Thank you, Blogosphere!

Thank you, Joanne, yet another blogger who has reviewed my work. I saw this a while ago but didn’t think to repost it until I came across it again today.

Seductive Venice offers 7 walks around the city to remote as well as well-known spots. Joanne so nicely pointed out that even someone who knows the city well can find new things to explore–and all following the theme of the famous lover’s moves!

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Was Giudecca Named for the Jews?

I recently read Christopher Moore’s new book The Serpent of Venice, which is an unholy marriage between Shakespeare’s Othello and Merchant of Venice, with some of Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” thrown in. (In other words, a little slice of heaven for literary sleuths who like to identify the characters and lines from their respective sources.) Some of the book’s Jewish characters live on the island of Giudecca, and this is not the first book where I’ve seen people contend that Giudecca was named for its Jewish population. I wondered if this were true and recently came across another book that explores the contention. The answer is not quite clear.

I’ll quote a couple paragraphs from The Venetian Ghetto by Riccardo Calimani, Anna-Vera Sullam, and Davide Calimani, which sums up the complexity:

“Proof of antique Jewish existence can be found in the use of the name Giudecca. In the 18th century, Ludovico Muratori wrote in his Dissertazione that in 1090 the name Giudecca was already in circulation and that this went to prove the presence of Jews on the island, whereas Thomas Temanza discovered an antique map, drawn during the 16th century by a Franciscan, upon which the island of Spinalunga is depicted with the name of Judaica. Others sustain that certain families, having been accused of conspiracy against the Republic and sent in exile to the island of Spinalunga, was proof enough that the term derived from “del giudacato” (“judged”) and that this in Venetian dialect was then transformed in “Zudega” and further on “Judecha,” “Zuecca” and finally “Giudaica.”

“The question, nevertheless, remains unanswered as over and above the opinion of historians, no concrete proof of Jewish presence on the island can be traced prior to the 14th century. Among the copious 14th century documentation that testifies to the presence or passing through of Jews in the lagoon territory, one in particular is the Decree of 1386, with which the Venetian Senate granted the Jews an isolated area of the Lido for the burying of their loved ones. Whilst the year prior, in 1385, an agreement was stipulated between the Senate and certain Jewish lenders in Mestre for the granting of loans to the poorer people of the city” (page 12).

So it sounds like some people have read or heard the name Giudecca and assumed it meant the presence of Jews, but the word doesn’t necessarily translate into that directly, particularly when you consider the Venetian dialect. Also, there’s no actual document that proves that Jews lived on Giudecca, so the supposition is circumstantial. If you’re looking for a clear document, there are a couple unequivocal ones from 1516 relating to the Ghetto. On March 29, 1516, the Doge decreed that Jews must henceforth live within the confines of the New Ghetto (Ghetto Novo). It read in part, “All Jews are to live together in the courtyard houses that are found in the ghetto within the parish of San Gerolamo” (page 12).

By the way, one of the authors of The Venetian Ghetto, Anna-Vera Sullam, shares her surname with Sarra Copia Sulam (sometimes spelled Sullam), a learned Jewish Venetian woman who lived in the Ghetto in the late 16th century. Sarra Copia Sulam is buried in that cemetery on Lido, which is mentioned in the 14th century document.

Any readers out there know of other documentation that should be included in this discussion?

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Where Am I?


This one might be too easy….

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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?)

P1040500 2 P1040505 2 P1040526 2

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:



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

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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.


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.



(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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