nibbling at his feet. My feet were either really tasty or really…. well, I guess I’d rather not admit to it.

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(This is a rather calm moment for the fish.)

The nibbling sensation is quite strange. The fish even try to get between your toes. I got a ten minute treatment and spent at least the first few minutes just telling myself, “Fish are not eating my feet. Fish are not eating my feet. This is all in the interest of having an experience.” I suppose my feet felt better afterwards. For the rest of the evening, I thought about these fish nibbling my feet, that’s for sure.

 

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The Blue of Sant’Erasmo

I’ve been coming to Venice for 18 years and have made it out to some of the other islands, but it took me this long to finally visit Sant’Erasmo, where lots of Venice’s fresh produce is grown. My classmate Jo’anne invited me to join her on a day trip that started at Le Vignole where we walked the one path to the opposite side of the island, and then hopped back onto the boat to Sant’Erasmo.

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Jo’Anne admires a Sant’Erasmo canal.

The sun was bright and hot, and the crickets were chirping up a racket. So much for getting away to a quiet island! We crossed the island to its opposite side and saw the fort (and no, I didn’t look up its history, and it was locked, so I couldn’t see any more).IMG_8828

We continued a bit further and found the little beach, with its two cute huts.

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A bunch of boats were moored maybe 20 feet out into the water, with families hanging out on the sand or in their vessels.

Jo’anne and I parked ourselves in the outdoor patio of the caffe/restaurant Tedesco (why is it called German??). We got a bottle of fragolino, a special fresh wine made at Sant’Erasmo, kind of sweet and fizzy and in bottles without labels. (Anthony Bourdain does an episode where he visits Sant’ Erasmo and tells viewers that drinking too much fragolino will cause blindness.)

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What is more lovely than this??

The other tables were occupied by a pair of old guys playing cards, and another table with four old guys drinking fragolino (who saluted us when they saw our bottle). Two teenaged girls in their bikinis couldn’t sit still and walked to and fro or stood in the water up to their knees while they text messaged. Jo’anne and I couldn’t resist having our photo taken by them as they giggled at us.

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We were ready for food, and not just the beach fare at the Tedesco, so we walked back to the inn we had passed on our way in. There’s apparently a quite nice restaurant on Sant’Erasmo that has a bunch of reviews posted online, but that’s not the place we visited. We ate at the Lato Azzurro:

http://www.latoazzurro.it/eng/

where you can also rent bikes. But we entered, and the three old guys there (are there no older women on Sant’Erasmo??) called the waiter out to serve us. I regret that I didn’t get his name, because he was so wonderful and treated us so well. There’s no menu; he told us the options, and when we asked about vegetarian options, he added some more things that he could make for us.

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We got an appetizer with sardines, bacala, and salmon plus creamy eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Really delicious and a huge serving. I rashly ordered the orata (a kind of fish) and when it arrived I was already pretty full. We had to apologize to the waiter that we didn’t finish the antipasti because we knew more food was coming. He was afraid that we didn’t like it! Just the opposite! My fish arrived in his full glory–an entire fish, head and tail and fins, and with a belly stuffed with parsley and garlic. I wasn’t quite ready for this. (I’m vegetarian and eat fish rarely but thought this would be a special occasion.) But the preparation was excellent, and that little fishy was not going to have died in vain. When I couldn’t finish that dish either, the waiter was even more worried, and I tried my best in Italian to assure him that everything was delicious. So he packed it up in a to go box! (That was tonight’s dinner.)

We finished the meal with little tumblers of grappa that the waiter insisted on bringing (and not charging for). It was home-made by his friend there on Sant’Erasmo, using the fragolino grapes. I generally abhor grappa (yes, I mean to use this strong word!) but this stuff was really good! It was really a special day.

I hope more people consider a trip out to Sant’Erasmo–and tell the waiter that we really loved the food, even if we couldn’t finish the big portions!

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Felze Adventures

As I’ve been wandering Venice this summer, I occasionally come across a gondola tucked away here and there–I mean a historic gondola, one no longer in use.

On Giudecca, near the boatyards, there was this one:

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Then in the courtyard of Ca’ Rezzonico is this beauty. Of course, you can’t touch them or open the doors to the felze, the little cabin. After reading so many accounts by Casanova and others, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be inside a felze on a gondola. How big is it really? Would it be larger, say, than the backseat of a car?

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Then I was quite surprised to find this felze inside the church of San Michele on the cemetery island.

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The church attendant was had been chatting on his telefonino for the last 15 minutes and couldn’t see me behind the wall separating the entryway from the rest of the church. Guess what I did?

I got some cobwebs in my hair, but here’s the view from inside the felze. Taller than I expected, and I’d say bigger than a backseat.

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The Face of Raaawwrrr

There are a million lion faces around Venice, since it’s the symbol of St. Mark, the patron of Venice. Here’s a sampling of some from the Museo Correr.

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If these guys were protecting my city, I’d be a bit worried. In fact, THEY look a bit worried. IMG_8521IMG_8527IMG_8523

Why is this one trying to lick a book? He’s in the church of San Michele.IMG_8560

A couple more from the cemetery. Cemetery lions seem much fiercer than royal palace lions.

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