Where Am I?

Your latest location to puzzle over. Here are a couple shots I took while looking out the windows:

And here’s the ceiling…


And the floor.


So where am I? Can you name the building?

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Little Italy, California


A few photos from the Little Italy street fair in San Jose, California. They’re raising funds for a new museum of Italian American history in our valley.


The neighborhood was chosen in large part because of this building: Henry’s Hi-Life BBQ was originally the Hotel Torino, where many Italian immigrants to the area stayed until they found housing. This square block comprises the heart of the Little Italy neighborhood now. The new museum will be in a renovated house behind Henry’s.

img_0241Lots of vendors came out to sell pasta, olive oil, sauces, pizza, calzone, and wine, with local wineries offering tastings as well. They also set up an inflatable soccer field in the street for the kids:


In the Piccola Piazza, under the vines and arbors, I joined a number of other local artists, vendors, photographers, and writers to sell our wares. It was also a great chance to meet people and share stories. And I got to hang out with my friend, photographer Marco Zecchin, who shared a table with me, where we sold our books. You like our hats?

Thanks to all who came out to join us! Lots of people came out to enjoy the day, eat good food, listen to local musicians, and tell stories…and a few of them even bought my books. Thanks for your support!

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Redefining Beauty Videos: Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi


salon of Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi

I managed to get up early enough one morning in Venice in order to avoid the crowds and make an uninterrupted video in Campiello Cignogna, just off the Calle Larga XXII Marzo. Behind me is the building that housed Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi’s literary salon in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Click on this link to see the video, another in the series of Redefining Beauty videos that go along with my book, A Beautiful Woman in Venice:

Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi

Besides hosting many literary lights, Isabella was also a writer, and here I talk a bit about her Ritratti, or Portraits, of famous men of her times. Isabella’s own portrait was painted by Elisabeth Vigee, as you can see here. Isn’t she delightful?Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi

Literary salons and academies in Venice were originally hosted by men, but by Isabella’s day, women were becoming the arbiters of society. Isabella’s portraits moved the needle forward in this phenomenon. Adept at creating harmony while bringing up lofty topics, Isabella gave men and women a place to verbally spar, where women’s intellect could be appreciated and applauded. She had to walk a tightrope–giving women a voice while not overshadowing the men in their midst. Happily, many men appreciated Isabella’s intelligence and grace.


salon of Isabella Teotochi Albrizzi

Very few women in Venice are memorialized in the city. The plaque on the building here is one of the few. Isabella made her mark. I hope you’ll visit more of the sites where these remarkable women lived, prayed, and worked, or where they were baptized or laid to rest.

A small note: I film these videos without a script, enjoying the challenge to speak extemporaneously, and often filming spontaneously when I pass a location while out on a walk. I apologize for my mispronunciations, (my American tongue has never mastered rolling an r), and for other little errors that slip in as I speak. I’m not a professional videographer, but I enjoy bringing these people and places to you. When I’m traveling alone, I’ve chosen to not use a selfie-stick; in this video, you may get a kick out of noticing the ant that crawls across the leaf in the corner of the screen, as I had balanced the camera in a potted plant. Hope you don’t mind.
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Ghetto Etymology

Dr. John Peter Maher, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, recently shared with me his research into the origins, or etymology, of the term “ghetto.” Since I’ve been sharing information about Venice’s Ghetto here, I thought it’d be pertinent to also post this information, which I never came across in my previous research. Maher sheds new light on the origins of the term, which I had always thought came from the reference to the iron foundries of Venice. It is with Dr. Maher’s permission that I share these excerpts:


“The Venice Ghetto quarter was hardly the first compulsory ethnic abode. Such quarters are well nigh universal in urban ecology. Idris II [791-828], son-in-law of Mohammed, built a wall by his palace to protect Jewish merchants from murder at the hands of mujahedin.”

“In 1904 Emilio Teza debunked the connection of the word ghetto with the foundry on Ghetto Vecchio (Old G). ‘It is not possible to connect the word ghet(t)o with getto … The place was long so known when workers came there who smelted and cast metals.'”

“The etymological question is one of Italian linguistics. A new resource in toponomastics dating from 1967 in America is the Zone Improvement Program, or ZIP code. Which was initiated soon after in Britain as Post Code. In Italy the system is called CAP Codice Avviamento Postale ‘postal delivery code’. This permits an easy search for localities by name. For example, within a radius of 5 miles from Rimini CAP 47900, there are the neighborhoods called Ghetto Casale, Ghetto Masere, Ghetto Mavos, Ghetto Petini, Ghetto Piccinelli, Ghetto Randuzzi, Ghetto Tamagnino, Ghetto Tombanuova. Then there’s two stops by train from Venice 31021 Ghetto di Mogliano Veneto TV (Treviso).”

“Ghetto is simply a clipping of borghetto, little settlement, street. Pope Paul IV wrote in Latin; the ecclesiastical Latin word ‘vicus’ is the translation of ghetto. — In calling their quarter, or street (in Venice perforce an island, Jews of Venice held to the principle sketched by Max Weinreich 2008:177:. ‘Up to the Emancipation the Jews of central and eastern European Jews knew absolutely nothing of the Italian word ghetto, either in its derogatory or factual sense. The accepted name was the Jewish Street (in western Yiddish the Jews’ street) and thus to this day the Yiddish expression on the Jews’ street means ‘among Jews’…”

Encyclopædia Britannica 1911: ‘…the word is an abbreviation of Italian borghetto diminutive of borgo a borough.’ In other words, Venice’s ghetto was simply a term for a little, slummy ‘street.'”


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A Little Italy in San Jose

Join us in celebrating Italian heritage at the Little Italy event in San Jose’s Little Italy neighborhood. Didn’t know there was such a neighborhood? Well, this is the perfect time to come on by and check it out with a glass of chianti or pinot grigio in hand. The event is Sunday, October 2, from 11-8, and I’ll be out there from 4 till 8.

Little Italy is next to Henry’s Hi Life BBQ alongside highway 87 at Julian Street. Look for the big red arch welcoming you, and grab a coffee at Bel Bacio. The event raises funds for a museum of Italian American history, and vendors will be on hand with their Italian-inspired wares. Here are some details about the event:

Little Italy San Jose is proud to announce the First Annual Street Festival Sunday October 2nd from 11 am to 8pm in the heart of Downtown San Jose.
It is because of the tremendous support we have had from this community that we were able to Build our 31 ft. Landmark Arch, Install the 30 plus Banners of Prominent Italian Americans along the Guadalupe Park path, enjoy the Piazza Piccola with the hundreds of Legacy Bricks as well as purchase our 10,000 sq. ft. lot and two buildings for our
Italian Cultural Center & Museum. We still have more to accomplish making “Little Italy San Jose” area truly Italian, turning this area into a destination for locals and visitors to San Jose and Santa Clara County. Our efforts are now focused on the completion of our Italian Cultural Center and Museum including plans for a Pinocchio Children’s Village in our beautiful Piazza. Over the past year we have secured numerous In Kind
contributions for the project. We are very close to planning approval and ability to begin construction.

I’ll be there selling books and talking about Italy with anyone who wants to share their stories (or listen to mine!) Photographer and writer Marco Zecchin will join me, too, in case you need yet another reason to hang out. Here we are at a previous event.


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Gondola Stuff: Felt Felze

New entry in my occasional series where I show off my gondola stuff.

This is an antique gondola made of velvet and other materials. I bought it about 15 years ago at a flea market in Santa Cruz, California. The seller said it’s about 100 years old, but I have no idea if that’s true. Anyone out there know how to tell or what to look for? IMG_9680

The whole thing is a little over a foot long. It has some really nice details to it, as you can see from these close ups. But the felze is falling down. I’ve meant to get it fixed but am unsure where to go. Maybe someone who restores old dolls?




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My Marco Polo plaque successfully traveled to its destination. My friends Carol and Linda were in Venice last week and delivered my creation to  Carrion Gallery on Giudecca. Here’s Manuel Carrion holding my square.


Now the square will become part of the project to collect people’s impressions of  the famous Venetian explorer.


In fact, tomorrow is the birthday of the project. You can see more at #marcopolocarrión or https://www.facebook.com/carriongalleryvenice or click here: Carrion Gallery on Facebook

Here’s a taste of what was there in July, when I last visited. Stop by and pick up your own square to create.


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