Dancing with San Giacomo


I managed to make it to two of the evenings of music at this year’s festa di San Giacomo dell’Orio. The festival raises money for the parish, and though that may be the main goal for putting it on, it’s clear that the event also brings together everyone in the neighborhood. This guy wearing the blinky lights cajoled me into buying glowstick bracelets, which I promptly gave away to some dancing kids. I’ve seen Blinky Man there for a number of years.


Last Friday, Sauro’s Band blasted lively, fun tunes that had people dancing and singing along. As Sauro flung handfuls of their business cards into the crowd, people flung their arms high, snatching them while continuing to shake their hips. Here’s the band doing “Rock Around the Clock,” after the confetti cannon but before the dancing really got underway.

Great selection of tunes! My friend B and I kept trying to name (mostly unsuccessfully) the TV show theme songs and other past popular tunes they played. Can you name this one?

Sauro’s Band did a fabulous rendition of “Tequila” where they stopped abruptly and froze in place, started up, froze, again and again with perfect timing. No video for this one because I was too busy just enjoying it!


On Monday night, I went back for the samba band. A group of women danced in unison, making me think they’re in a class together. Lots of fancy footwork and subtle hips.

Why is it at these feste there’s always a group of young guys with beers in hand, being loud and silly? And lots of children up past their bedtimes? And someone dancing with a fly swatter that they won at the tombola?


My flight left the next morning, so I missed Furiology, the latest incarnation of members of Pitura Freska. Ah well, there’s always next year.IMG_0283


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Redentore Regatta Report

Yesterday afternoon I headed across the Redentore bridge once again in order to watch the regattas. The races included the giovanissimi (the young men) in the pupparino, the men in the pupparino, and the gondola with two rowers. Here’s what a a pupparino looks like:


The first two races went off smoothly. In the giovanissimi race, first place went to the team in the bianco boat, Giacomo Marangon and Simone Vecchiato. The team in the verde boat got off to a  slow start but made a magnificent comeback and took fourth place.

For the men’s pupparini race, first place went to team rosso, Alberto Busetto and Michele Vianello. In the line up of racers, there were 4 Busettos and 5 Vianellos, so you can see that these are serious racing families.

In between races, the mayor showed up. When he was announced, no one clapped. I guess he’s not so popular. The police had nifty jet skis to help keep order.

The final race of the day was between the gondolas. Last year, Giampaolo D’Este set the record with 21 wins, and a friend of mine told me that this year he decided not to race so he could spend more time with his family. That left the field open to rivals and fast rowers, particularly the teams of Rudi and Igor Vignotto against Roberto and Renato Busetto. The race started at the crack of the gun, and off they zoomed to the end of the Giudecca island.

When they returned, though, lots of controversy ensued. There was lots of yelling and gesticulating, red faces and loud words. The winners were quickly announced and everyone dispersed faster than you can say “Redentore.” I asked around and also checked the newspapers today, but I couldn’t find out all the details of what happened. But here’s what I do know:

The winners, without a doubt, were team rosa, Rudi and Igor Vignotto. Here they get their red flag for first place.

But where was the Busetto team? Their viola gondola arrived, with two very angry rowers. Apparently the forcola broke partway through the race and they were unable to finish. The boats belong to the commun (I think) and are randomly assigned to the teams, so it was not the fault of the Busettos. No wonder they were angry, but their shouting marred the victory for the Vignottos.

The marron boat didn’t finish either, though I don’t know why. The celeste boat didn’t race and was replaced by the riserva boat, which is half green half red. At the finish line, riserva pulled in front of canarin (yellow) to take fourth place, but then when winners were announced, the fourth flag went to canarin! What had happened? Apparently riserva had not properly rowed around the buoy and was disqualified. Lots more angry shouting ensued, from the racers as well as the crowd. What a mess! The event ended on a sour note, and everyone dispersed quickly, probably a good thing before any fisticuffs broke out.

But a hearty congratulations to Rudi and Igor Vignotto for a race well rowed!

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Redentore Report!

Yesterday, all of Venice celebrated the end of the Bubonic Plague. We’re so glad it ended so many years ago! Actually, I’m guessing that many revelers are more interested in drinking prosecco and eating watermelon and watching the fireworks and probably don’t even know the origins of the festival.

I walked up the Zattere and crossed the temporary bridge erected on pontoons for the Redentore weekend. The wind whipped the waves and kept the bridge swaying in quite a disconcerting way. You can see everyone in their boats heading towards the bacino, moving in for the fireworks.

The festival is an opportunity for the local parish to raise funds for the poor. B and I paid our euros, watched the rotolo spin, and crossed our fingers for a good ticket.

Mine said “tigre” on it, which meant that my prize came from the large bin full of small packages. (Not sure what that has to do with a tiger.) Here I am showing off my new earrings. B won a Murano glass tumbler, but one that looks like it was the practice cup that nobody wanted to keep.

The sun began to set, and we needed to find a place to sit.

You can see that some people carry in their own chairs. Others dine in style at tables or on their boats, while some picnic on the ground.

We were sorry to see that no one used this couch all night.


At 11:30 the fireworks finally began! Photos cannot possibly capture live fireworks, but I offer these few pictures to give you an idea. Floating platforms were lined up across the lagoon in front of San Marco, and the fireworks that shot up from these created a panoramic plane that filled our view. It was like the stars were falling from the sky.


A little boy stood in the window behind us, up way past his bedtime. As he anticipated the fireworks’ booming report, he’d yell out, “Pom pom pom!” IMG_0344

“We celebrate the end of the plague,

the end of the plague,

the end of the plague!

We celebrate the end of the plague,

Thank you to holy Virgin Mary!”



Why would no one sing this song with me??

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Il Pensatore

At Ca’ Pesaro, the other modern art museum besides the Guggenheim, everyone seems to be thinking deeply…

And thinking…

What are they thinking about?

Must be something deep.

Or something peaceful? How will we ever know?

Perhaps these two have the answer….

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Some Artwork Worth Noticing

I spotted these interesting works at the Museo Correr today.

Here’s a painting by Giovanni Bellini where Jesus actually looks like he’s from the Middle East. Or does he look like he’s from the Planet of the Apes?


This one made me think of Matt Groening’s Simpson’s characters. Do you recognize the similarity in their eyes?



And here’s a rather graphic depiction of the Leda and the Swan myth. In case you need a refresher or don’t recognize what’s happening here, Leda had rather intimate relations with this bird. Why do they teach mythology to children?


The original bowl haircut? That’s a big bowl!

IMG_0147For you fans of Peggy Guggenheim’s palace/museum in Venice, here’s a curiosity. The Palazzo Venier dei Leone was never finished, but here’s the model of what it should have looked like. It was supposed to be much taller.

And finally I visited the painting that shows Morosina Morosini Grimani coronation as dogaressa in 1597. That’s her in the golden dress, beckoning to the viewer. The first chapter of my book A Beautiful Woman in Venice tells her story, so I felt a certain connection to her as I viewed the painting again today. I couldn’t resist holding up my book to the painting. You can see Morosina’s portrait on the book cover, bottom row, second from the left. (Sorry, no flash photography allowed in the museum, so it came out a bit squishy.)


I’ve been to the Correr a number of times, and today I went intending to find some old maps of Murano (sadly, with no luck). But the museum is always worth a visit. I got to visit Morosina, but I’m very sorry to report that the portrait of Maria Boscola, the regatta winner, is out of sight right now. They’ve blocked the rooms showing the regattas. Boo! Here’s Maria in case you miss her.



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And you thought the white rhino was rare! These two were spotted in Venice at a shop on the Calle Malipiero.

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Shameless Self-Promotion

Today I got to meet up with my friend Gregory Dowling, professor at Ca’ Foscari and author of a number of novels. He had just received the proofs for the American edition of his latest book, which came out in Europe last year. It’s titled Ascension and tells a vivid and faced-paced tale of intrigue in Venice, 1749. Here’s the European edition (resting  on my bed pillow and signed by the author!):


Seriously, one of the best Venice reads! He really brings you into the time and place while still captivating you with a great plot and likable characters.

Earlier today, I had met up with my publisher and finally got my own copy of A Living Memory: Immortality for Sarra Copia Sulam. So Gregory and I posed with our two new books. Gregory is holding his proofs copy.(Sorry for cutting off Gregory’s head. I’m not the best at taking selfies.)


If you’ve read Ascension and liked it, you’ll be happy to know that the sequel is in the works! In fact, Gregory is going to lock himself in his apartment for the next couple weeks and write like a madman to meet his deadlines. Go, man, go!

I’m off to Murano later this week to do research for the next mini-book in my series about Venetian women. I learned that my friend Piero is related to the Barovier glassmaking family, so he gave me the name of his cousin to talk to! Other friends hooked me up with other connections as well. Wish me luck! Research is always an adventure.


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