Another Casanova Conference!

Make your plans now to be in Chieti-Pescara to attend an International Conference on Casanova, September 22-23, 2022. The full title is “Levantine Sociabilities in Europe in Giacomo Casanova’s Time: Spies, Imposters, Courtesans, and Men of Culture.” See the link for the details and location.

Pietro Longhi, The Ridotto in Venice

You can see from the title that the conference will focus on Enlightenment values of sociability–people coming together, sharing ideas, traveling, letter writing, diplomacy, and much much more. If you enjoy Enlightenment or 18th century studies, it looks like you’ll find much to learn and discuss here.

The keynote will be delivered by Malina Stefanovska, my co-producer of the Casanova in Place Symposium in Venice 2019 and a professor at UCLA. There are lots of presenters and papers here, so the discussion should be rich, varied, and fresh. I won’t be able to attend this one, so I hope others can and will tell me all about it!

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Venetian Emoji #13

“I’b god a code in my nose bud my goadee is still cool.”

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Voices from Venice Conference: The Videos

The Voices from Venice Conference, created and hosted by the Guild of St George on April 2, 2022, was an unmitigated success. People from all over the planet attended, dropping their comments and questions into the chat. And the speakers were superb: A wide variety of experts and locals who provided context and information about their fields of expertise.

This conference offered an opportunity to bring together a wide ranging community of people with different interests and areas of expertise. We all love Venice; we are all doing good work; and we all are working towards a hope-filled future. The Guild’s conference has given us an opportunity to come together, and in unity of purpose we can achieve much more. A friend of mine, Jose-Arnaldo, once told me that I am a relacionadora, one who brings people together. I think this conference was a relation-builder. and as one of the speakers pointed out, when we come together, we are more powerful agents of change. I think of this collection of videos as primary sources–the voices of people now that future generations may listen to and reflect on this moment in time. There is much value in coming together, sharing ideas, and centering these authentic voices.

The lovely folks at the Guild of St George have divided the day’s talks into separate videos to make them more accessible for viewing. You can hear more about the role of the lagoon itself in Venice’s ecosystem; about over-tourism and some positive suggestions for improvement; about the creative communities of writers and artists who envision Venice’s future; and about the political players and policies needed on board for change. Of special interest were Jane Da Mosto from We are here Venice and Tommaso Cacciari from No Grandi Navi, both organizations that sales of Venice Rising support. Key speakers included author Salvatore Settis (who wrote If Venice Dies) and Francesco Bandarin, a former director of UNESCO. Oh, and me. :). It was the middle of the night for me, but I’m told that my tiredness didn’t show!

Members of the Guild Peter Burman and Simon Seligman managed the day beautifully, and Rachel Dickinson offered opening and closing remarks to frame our thinking. It was a triumph, and I offer much gratitude to all who made it happen.

And what’s next? Perhaps a new book? If you get all the way to the end of the final video, you may hear some details about this.

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My New Addiction

Thanks to a friend, I have discovered a new guilty pleasure (though really I shouldn’t feel guilty about it, I suppose!)

Real estate agents sometimes make videos presenting their properties. I love any excuse to peek inside a palazzo (Biennale events are a great entrée). I found myself oohing with pleasure and astonishment at these lavish apartments.

Here is an apartment in Castello that has its own bridge leading to it. The courtyard offers light as well as canal access plus its own pozzo. (I daydreamed about arriving in my own gondola, with my own gondolier, of course.) I especially loved the sitting room with what looked like a former fireplace now displaying art objects. Take the tour of it with Danilo Romolini, pictured here.

This place offers magnificent windows that drench the room in light. The courtyard has a staircase worthy of Romeo and Juliet with fresco fragments fooling the eye into seeing another balcony. I love the high ceilings and terrazzo floors and sense of airiness. You could live a cozy life here or throw magnificent parties! The building is situated across from Ca’ Goldoni, on a bridge I’ve crossed countless times and that Casanova’s mother no doubt crossed on her way to visit the playwright Carlo Goldoni.

But this palace on the Grand Canal is stupendous. You could have your own balcony overlooking the Canal. The rooms are enormous, begging to be filled with your friends and family for lavish gatherings. The large windows welcome in so much light, and the dining room, decorated with vines and leaves, produces the sense that you’re having dinner in the woods. It’s hard to imagine that I could buy such a place (well, it will have to be merely in my imagination, as the price tag is beyond my means!)

At least these videos (and many more) are available to view. Please share your favorites!

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Sharing: “Why Are Venice’s Hotels Arming Guests With Water Pistols?”

I couldn’t pass up sharing this article with you from Italy Magazine. (The news has run in a number of other publications as well.) Some hotels in Venice are handing out orange water guns to guests to scare off the pesky seagulls. I guess I need to pack my own bright orange water gun now or wear a bright orange jacket!

“Why Are Venice’s Hotels Arming Guests With Water Pistols?”

Photo from
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Want a Peek?

Have you ever wondered what’s behind those tall brick walls as you walk down a calle in Venice? You know, the ones with wisteria or orange trumpet vines drooping over, and maybe you get a peek through a gate into a secret garden?

Image by Google, from the website

Thanks to Vince Gratzner who shared this link with me, you get to see inside not one but two secret gardens today. Oddly, they’re actually in a short documentary from Real Royalty about Empress Sissi of Austria. The home and garden where she lived is on the Giudecca island in Venice, known as the Giudecca Eden, sadly closed to the public (though if you want to see it, contact tour guide Luisella Romeo who might have information for you). Go to roughly minute 32 of the documentary to catch the beginning of this section.

Though is was immaculate when the Princess lived there, the garden is now quite lush and unkempt. It was allowed to grow wild under the ownership from 1979 to 2000 of the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (yes, that guy who created the amazing Seuss-like houses). Enjoy this very rare footage into this garden and check out the statues, pathways, fountains and other hidden gems. (Who ever expected to see a boat in a garden?) You’ll also see the terrible damage sustained by the garden from the 2019 aqua granda.

The video also contains peeks into an enormous green space in Venice: the garden of the Grand Hotel Palazzo Dei Dogi in northern Cannaregio. Go to roughly minute 45, which describes the botanical garden that Empress Sissi visited, which is now the hotel gardens. Luisella tells me that if you ask nicely the hotel “lets you see the garden when they don’t serve breakfast.” Or you can just be a guest there. In any case, what a treat! Go to roughly minute 45, which describes the botanical garden that Empress Sissi visited.

Next time you need a break from the cobbled streets and stone bridges or the big crowds, look for one of Venice’s hidden gardens instead.

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Street Art / Venetian Stylin’ #6

I saw this stencil a few places around town. What is she thinking?

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Reminder! Conference on Venice Sustainability Is This Saturday!

The Guild of St George is offering its Voices from Venice free, one-day virtual conference on Saturday, April 2, 2022. It begins at 9:00 am (London Time)–which means a crazy 1:00 am for me in California! But you’ll see me introduced near the beginning, and then there will be excellent speakers on Venice’s environment, slow food, and eco-tourism, among others. See a fuller description here on the website for the Guild of St George. And if you’re thinking that you can’t get up that early (hey Californians!), or you can’t stay awake for all of it, if you sign up now you’ll get access to the recording later.

Hope to see you there!

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When Venice Lives, It Looks Like This: Arzanart Marbled Paper

Arzanart is located on the Barbarie de le Tole, just behind the church of SS Giovanni e Paolo

I’m happy to finally have another interview to share with you in this series that showcases Venetian artisans. Monica Cesarato’s Live in Venice Week from 2021 drew me to learn more about traditional arts, and last summer I met a number of them, including Isabella at Arzanart.

Isabella, who has a degree in Cultural Heritage from Ca’ Foscari University, describes Arzanart’s background like this: “Arzanart is me, Isabella, and Federico, my partner. Together we decided to start this project, linked by the love for ancient books and art. I am originally from Tropea, a town on the Tyrrhenian coast of southern Italy. The first time I visited Venice, now more than twenty years ago, I fell in love with it and decided to put down roots. Here I met Federico, a true Venetian, who has become my life partner. Together we live on the Lido of Venice, in a house overlooking the Venice lagoon and from which you can see Piazza San Marco and splendid sunsets.”

Isabella also studied Restoration of Books and Paper Materials in Florence for three years, so she has rich experience in the arts, preservation, and the underpinnings of Venetian history. In their workshop she fashions the notebooks, photo albums, jewels and “everything that my imagination suggests,” she says. Federico focuses on making the cards and developing new colors plus experimenting with new ideas and forms. He also offers workshops where visitors (like you!) can try paper marbling themselves.

Isabella will welcome you to visit her shop

Laura Morelli, who has written a book about Venetian craftsmanship, offers this definition of paper marbling: “Venetian marbled paper (carta marmorizzata) is made by swirling pigments into a large, shallow pan of water, then laying the paper gently and briefly on the surface of the water to transfer the pattern. Because the designs sometimes mimic the natural veining in stone or marble, the word “marbled” or “marbleized” came to be used.”

Notebooks covered in vibrant marbled paper

When entered Arzanart, Isabella was working at her large table in the middle of the shop, which doubles as workshop and boutique. I was surrounded by racks of colorful paper, notebooks, paper-covered pens, cards, mobiles of origami-folded animals, gift wrap–all swirling with the colors and shapes formed by Isabella and Federico. Isabella was patient with my conversational Italian, and our conversation was punctuated by other shoppers entering to make their purchases. These pauses gave me time to dawdle over the many items to look at, and I eventually picked out some cards and earrings. In fact, Isabella was making more of these paper earrings that day, and I had many colors to choose from. She apologized for the work table with the projects in process, but I preferred it this way. It can’t get more authentic than this!

A highlight–to see the work in progress!

Please get to know more about Arzanart in this interview, in English (translation help by Luisella Romeo) followed by the original Italian.

When Venice lives most fully as itself, what does it look like?

Normally Venice, being a tourist city, appears very chaotic. The center is small so that during peak periods it seems to suffer and be unable to contain all visitors. Then there is the Venice of the immediate periphery. This part, at any time of the year, is quieter and shows its slow and silent rhythms.

How do you or your work bring life to Venice? What gift do you bring?

Our work certainly brings life and color to the city. We create with our hands. It is precisely the crafts that allow the city to continue to live and pass on its traditions.

How does your work preserve Venice’s culture or history?

The marbled paper arrived in Venice in 1600, thanks to exchanges with the Turks. In seventeenth-century Venice, where publishing was at its maximum development, this technique took hold and developed. The papers created at the time were used to cover the books and embellish them. And it is precisely using the same processes of that time that we create our marbled paper.

The front window reflects the walls of homes across the street on the Barbaria de le Tole

What are one or two aspects of Venice’s culture that are your favorites?

What we prefer about Venice and what makes it unique is the absence of cars and the slowness of its rhythms. In a hectic and chaotic world, despite the huge influx of people, Venice with its narrow calli and campielli allows people to meet, stop and talk. It also seems to live in another dimension. You can breathe everything that Venice was and represented by simply walking around the city and observing the buildings.

Which Venetians (living now or in the past) inspire you?

In reality we are not inspired by anyone in particular. It is the city itself, with its colors, its reflections, its sunsets that every day offer us ideas to create our maps.

What is your favorite place in Venice to be alone? To share with others? That no one should miss?

Well, everyone should have the opportunity to discover the Venetian lagoon dotted with many islands, not only the most famous ones, such as Murano and Burano, but also those little known to the general public.

If you could ask visitors to Venice to do one or two things to be better visitors, what would you ask for?

Take some time. Venice needs more than one / two days to be visited and understood. Another piece of advice we would like to give is to get lost in the calli, reaching the peripheral part of the city, to those neighborhoods where true Venetians live.

Those same mobiles seen from inside the shop

And now the original Italian interview:

  • Nella normalità Venezia, essendo una città turistica, appare molto caotica. Il centro è piccolo per cui nei periodi di massimo afflusso sembra soffrire ed essere incapace di contenere tutti i visitatori. Vi è poi l Venezia dell’immediata periferia. Questa parte, in qualunque periodo dell’anno è più tranquilla e mostra i suoi ritmi lenti e silenziosi. 
  • Il nostro lavoro porta sicuramente vita e colore alla città. Noi creiamo con le mani. Sono proprio i lavori artigianali che consentono alla città di continuare a vivere e tramandare le sue tradizioni. 
  • La carta marmorizzata è arrivata a Venezia nel 1600, grazie agli scambi con i Turchi. Nella Venezia del ‘600, dove l’editoria è al suo massimo sviluppo, questa tecnica prende piede e si sviluppa. Le carte create all’epoca venivano usate per rivestire i libri ed impreziosirli. Ed è proprio usando gli stessi procedimenti di allora che noi creiamo la nostra carta marmorizzata. 
  • Ciò che preferiamo di Venezia e che la rende unica nel suo genere è l’assenza di macchine e la lentezza dei suoi ritmi. In un mondo frenetico e caotico, nonostante l’enorme afflusso di persone, Venezia con le sue calli e i suoi campielli, permette alle persone di incontrarsi, fermarsi e parlare. Inoltre sembra di vivere in un’altra dimensione. Tutto ciò che Venezia è stata ed ha rappresentato lo si respira semplicemente girando per la città ed osservando i palazzi. 
  • In realtà non ci ispiriamo a nessuno in particolare. E’ la città stessa, con i suoi colori, i suoi riflessi, i suoi tramonti che ogni giorno ci offre spunti per creare le nostre carte. 
  • Bhè, tutti dovrebbero poter avere la possibilità di scoprire la laguna veneziana costellata di tante isole, non solo quelle più famose, come Murano e Burano, ma anche quelle poco note al grande pubblico. 
  • Dedicare del tempo. Venezia per essere visitata ed essere compresa ha bisogno di più di uno/ due giorni. Altro consiglio che ci sentiamo di dare è quello di perdersi tra le calli, arrivando fino alla parte periferica della città, a quei quartieri dove vivono i veri veneziani. 
So many colors!
You can see some of the earrings I had to choose from
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Dear Venice, Wish You Were Here #19

This image seemed to be a very popular postcard. I have a few of them. But this one has a message that is quite sweet. Sissy is writing to her brother Wes. Don’t you love her drawings? The vase on the gondola and the reclining person–the best!

Can anyone make out the date? This card is certainly not as old as some of the others in my collection.

When I looked up Wesley Clark’s address, Google Maps shows me an orchard! Taking the aerial view, here’s what the location looks like: a farmhouse! That’s a really different world than Venice!

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