Share the Gioia!

I’ve previously posted about ways to support artisans whose businesses and livelihoods have been hit hard by the shut downs and travel restrictions. Here’s a new way to support Italian artisans and receive a surprise gift!

One of our local lovers of all things Italian is Kathy Winkleman, who runs Gioia Italian Art and Products, which sells Italian-made goods, from Venetian masks, to handpainted ornaments, to artisan ceramics, to virgin olive oil. Kathy created Gioia Luce to help sustain Italian artisans during these difficult times. Read her description below to see how it works and how to participate.

Can you guess which region I decided to support? I know you don’t know me well, but maybe you can take a wild guess…

Kathy let me know that my gift has arrived and I can pick it up soon! It’s a surprise and I can’t wait to see what it is!!

“Become a part of the Gioia Luce 2020 Programa Joyful Light when you join us. Imagine the Joy it will bring to have a gift direct from Italy to say “Grazie.” You can send support in levels of $50, $75, $100, and more. This contribution will get them back to work as artists, and you will receive a gift valued at your donation from a region you choose. It will take about 30 days for the artist to create your beautiful work and ship it to you. They will be WORKING NOW! Thank you! Grazie! You will be making a HUGE difference for them, for the arts, and for Gioia Company. Are you passionate about one of these regions? Your dollars will go there. Pick one per donation and you will receive a gift from one of these artists!!

Venice, Florence, Deruta, Rome, Amalfi, Puglia, Sicily: tell us where to put your support funding. $50, $75, $100 More than $100? How much?

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Click one of the following links to donate. It’s simple and easy!

By Venmo: https://venmo.com/  Send to @Katherine-Winkelman
By Paypal: www.paypal.com. Send to gioiacustomerservice@yahoo.com

Or click here to get our flier and pay by check!

(Images from Kathy’s website. You can also visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gioiaitalianartandproducts.)

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Jonesing for Some Venice

For those readers not familiar with American expressions, to be “jonesing” for something means that you are yearning for it. Craving it. My dictionary says that typically this refers to a drug addiction, but in my case the drug of choice is–you guessed it–Venice.

Tired of being stuck inside?

Of course I can’t go there this year and feed my need. But reader and artist Karen Cogen turned me on to the world of Venice walking tour videos.

This video, by Booking Hunter, takes you on a literal walking tour of the city for two and a half hours! The walker must have a camera strapped to his (I’m assuming it was a man) head and doesn’t say a word as he walks across the city. He starts at the train station and heads across to Santa Croce. He walks through smaller calle, across campi, along fondamente, and of course through the Piazza. He spends probably too long on the hot Riva, and inexplicably he goes up one side and down the other of the Cannaregio Canal, when he could have dived into the smaller streets. I think he once turned down a calle that he didn’t intend to, but otherwise knows the city and the route.

But here’s what I loved: hearing Venetian spoken in snatches as people pass by. Strolling down streets I’ve walked countless times, as if I’m on my own giro. Seeing familiar landmarks, shops, items, and gondolas. When a kid walked by eating his gelato, I thought I’d die of yearning, like I could taste the vanilla and feel the crunch of the stracciatella drizzles. I was terribly distracted by two things, though: looking at faces to see if I recognized any friends, especially as he passed through neighborhoods like Santi Apostoli where I’ve often stayed; and watching for myself! The video was filmed last June 2019, and I was in the city that day! I was staying in Dorsoduro, however, which is a neighborhood he didn’t visit.

Yes, there are some advertisements that pause the action, and text on the screen to name some churches and other sites, but I was willing to put up with these in order to see Venice. And yes, the walker pauses atop bridges to look up and down the canal in the ways of annoying tourists that we all complain about. But, in these times of shelter in place, I was willing to forgive that, too.

Here’s another video that takes a different approach. The videographer walks to a location and films it, pauses the camera, films again, move a bit further down, and films again. Soft music plays in the background, though the sounds of the city are still present. You get to watch a waiter surveying the tables, people peering into shop windows, friends chatting as they pass. This video spends lots of time in the more touristy areas, including too many panning views of the Campanile, but it still gets around the city to quiet corners where cats nap. This video was filmed in December 2017, so people are more bundled up. A suggestion: as you watch, play a drinking game where you drink every time someone takes a selfie.

If you’re tired of walking, why not take a boat! Here’s a video of a 3-hour boat tour that goes through bigger waterways like the Grand Canal and the northern lagoon, but it also scoots through smaller canals, such as the Misericordia. At the beginning, there’s a map showing the route. Onboard, I peered at every gondolier, looking for the ones I know. I took in the Grand Canal, checking out details in a leisurely way that I don’t usually do when I’m on the vaporetto. The images are crystal clear, especially if you watch on a good tv. And here’s the most amazing thing: This was filmed in August 2020, a time when Venice should be packed with tourists, the canals clogged with boats. But it’s nearly empty. Sometimes the boat turns onto a canal where the water is still as green glass.

There are apparently many videos like these for those who are jonesing for some time in Venice. This just might get me through the long stretch of months before I can return to my beloved city–these videos and plenty of spritz!

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Venice, Wish You Were Here #11

“We crossed this wonderful bridge yesterday going from the Doges Palace to the prison – we visited some of the dark dungeons of the prisons. Venice is so interesting – We spent over an hour this afternoon on the Grand Canal in a gondola – A.P.”

I love A.P.–taking a gondola ride and visiting the prisons! Yes, I’m sure they visited the Basilica and Doge’s Palace as well, but what did they write about? I wonder if they learned about our man Casanova who did time in that prison? 

This card arrived to my doorstep this week as a gift from one of my readers, Vince G. Thank you, Vince, for adding to my collection of Venice postcards! I am a desultory collector, generally picking up a new card or two each time I go to Venice, never spending much on them. My rule is to limit myself to cards that show Venice and a gondola, plus they must have some writing on them. Vince found this one from 1904 and transcribed the text for me! And it was mailed to Berkeley, California, just an hour north of where I live. How cool is that? Like many of the other cards I have, this one lacks a zip code, showing its age. It’s apparently from 1904.

This is 2550 Dana Street. Looks like 2546 no longer exists. Maybe the house was knocked down and replaced by this building. Across the street are single family homes.

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Venetian Planters

At my house, the plants live in ceramic pots or containers. But these plants weren’t about to wait for anything so formal.

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Venice Rising Has a New Look!

Check out the lovely new website by Michelle Miller to promote the book her mother, Rosemary Wilmot, and I created.

You can also learn more about the charities that Venice Rising supports:

There’s also a new Facebook page where you can interact more with contributors to the book and other lovers of Venice. Visit us there and leave a message–and please share it with friends.

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Proud Owner of a Casanova

“Casanova,” besides referring to any random womanizer, generally refers to Giacomo Casanova, the adventurer and writer. Some art lovers and historians know about his brother Francesco, a painter known best for his battle scenes.

But they also had another brother: Giovanni.

I wrote about Giovanni previously to show the engraving that my friend Marco used to own. And now I am the proud owner of a Giovanni Casanova engraving as well!

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The text translates to “As big as the original.” 

My generous and wonderful friend Valeriano in Spain saw that a Giovanni Casanova engraving was up for auction earlier this year. He shared the link with me and then surprised me by asking if he could buy it for me as a gift! I generally don’t buy art like this and don’t own anything similar (except the piece that Valeriano bought for me in Venice last year when we were at the Casanova in Place Symposium!).

It took some special packaging and a couple trips to the post office, but the piece finally arrived to me safely. It’s a page taken from a book, as evidenced by the page number in the corner. It also has stitching holes along one side (hidden here by the mat, but we did not cut or alter the paper in any way).

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My friend Heather, a professional framer, made a custom mat for the page. She actually hand-gilded the inner edge in order to bring out the golds in the drawing. There is also foxing, says Heather, a type of age-related damage to the paper; again, we did not want to alter it in any way, though at some future date I may try to clean it or have it cleaned. Valeriano described the paper as papel verjurado or papier vergé. It’s certainly something of high quality from the 18th century. Now I need to find a worthy frame.

Is this an engraving of a famous sculpture? I know that artists often practice their craft by drawing famous sculptures, so perhaps that was Giovanni’s inspiration. Does anyone recognize the original?

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A nice detail of the gilt mat and the textures of the page.

Valeriano says that the previous owner, an art teacher, had this engraving as part of a family collection, the only Casanova piece she owned. Many other pieces in the collection came from either Stuttgart or Florence, so it may have come from one of those cities.

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In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Customs Office

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Etching by Vasi from 1752

Rome’s ancient customs office or Dogana di Terra was in a building designed by Carlo Fontana in 1696, which incorporated the pillars from a temple honoring Emperor Hadrian built in 144. It was renovated and simplified in 1879-1882 and again in 1928. This impressive building sits in the Piazza di Pietra, for “stone” referring to these grand columns.

After his sojourn in Rome in the 1740s, Casanova returned to the city in 1760 for a short time. He tells us about entering the city on this occasion:

“It was an hour after midnight. The great city can be entered at any time; a foreigner is at once sent to the Customs Office, which is always open, where his baggage is examined. The customs officials are strict only in regards to books. I had thirty or more, all hostile to religion or to the virtues it prescribes. I knew this, and I had resigned myself to giving them up without an argument, for I needed to get to bed at once. The clerk who examined my baggage politely told me to count them and leave them with him, assuring me that he would bring them all to me the next day at the inn to which I was going. I assented, and he kept his word. I gave him two zecchini.”

This revelation is a bit remarkable due to C’s bravura. He had been seized and imprisoned in Venice partly due to his collection of books deemed unacceptable by the Church and the Venetian State Inquisition. You’d think he’d be more cautious about his collection, especially traveling to various cities. Apparently not.

Casanova returned to Rome and its Customs Office again in 1770 with a woman named Betty and her English lover who C referred to as Sir B.M. But while still in Montefiascone, after Casanova had proven to Betty that her seducer, a man who went by the name of Count de l’Etoile (Count Star), was a fraud, they had Betty’s trunk sent ahead to Rome to be held securely at the Custom’s Office. Being quite savvy about how to protect Betty’s interests, Casanova advised her “with the help of a notary of the city, … to sequestrate the trunk at the Roman customs office for a month, which would give her time to prove her right to prevent its being delivered to anyone who might come to get it” (Vol. 11, Ch. 8, p. 247). They feared that Count de l’Etoile would try to steal her possessions. Casanova, Sir B.M, and Betty traveled by night and arrived to the customs office early, where Casanova “gave the chief clerk the notarized document authorizing Betty to recover her trunk.” Casanova continues, “He told us that, after the necessary formalities, he would send it to us at whatever inn we might choose, and it was done the next day” (Vol. 11, Ch. 9, p. 257).

Okay, not a particularly sexy site in C’s life, but his feet did walk these stones, and these instances reveal Casanova’s knowledge of travel practices.

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(Images of the Custom’s Office plus research come from https://www.romeartlover.it/Vasi24.html and the map is from Google.)

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Venice, Wish You Were Here #12

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A short message on this postcard: “Un caro ricordo” or “a fond memory.” I want more! Did you kiss under the Bridge of Sighs? Sip a glass of wine while looking over a canal? Eat too much gelato? Walk hand in hand down an alley? Meet a beautiful stranger?

At least they sent a postcard. Better than a text message.

August 19, 1955, probably a hot day. Is that postmark from Lido? Maybe they spent time at the beach under a striped cabana, walking far out in the shallow, rolling waves. That’s what I would do.

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Dear readers, can you read the names? It seems to be signed by Piero and Kena….??? What? Then “Benvenuuto something something.” And the name of the person it’s being sent to? Familia Frances Zola? Readers, I’ve found that you are much better at deciphering writing than I, so please help me out!

Via Cavour appears to be Via Camillo Benso di Cavour near the Natural Science Museum in Torino. Here’s a photo from Google maps of house #36:

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Beneath the Lion’s Wings: Book Review

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It’s a fairly common daydream of many travelers to Venice to fall in love with a gondolier. The most romantic boat in the most romantic city, and many of these guys know how to charm their passengers.

But what if you actually lived that daydream?

That’s the story behind Beneath the Lion’s Wings, a novel by Marie Ohanesian Nardin, who wrote this fictional novel that was inspired by her own life events. The novel’s protagonist, Victoria, an American spending a couple days in Venice, locks eyes with a gondolier named Alvise, and the sparks fly immediately. This part of the story aligns closely with Marie’s own story, and now many decades later, she’s still living happily with her gondolier husband.

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One of my gondolier friends with his irresistible smile

But the novel takes many other turns, always keeping readers on their toes. Will she move to Venice? Will she marry Alvise? Will his family and friends accept her? And what is his big secret? No, I’m not giving it away. These characters stayed with me each time I set the book down, and I was compelled to get back to them to see what happened next.

In fact, after I finished Beneath the Lion’s Wings, I lent it to my 88-year-old mom, who is stuck in the house during this pandemic. She read the book in three days, calling me daily to talk about what was happening and what she had just read. “Does this author have another book?” she asked me. Not yet, but Marie did contribute a chapter to my new anthology Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth.

If you can’t travel to Venice right now, at least you can walk the streets of Venice and enter Venetian homes and restaurants with Victoria and Alvise in Beneath the Lion’s Wings. 

Nardin Marie Ohanesian

Author Marie Ohanesian Nardin

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Praise for Venice Rising

Last post, I announced the new anthology of stories by Venetians living through first the historic floods of last November and then the Covid-19 lockdown. Four of my favorite writers on Venice and Italy have shared these reviews of Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth. I’ve already read the book countless times as I edited it, but these reviews make me want to read it again!

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Venice Rising is a compilation of eye witness reports from Venetians who have experienced unprecedented challenges. With honesty and wisdom they write of their fears, resilience, and hope. After sustaining devastating flood damage and loss of tourism, Venice has been returned to her residents. It is time that we listen to them. 

JoAnn Locktov, Bella Figura Publications 

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I loved Venice at first sight, but it wasn’t until I read Venice Rising that I truly appreciated –and fell in love with–Venetians.  They are, as historian William Thayer observed a century ago, “magnificent by nature.”

In the last year Venice has reeled under two disasters: a devastating once-in-a-century flood and the coronavirus crisis that triggered a months-long lockdown. In Venice Rising, a mosaic of citizens—artisans, rowers, teachers, performers, shop owners, scions of its oldest families—present a first-hand view of their city as they had  never seen it:  deserted, silent, isolated, anxious yet at the same time never more beautiful or serene.

With intense emotion and eloquent words, these eyewitnesses take us inside a magical place, “a poem without words” that comforts, haunts, energizes  and inspires them to overcome the nightmares of despair and fear with bigger dreams of a new future for Venice. 

Venice Rising is a symphony of love, with many voices blending together to stir the soul just as deeply as their beloved hometown has for so many centuries. 

Dianne Hales, author of La Bella Lingua, La Passione, and Mona Lisa

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When Venice was at her most serenely beautiful, there was no one there to see her except the Venetians themselves. For ten terrifying, precious weeks, the Venetians got to know their city again. The pandemic emptied her of tourists, cruise ships, water traffic and waves. But the draining of Venice had already started four months earlier, with the aqua granda of November 2019 that plunged the city underwater and turned off her lights. Catastrophizing journalists made the world believe that the flood was permanent; tourists cancelled in droves. Venetians were still tending to the city’s physical and economic wounds when Covid-19 struck.

This book opens a window on the Venetian experience of living through the most searing months since Napoleon stamped out her Republic. In voice and image, we are let inside the drowned and locked-down city; the gondoliers trying to lasso a bucking boat in the vortex of the winds of November 12th; the antique dealer who feels responsible for the past and future lives of all the objects she imagines drowning; people gathering in thigh-boots outside flooded bars to sing the “Hymn to San Marco”; the discovery of two gondolas forced inside reception at the Hotel Danieli. Then there is the silence of the pandemic, punctuated only by church-bells: desperate thoughts of thousands of people struggling to breathe; ducks rambling down streets where tourists once loitered; gondoliers and lady-rowers delivering groceries to the needy; the Grand Canal a millpond reflecting the slow clouds.

In a city “naked without admirers,” a city resting from overtourism, there emerge new thoughts for a more mindful future. This timely and moving book is expertly curated by Kathleen Ann González, author of A Beautiful Woman in Venice

Michelle Lovric, author of The Book of Human Skin, The Remedy, Carnevale

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Whenever I start research for a book project, I always begin with primary sources—things written at the time. There’s nothing quite like hearing the voices and reading the words of people who’ve lived in a certain place and time, especially if they’ve endured a traumatic collective experience like war, natural disaster, or disease. As a student of Venetian history, I’m gratified that Kathleen Gonzalez has taken on the important task of capturing the first-hand stories of Venetians who’ve experienced the staggering challenges of 2019 and 2020 in their native city. In addition to giving hope to those of us who love Venice about the resilience of the city and of Venetians themselves, Venice Rising will also be an important source for those who want to understand our tumultuous times through the eyes of Venetians who experienced them.

Laura Morelli, art historian and historical novelist

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