Hide and Seek

Ancient kitchens in the Ospedaletto? A farmer’s market at the women’s prison? A late night library? These are some of the intriguing places included in a recent article in Italy Magazine, which I thought I’d share with you today:

“The Hidden Venice Most Visitors Never See” by Silvia Donati.

I’ve walked by the Ospedaletto countless times. In fact, it’s right next to a Casanova site, his former apartment on Barbaria de le Tole. I’m really intrigued to know what went on in the kitchens. I think I’ll do some research this summer, once school is out, and share it in a future blog post. And I’ll definitely go inside next time, rather than walking by. Same goes for the Carmini; a couple summers ago, I took my daily break from Italian language class sitting in front of the church, but I never went inside.

Chiesa dell'Ospedaletto

Chiesa dell’Ospedaletto

But of course this magazine article made me think of my own favorite hidden gems of Venice. My seven Casanova walks take you to some very out of the way places, some corners of Venice that I hadn’t seen or hadn’t paid attention to. I found the place where Casanova parked his boat! And where his hairdresser lived! And where he passed out in church!


Where Casanova parked his boat

Church of San Samuele

Where Casanova passed out in church

P Contarini delle Figure

Where Casanova’s hairdresser lived

Or another good way to see hidden Venice is the A Beautiful Woman in Venice tours with Vonda Wells. Long time followers of this blog know that Vonda inspired me to write the book of the same name. But she’s the one who will take you to see the Red Light District, a secret casino with a spy hole, and the magical red brick where you can make a wish. She’ll also take you to lunch at a former brothel. If you’ve enjoyed reading stories or seeing my videos about the Beautiful Women, Vonda will show you these places in person–well, if you’re a woman, which is the target audience for her tours.

A Beautiful Woman in Venice Tours

I remember one time I was walking in the San Polo district, on a busy street full of shoppers and tourists. I saw a man with a pained expression on his face listening to Science Friday from NPR. His pain, I learned, stemmed not from Science Friday but from dogging his wife’s heels as she visited 82 mask shops. He told me how much he hated Venice. I was heartbroken. “Go wander!” I advised. “Go walk down the little side streets and meet your wife at the Rialto Bridge in an hour. See what else Venice has to offer.” He just shrugged.

Don’t suffer like he did! If you need tips on hidden Venice, let me or Vonda know. Or JoAnn Locktov and Laura Morelli, who contributed to the “Hidden Venice” article; I know them to be warm people who are happy to share their love of Venice with others. Or just ramble until you get lost. The very earliest advice I ever got about Venice was this: Just wander until you get to the water, then turn around and wander back. Getting lost is the best way to experience this city.



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Grand Canal Sea Monster

Well, not exactly. But something is rising from the Grand Canal!

Maybe you already saw these hands that are now propping up the Ca’ Sagredo next to Venice’s Traghetto Santa Sofia. Here’s an article and an image:

Supporting Hands


Artist Lorenzo Quinn wanted to address the idea of climate change and rising waters and the support we all need to lend to keep buildings from toppling–or something like that. I’ve read a handful of articles that say things along these lines. My goal here isn’t to report on the art, but to share a little of the local reaction.

The Ca’ Sagredo forms one side of Campo Santa Sofia, where the traghetto station sits. I’ve spent many hours hanging out there with some of the gondoliers. So I sent a message to Stefano to ask him what he thought of the hands. He’s a bit of a cynic, so I expected something crusty and deprecating. Instead, he was full of enthusiasm. “Great–very nice!” he wrote back. “Great party, and Lorenzo is a very nice person,” he said. The local gondoliers apparently joined in at the opening celebration for the hands’ installation.

I asked Stefano what the art party was like. “Prosecco, bellini, snacks,” Stefano ticked off, “and very nice music with good sound.” I wish I could have been there for that party!

Here’s a trip in the way back machine showing me hanging out at Traghetto Santa Sofia in the 90s:

These new hands immediately made me think of the Mano that was installed on the Riva degli Schiavoni back in the late 90s, when I first went to Venice. It was there for a while, until people complained that it was too modern. I guess hands are back in style now.


(Thanks to these sites for the photos: http://mechanicaldummy.com/2017/05/massive-hands-emerge-canals-venice-biennale/  and  http://www.allposters.it/-sp/Stone-Sculpture-of-Hand-on-Riva-Degli-Schiavoni-Venice-Veneto-Italy-Posters_i2658079_.htm)
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Secret Casanova Lives in The Netherlands

Bet you didn’t know that Casanova has a presence in Hilversum, The Netherlands!

In front of the theater stands a statue known as “The Actor.” The sculptor, Gabriel Sterk, designed the piece at the request of a friend of mine, back in the 1970s. Originally, the statue was meant to depict Giacomo Casanova and stand in Venice’s Campo San Samuele, in front of the church where he was baptized, but permission was never granted. My friend has a small copy, which has the name “Casanova” cast on it.

Campo San Samuele

The large statue shown below ended up in Hilversum. I wonder how many people walk by it and never know that it was inspired by admiration for Casanova?

Now you are in on this secret!

The irony here is that Casanova was never employed as an actor. His parents both were, and they did what they could to ensure that their son would not follow in their footsteps. In his memoirs Casanova writes that his grandfather “thought an actor an abomination.” Then just before Casanova’s father died, he made his wife Zanetta “swear that she would bring none of his children up for the stage, on which he never would have appeared if he had not been driven to it by an unfortunate passion”–the love of Zanetta. Zanetta was a celebrated actress and supported her children on her earnings and with patronage, but Casanova never did act–at least not in plays.


The Actor

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Danger Door



Spotted in the San Polo district a while back. So many delicious details about this door….

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Quattro Minuti con Casanova: The Ridotto

It’s been a while since I shared a Quattro Minuti video with you. I know, some of you have already binged watched all of them on YouTube. But I’m guessing some of you wait feverishly for me to dole out the next video, one drop at a time. Today is your lucky day, and this video is very close to my “quattro minuti” goal, as it clocks in at 3:53.

Most people know that Casanova was a gambler. In volume four of his memoirs he wrote, “What made me gamble was avarice. I loved to spend, and my heart bled when I could not do it with money won at cards.” In Venice, many small apartments or “little houses” known as a “casino” were used for cards and gambling. But the main gambling location was the ridotto at Marco Dandolo’s palace near the Teatro San Moise, a convenient location to win and lose one’s money during the opera’s intermission.

That palazzo is now the Hotel Monaco. If you ask nicely, and the rooms are not being used for a special event, you can actually walk through them. That’s what I did last summer when I filmed this episode.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd_fTcoJ1uI

Casanova mentions this ridotto a number of times in his memoirs. He gambled there with his mistress M.M. or whiled away the time while he couldn’t be with her. He also mentions seeing Count Bonafede, an impoverished nobleman whom he befriends. “Gambling is often a great palliative for a man in love,” advises Casanova.

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A Palazzo Cut Short

The Palazzo Venier dei Leoni looks like this:IMG_4009.JPG

But it was supposed to look like this:


This model can be seen at the Museo Correr. I had heard that the palace was never finished because the owners ran out of money, but the Peggy Guggenheim museum website has this to say:

“It is an unfinished palace. A model exists in the Museo Correr, Venice (1). Its magnificent classical façade would have matched that of Palazzo Corner, opposite, with the triple arch of the ground floor (which is the explanation of the ivy-covered pillars visible today) extended through both the piani nobili above. We do not know precisely why this Venier palace was left unfinished. Money may have run out, or some say that the powerful Corner family living opposite blocked the completion of a building that would have been grander than their own. Another explanation may rest with the unhappy fate of the next door Gothic palace which was demolished in the early 19th century: structural damage to this was blamed in part on the deep foundations of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.”

I had always wondered what the palazzo was meant to look like, and when I stumbled upon the model in the Correr last summer, my curiosity was finally satisfied.

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From the James Bond film Moonraker. I love the silly bits at the end, like the pigeon doing a double-take, or the guy at the table deciding that a gondola driving through the Piazza San Marco is a good reason to drink wine today.

Moonraker Bondola Gondola scene

From The Italian Job: This one always bugged me because it shows the thieves underwater underneath a palazzo. Not possible. Venetian buildings are built upon layers of trees as pilings driven into the clay, then topped with stone. How else do you think they can support all the weight of an entire palazzo? Certainly not over water!

But enough of that rant. Go to roughly 5:35 to see the boat sideswipe a gondola and then cut a gondola in two, in front of the squero of San Trovaso. One of the most horrifying scenes in all of film history. (Okay, I exaggerate, but I do love gondolas!)

Italian Job boat chase scene


(Moonraker gondola image from http://dailynewsdig.com/top-ten-james-bond-cars-that-i-would-love-to-own/)


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