Any Guesses Yet?

The right and left bottom corners are pretty clear now. How about that top right corner? Anyone ready to take a guess where this is?


A reminder: You can still enter the latest “Venice, My Muse” raffle, offered by Christine Volker. Go to her interview on March 12 and leave a comment, and you’ll automatically be entered into the tombola to win a copy of her book Venetian Blood. Don’t miss out!

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Casanova Seduces Nine at Once


IMG_1543What does a Suspicious  Husband taste like?

That’s what I had for lunch last weekend in the museum cafe. I finally made the trip to San Francisco to see the exhibit “Casanova: The Seduction of Europe” at the Legion of Honor Museum.


Our foggy beginning outside the Legion of Honor

I used the exhibit as an excuse to gather the local Venetophiles who are working on an upcoming super secret special project with me. We chatted over lunch first, and Rita provided us all with rum-filled chocolates to energize us.


Marco Zecchin, Rita Bottoms, Cecelia Pierotti, me, my partner RJ, JoAnn’s friend Braeda, my mom Rita, and Christine Volker. JoAnn Locktov took the picture.

We then tackled the special exhibit, trying to stay together, but getting pulled first one way, then another, eager to see all the artwork on offer. Here are some highlights.

In a room full of Canaletto paintings, this one stood out for its story: JoAnn told us that only one of these boats exists now, and a crowd funding project is raising money to restore it.

Details from these other Canaletto paintings show fabric vendors in the Piazza, visitors from other countries, and a few of the many Venetian boats.

This Canaletto painting of the Grand Canal at the Rialto Bridge contains a small house that mystified us until we read that it was a hut where lottery tickets were sold.

Cecelia suggested that I add this lovely piece to my “gondola stuff” collection at home. Sadly, it wouldn’t fit in my purse.


Quotes like these were placed high on the walls to enhance our understanding of Casanova’s world. This one made me think of the time Casanova had his jailor in the Leads serve up a steaming dish of macaroni, delivered atop a book that hid the metal pike he used to dig through the ceiling of his cell.


One room was filled with serving dishes, tureens, platters, and the like. The one shaped like a boar’s head would put me off my meal.


A serving tureen. 

Two paintings by Casanova’s brother Francesco were included. Though he’s often known for his battle scenes, these two show the dangers of travel in the 18th century.

Seeing this painting excited me (no, get your mind out of the gutter!). I remember the story that Casanova claimed he had seen a painting like this, quite possibly this exact one by Francois Boucher, which inspired him to commission a portrait of Marie-Louise O’Murphy resting in the same pose. He delivered the painting to King Louis XV, and, as the story goes, the King was so smitten that he made the girl his new mistress.


This painting by Jean-Marc Nattier was purchased by the San Francisco Museums of Fine Art for this exhibit. It shows “Thalia, Muse of Comedy,” who seems to capture so many elements of this age–costumes and masks and hidden identities, playfulness, sumptuous finery, and of course the theater. I was surprised that the museum didn’t comment that Casanova once wrote a newsletter titled the “Le Messager de Thalie” when he was manager of the Teatro Sant’Angelo in Venice in 1780.


A case was filled with snuffboxes. Casanova wrote of these often. They were not only used to carry snuff, but were often given as gifts between friends, lovers, and diplomats. Portraits, also known as miniatures, often adorned them, as you can see from the portrait of Catherine the Great on #7. Casanova wrote of using snuffboxes as a form of his wealth; he carried them on his travels and could pawn or sell them when he needed cash.


These two portraits by Jean-Marc Nattier were some of the show’s highlights for me. They depict Manon Balletti, who Casanova was engaged to marry, and her mother Zanetta, who Casanova always referred to as Sylvia, her stage name. See the resemblance? C writes about this family often and stayed with them in various parts of Europe. The exhibit’s information cards claimed that Manon was the woman Casanova probably most regretted not marrying, but I think we could have a very lively debate about this question! In fact, I’m ready to invite everyone over to a long meal with much wine to discuss which woman Casanova loved best. Better yet, let’s meet up in Venice….

The other portrait that excited me was this one by Claude Arnulphy: “Adélaïde de Gueidan and Her Sister at the Harpsichord.” Though the true identity of Casanova’s great love Henriette was never revealed, one theory contends that she was Adélaïde, pictured here as a teenager, standing behind her sister. C’s descriptions of the great love he shared with Henriette are some of my favorite passages in his memoirs, so to see the portrait in person, rather than only in books, was quite a treat.


One room outlined C’s time in London. Here you can gather his opinion about the food and tavern life there.

A number of recreations highlight the clothing of the time. This one also displays a card game in a typical drawing room. I liked the detail that the standing man has just overturned his chair. Did he catch his opponent cheating?


My mom Rita and Cecelia appreciating another painting.


A room titled “In the Company of Great Minds” featured portraits of some of the famous people Casanova met in his travels. Born a humble son of actors, Casanova later found entry into the homes of some of the greatest people in 18th century Europe.

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We all needed a rest after two and a half hours appreciating the art!


RJ, Marco Zecchin, and Rita Bottoms

Our merry band of nine were all seduced by this exhibit. Marco Zecchin is an architectural photographer. He and I first met when we were selling our books side by side at an Italian Heritage Center event. Marco’s family comes from Venice, and he tells me stories of recent visits to his uncle and cousins there, and his family home on the mainland. Christine Volker is the author of Venetian Blood and a recent contributor to my interview series “Venice, My Muse.” Cecelia Pierotti is a violinist and music teacher who has the rare good fortune to house sit in Venice for one of the city’s celebrated singers. Rita Bottoms has written a number of books of poetry and vignettes about her time spent in Venice; look for Riffs and Ecstacies or Venice: Writing Under the Influence from Edizionidamocle.

At the end of the exhibit, we lost JoAnn and Braeda and sadly were not able to hug them goodbye. JoAnn Locktov is the creator of the series of books Dream of Venice and Dream of Venice Architecture. Her new book of black and white photos is now available.


I spoke to the bookstore folks (again) requesting that they carry my book Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, but again they declined, though one clerk told me that many patrons have been asking for more books about Casanova’s life. The store is selling Laurence Bergreen’s recent biography; Laurence used my research in his writing, and I got to meet him a couple years ago at the UCLA Casanova Conference.

Here I am holding Bergreen’s book and the exhibit’s catalogue, which also lists my book, the edition published by Supernova Edizioni in Venice. Curator Frederick Ilchman told me he carried my book around Venice as he followed my walks, dreaming up this very exhibit. If you’re in the US and want to read my book, you can still purchase it via my website.


So back to that original question: What does as Suspicious Husband taste like? Asian noodles over lettuce, with ginger, chili flakes, and a light dressing. Casanova would have been mystified.


This 1747 painting “The Suspicious Husband” by Francis Hayman depicts a scene from the play by Benjamin Hoadly

This exhibit will remain at the Legion of Honor until May 28 and then moves to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, July 1 to October 18. I hope you get to see it! But if not, I hope this tour gave you a good taste of Casanova’s 18th century.


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Casanova in da House, Yo!

Palazzo Zaguri, which has been under scaffolding for the last few years, is finally reopening–as a museum and exhibit space. It will also have a large library and bookstore. It’s located in Campo San Maurizio, not far from Campo Santo Stefano. Its first exhibit is titled “Venice Secrets: Crime and Justice.” Read about it here in Monica Cesaroto’s blog.
I’m particularly excited about this new space because this is a Casanova location that I researched for my book Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps (also available in Venice from Supernova Edizioni under the title Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide.) Giacomo Casanova visited this palazzo, when it was a palazzo, to see his friend Pietro Zaguri. Lorenzo da Ponte, later librettist for Mozart, also joined them. That’s a lot of talent under one roof!
Here’s my video from Palazzo Zaguri, with more details about what Casanova did while there. You can see the scaffolding was still up in 2016 when I filmed. Thanks to Adriano for filming that day. Enjoy the tolling bells at the end!

Ca’ Pesaro Papafava on the Canale della Misericordia, will house the new Casanova exhibit


Ca’ Pesaro, the museum of modern art, a Casanova-related location but not the site of the new Casanova museum

Also, there is a new small museum opening in Ca’ Pesaro dedicated to Casanova! While Ca’ Pesaro is best known for its International Gallery of Modern Art, the Palazzo Pesaro Papafava will now house the “Casanova Museum and Experience.” This name causes me to wonder a bit–will they offer some sort of multi-media extravaganza that tries to replace serious scholarship? I’m not necessarily against extravaganzas, but I don’t consider something like that as a true museum with high academic standards. I’m keen to learn more about what will be on offer.  See details here in an article in the UK’s Telegraph.
Of course, both places should carry Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide! If you visit, please ask for it–and also drop me a line to let me know what you thought of the new exhibits.

The Italian edition of my book, published in Venice by Supernova Edizioni

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Venice, My Muse: An Interview with Christine Volker

Christine_Volker_Venetian Blood

Venice and books brought us together.

Christine Volker actually lives quite near to me in the California Bay Area, but I didn’t know that until I learned about her new book, Venetian Blood. I read and reviewed it as part of a “book tour,” this kind of journey into someone’s book when a dozen or so authors all read it and share their responses within a short, set time period. Well, I loved it, as you might have already seen in a previous post. Christine and I actually met for the first time yesterday! I’ll write more about that later this week. But suffice it to say that Venice introduced us. You can get to know Christine here in this month’s “Venice, My Muse” interview. Read all the way to the bottom to see more about Christine’s work and the raffle she is offering.

A Fortuny lamp

How has Venice seduced you?

Through my senses, and each time I visit. We have the sound of lapping water, the songs of gondoliers, choruses of bells, sunlight gilding church spires, and wondrous palazzi. Venice seduces because it has maintained its romantic uniqueness.

What do you never fail to do in Venice?

Take many walks, like along the Giudecca Canal in Dorsoduro, explore old shops in back alleyways, enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the Grand Canal. Sit back and people watch.

What is your Venice soundtrack?

Music by Giovanni Gabrielli. Listening, you’re transported to the 1600s. I close my eyes and pretend I’m in Venice.

Walk or take a boat?

I love to leisurely explore the city— whether by foot or boat. That’s the great thing about Venice – you take it all in, slowly, and on a human scale. You can gawk at art while you’re in the middle of a street, and won’t get beeped or run over by a car. At least once during the visit, however, you must travel by boat, and see the city from the water, hovering, like a mirage.


Venice should also be seen from the water

Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.

Well, I’m torn. First, there’s Campo San Fantin, ruled by the Fenice Opera House, with a golden phoenix above its doors. The story of the phoenix rising from its ashes symbolizes second, and yes, third chances—not just for the opera house, which had its own brushes with fire, but for all of us who persevere and return from adversity. The campo houses the parish church of San Fantin—patron saint of vendors of biscuits and sweets (always a favorite food of mine). Campo San Fantin is the setting where Anna, the protagonist in my novel, has an interchange with an eccentric writer. But then, there’s also the tip of Dorsoduro, La Dogana, not a campo, per se, but with an incredible view of the Doge’s Palace, especially at night, and where my character gets kissed.

La Dogana

La Dogana, as seen from the lagoon

Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?

Many years ago when I worked in Italy, I attended Il Redentore—Christ the Redeemer celebration, with old friends, in their boat. Fireworks exploded in fantastic shapes, like lightning splitting the sky, and reflected against the domes of the churches. Looking up, I was in awe. Eventually, we noticed that the boat was taking on water. No amount of bailing helped. Luckily, we had moored alongside the shore of San Giorgio Maggiore. Before we all sank into the Bacino and had to swim for it, we managed to scramble up to dry land. Once the festivities were over, we hitched rides back to St. Mark’s. The boat did sink to the bottom, however. I’ll never forget that festival.

Spritz or Bellini?

Bellini – For its taste, and lovely color. When we toast with a Bellini in hand, we symbolically honor the 15th Century Venetian painter, Giovanni Bellini, since it’s named for him. After much sampling, I just had to feature a Bellini in my book.

What do you always tell friends to do when they visit the city?

Go to Torcello, the original Venice. Savor the silence inside the ancient martyrion of Santa Fosca, and the marvelous mosaics of the Santa Maria Assunta before climbing the steps to view the Alps. Don’t forget to dine at the Locanda there, or better yet, stay overnight.

The view from Santa Maria Assunta

If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?

Vivaldi, to understand the origin of his genius. I’d treat myself to crabmeat-filled mezzelune smothered in a light cream sauce, with sun-dried tomatoes and a touch of shrimp, accompanied by a fine Amarone. My character savored that meal during a visit to Torcello. But I’d top it off with tiramisu for dessert.

Casanova: genius or cad?

Cad. I’ve met too many Casanovas in my life, and I am not tempted at all to meet another—no matter how brainy, charming, and erudite, he may be.

What would you do with $30,000 U.S. to spend in Venice?

I’d donate $10,000 to restore a work of Venetian art, $10,000 for fighting climate change—Venice is in danger of sea level rise, and finally, $10,000 for me to purchase: a Fortuny gown, a Fortuny floor lamp, painted velvet pillows, an ornate Venetian mirror, a Carlo Scarpa vintage chandelier—I think I just exceeded my budget.

A Fortuny lamp

If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?

This is my favorite question. OK, I love the gothic style, so it’d be a gothic palazzo, and of course, on the Grand Canal so I can indulge in delightful views of Venice’s main artery. Palazzo Barbaro would do very nicely. Apart from its stately balconies, I’m also attracted to its third-floor library, with floor-to-ceiling, decorated bookcases. Just magnificent. (Am I sounding like a librarian?) Henry James, the author, lived and worked in this palazzo, so the spirit of the place may help my creativity as well.

Which gelato flavor are you?

I’ve always favored fragola – strawberry. It speaks of the luscious, juicy season of spring.

How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits?

After a BA in Spanish, an MLS, and an MBA leading to a career in business, I now write international mysteries. A lover of unique, foreign places, I was seduced by Venice many years ago. My first book, Venetian Blood: Murder in a Sensuous City, was published by She Writes Press last August, with an audiobook due shortly. I’m currently polishing my second novel, Jaguar Moon, set in Peru. Drawing on my international travel experiences, I write to share faraway places and eternal truths with my readers—while fitting in a little murder.

Follow her on Facebook:

and Twitter: @WingedAdventure

Venetian Blood Final Cover (2)

We have another raffle this month! You can win a copy of Venetian Blood if you leave a comment on this post. You can do so via WordPress, Facebook, LinkdIn, Goodreads, or my Amazon author page. Deadline: March 29 (just a little early this month because I’ll be traveling the following week.) 

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Redefining Beauty: Arcangela Tarabotti

Happy International Women’s Day!
To celebrate, I’d like to bring you a video in the Redefining Beauty series. Today I’ll focus on Arcangela Tarabotti.
We don’t have a portrait of her. As a teenager, she took orders to be a nun and then lived the rest of her life in the convent of Sant’Anna, in the eastern Castello district.
And she spent many frustrated and unhappy years there.
She loved God but didn’t feel she had the same true calling as other nuns. She was placed in the convent by her parents who believed that, because of her deformed foot, she would never marry.
Arcangela instead turned her frustration towards a life of letters. She corresponded with men in the Venetian literary scene–men who supplied her with reading material but also mocked her intellectual abilities.
Her venom nearly flies off the page. She rails at “paternal tyranny” and deftly argued against the patriarchal society that cloistered her and tried to silence her.
Watch this video to see where she lived and to hear a bit more of her story. I’ll apologize in advance for the poor sound quality–it was really windy that day, but because I had to rely on a kind stranger to videotape me, I didn’t have the time or opportunity to wait and do retakes. You can also read the fuller story of her life in a chapter dedicated to Arcangela in my book A Beautiful Woman in Venice.
 Let’s not let women be silenced or forgotten. Read their stories and pass them along to others!

One of Arcangela’s books, translated and with an excellent introduction by Letizia Panizza

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Snow! And an Announcement…

I know this is a few days old now, but still I wanted to share with you the beauty of a snow-covered Venice.

Snow covers Venice

Friends living there have talked about its beauty as well as its treachery. Ice on stone streets is super slick! But still, it’s magical to look at.

And an announcement! For the February “Venice: My Muse” interview with Laura Morelli, she offered ebook copies of The Painter’s Apprentice to three lucky winners.

This month’s raffle winners are: Barbara Lynn-Davis, Greg Mohr, and Albert Hickson. But don’t despair! You too can still immerse yourself in Laura’s world of Venetian painters and gilders living through dark times of plague, buoyed by hopes for love, by buying your own copy of the book. Just shop wherever you shop for books, or visit Laura’s site at

(Thanks to the site for these snowy images.)

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Quattro Minuti con Casanova: Teatro Benedetto


Now the Cinema Rossini, in Casanova’s day this was the Teatro Benedetto

In case you’re putting in a little extra time to get to know Casanova these days, in conjunction with the exhibit “Casanova: The Seduction of Europe,” here’s another in my series of videos showing places Casanova visited. He loved the theater and had friends who worked at the Teatro Benedetto. Watch this video to hear more details about both the fun times he had with friends as well as his later visit–as a spy.

Teatro Benedetto


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