Quattro Minuti con Casanova: Teatro Goldoni



Coin showing the inauguration of Doge Pietro Gradenigo

I haven’t posted a Quattro Minuti con Casanova episode in a while! Today’s features Teatro Goldoni, which had a different name in Casanova’s day. Listen to this video to see what it was….

Teatro Goldoni

Teatro Goldoni 1

My photo is not out of focus–it’s the font!

The event I talk about in this video involves coin clipping, a practice where a criminal would clip or shave off a bit of the coin’s metal, for coins were made of real metals like gold and silver at that time. A criminal could make quite a bit of money clipping small amounts from numerous coins, and in some places, like Britain, it was a capital offense! Casanova was accused of clipping a coin while at the theater one night–an infraction it’s not likely he committed but that was blamed on him because the perpetrator knew Casanova would pay up. Hear the whole story, (or read it in more detail in my book Seductive Venice) and see how a woman was involved as well.

Teatro Goldoni 5

The modern theater door

Secret fact: I was traveling alone the day I made this video, and I refuse to use a selfie stick for filming. So I imbibed a little liquid courage to get up the nerve to ask a stranger to take this video. I stood on that corner for a long time before I found the right people to ask. It was a family, and the father held my camera while the mother looked on disapprovingly. Thank you to all who help me out with my video shoots!

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50 in One Fell Swoop

There I was, lying in bed reading, wincing and grimacing as the book reached its climax. I don’t want to say any more, so that you get to experience this thrill yourself!

I recently read The Four Horsemen, the last 50 pages in one fell swoop because I couldn’t put it down! Gregory Dowling is the master at leaving you panting at the end of each chapter.

Alvise Marangon is such a clever protagonist, in his own estimation so adept at “improvising” in tough situations, and so knowledgeable as a cicerone (tour guide). He’s also sarcastic and witty and smart. The Four Horsemen is the second in the series of Marangon murder mysteries.


Alvise encounters a couple bravi near the lions adjacent to the Basilica.


When I set down the book, I’d remember that all this comes from Gregory Dowling, who must know Venice inside and out–inside churches, a bookstore, and taverns as well as each canal, alley, and campo. He’s lived there for over 30 years and teaches at Ca’ Foscari. He brings the 18th century to life with every step Alvise takes, which, as a lover of Venice, I particularly love.


The Fondaco dei Turchi, where a tense scene occurs.


A few scenes take place on Giudecca, including near the Church of Sant’Eufemia.

And as an added bonus while reading, I got to know a noblewoman, a spoiled nobleman, a casino owner, a bookshop owner, some street urchins, tavern folk, an office clerk, a maid, Greek visitors, and the Missier Grande, as well as many other typical Venetians–a real joy to get to inhabit their world. In Casanova’s memoirs, I’ve read about the Missier Grande, sort of the chief of police, but Gregory’s depiction of him humanizes him into a complex being, not just a paper cutout.

S Maria Formosa

Campo Santa Maria Formosa, where Alvise meets the friends who will take him to a salotto.

Alvise also attends a salotto, the kind of literary salon that I researched for my book on Venetian woman. I don’t have a gift for recreating places and times and people. Gregory does. I felt like I had gone from a two dimensional to a three dimensional scene in my head, picturing one of these literary evenings.


Partial depiction of a literary salon and the clothing that would have been worn, recreated at the Palazzo Mocenigo museum.

I can tell that Gregory loves to play with words. Take this bit, for instance, when Alvise is trying to convince the Missier Grande that he is not too drunk: “‘That is unfair, Illustrissimo,’ I said, forgetting all caution in my indignation; even as I spoke the last word, I was all too aware of the slushiness of its sibilants. I instantly felt my cheeks flaring with embarrassment. I hoped it would not add to the overall impression of vinous befuddlement.” Both alliteration and assonance, ten dollar words and wit. I could hold this up to my high school students as an example of narrative voice and lively style.

In this book as well as Ascension, the first in the Alvise Marangon series, Gregory presents the most authentic and fullest portrait of Venice I’ve encountered in a novel. I’m already waiting for the next one!

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No Big Boats!

I’m a little behind in this one, but I’m finally sharing the fabulous post by Michelle Lovric on the TheHistoryGirls blog site. On December 10 she posted a detailed interview with Barbara Warburton Giliberti, who sits on the committee of the organization NoGrandiNavi, which protests the gigantic cruise ships in Venice’s lagoon.

Check it out: Suicide by Greed: The Monsters Looming over Venice

No grandi navi canaletto

Image by Canaletto, with a cruise ship added by artist Vince McIndoe

I think it’s super important that we educate more people about the extensive damage done by these cruise ships. I personally know numerous people who have signed up for a cruise that docks in Venice. None of them have any idea that their choice contributes to damage to the lagoon floor, toxic waste dumps into the water, corrosive air pollution to all buildings and statues, degradation of the very foundations under the city, rumbling damage to buildings themselves, huge increases to garbage dumped in the city, and damage to the sea life–the creatures themselves plus the food people want to eat. And these cruise companies bring in very little revenue to Venice, so there’s no argument that they help the economy of a city where the population is dwindling.

I guess you can tell I feel strongly about this!


See how the ship dwarfs the buildings around it. My friend Adriano took this photo when we were on Giudecca looking back at the Zattere.

At the end of Michelle’s post, there’s a link where you can donate to NoGrandiNavi’s work. They are a completely grassroots organization that gets very creative in educating people about the big ships. Her article tells some of the ways they have protested these ships in Venice.

Every year I donate 50 cents of every book I sell to either Save Venice or Venice in Peril. This year my money went to NoGrandiNavi as well.

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Venice, My Muse: Interview with Karen Koppett

As the latest in the series of interviews, “Venice, My Muse” this month talks to Karen Koppett, a water conservation specialist, zombie aficionado, and traveler. I’ve known Karen since high school, and we’ve been to Venice together four times over the last 20 years–summer, Carnevale, with friends, for Biennale, on the beach, other islands, for festivals, in museums and churches, to try new foods or drinks–in other words, enjoying many things Venice has to offer in a variety of ways. Karen is an avid runner who enjoys early mornings in Venice, a scene I’m not usually up to join her for! Check out her responses and perspectives.

Karen and me in 2015 at the Biennale

How has Venice seduced you?

Venice is a miracle and nothing else on earth is like her.  First, she is beautiful–from her architecture to her art to her water to her traditions.  Then you stop to consider how it’s possible that this magnificent city is sitting in a lagoon. It still seems like a miracle to me that she’s there at all.  All the history, all the beauty, all the culture–it’s magic.

And, also like magic, Venice will someday–maybe soon–vanish.  Because of climate change, the city that has stood in the lagoon may be underwater with rising ocean water within one hundred years. Venice’s beauty is a tragic one:

Venice Will Vanish Within a Century

Climate Change Challenges Sinking City

Because Venice’s time is limited, that makes her even more precious.

What do you never fail to do in Venice?

I love waking up really early and going on a run, before the tourists are up and about.  Many parts of the city are mine and mine alone–or I’m sharing them with the city workers. I can get a quick coffee with the locals and then I’m off to explore a neighborhood on a run–heaven.

Monet loved Venice in the morning and captured it in many paintings like this one

What is your Venice soundtrack?

Before I leave for Venice, I load up music in my iPod so that I had my soundtrack for running or walking.  Somehow, the right music can turn an early morning run in Venice into a movie in which I’m starring (okay, there isn’t much plot in my movie but the cinematography is amazing).

Walk or take a boat?

Both!  I love walking in Venice – it’s the most magical place on earth to walk.  If you are a fan of art and architecture, this is the city to see on foot.  However, you also need to see it by boat.  Seeing the city at night, by boat, is like nothing else.  And, of course, seeing it via gondola is the quintessential Venetian experience.  I like gondola rides on the less popular routes, during less popular times of the year, when it’s possible to quietly glide past buildings and let the ride take you.

Our gondola ride in 2015

Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?

I’ve been to La Festa del Redentore twice now and love it.  A festival to celebrate the end of the Black Plague? A floating bridge?  Fireworks?  Gondola races?  Sign me up!

Boat races in front of the floating bridge of Redentore

Spritz or Bellini?

Spritz!  I’ve come to love it, especially in the summer.  Cin cin!!

What do you do when you’re alone in Venice?

Along with running in the morning, I can happily spend an afternoon alone poking around shops and exploring museums and churches.

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

When my husband and I visited a few summers ago, we took a bottle of wine, a picnic, and a portable speaker and found a small, private place to sit down next to a canal for a few hours at night.  It was magical, one of the best nights of my life.  People on boats drifted by (we raised our glasses to them each time),  the buildings reflected off the water,  and it felt like we time traveled back a few hundred years.

Finding a quiet canal to watch the gondolas glide by

One place slightly off the beaten path I suggest is the Scuola Grande di San Rocco because the Tintoretto paintings are beyond gorgeous.

The Salon Maggiore of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco

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

At first, I thought “Rent an apartment for xxx months!” but then I thought, since this is pretend money, maybe I’ll donate it to one of the charities to save Venice.  She deserves it.

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

Excellent question!  I simply do not know.  But it sure would be fun to go around with a real estate agent to view the ones that are for sale.

Another way to look inside a palazzo that is usually closed to the public is to attend Biennale.  They open up palazzo for art displays and often the building is even better than the artwork.  In 2015, we went to a palazzo that hosted a display by the country of Kazakhstan (wish I could remember the name of the palazzo) and, combined with the artwork, it was stunning.

Biennale exhibits in a palazzo rather than at Giardini or Arsenale are a great way to get into the buildings of Venice

How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits? (This is where I can include your website, blog address, books, etc.).  

When I’m not thinking about water conservation in Santa Clara Valley, California, you can find me podcasting about zombies on The Walking Dead ‘Cast:

The Walking Dead Cast

Me, Karen, and our friend Dawn, hanging out in the best seats in Venice.

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Random Journal Entry #9

My occasional series draws from old journal entries when I was in Venice. This one continues from my 1996 trip (see the last few Random Journal Entries for others from that same trip). I’m leaving my misspellings and errors in place for comic relief.

Burnoose girl in 1996–what must she look like now? She probably has a little girl all her own.

Aug. 12

I made my requisite post office stop and then went back the way I had come so I could go to Burano from the Fuondamente Nuove stop. The houses on Burano were amazing—brightest colors of blue, purple, aqua, green, yellow, brick, you-name-it, as long as it’s bright. It’s a snug-feeling town, with its boats parked all along its little canals and all the small bridges. They must sweep every hour. The main drag is all lace shops instead of glass shops. I also found the House of the Overzealous Painter who has decorated his doors and house front with many-colored diamonds, squares, and triangles. For lunch I unfortunately and inadvertently ordered a tuna salad.

House of the Overzealous Painter

On the boat back, a silly old man smelling of one too many lunchtime grappas sat next to me and signaled his two lady friends to join him. They kept peeking at me, and the shorter lady sang snatches of songs. Finally, the taller woman spoke and asked if I was Venetian. Great compliment! She said they had been admiring my shoes, and she asked something I didn’t quite understand about “What is my secret to my a) hanging earrings? or b) clothes? or c) who knows?” I smiled and laughed. The two women were Venetian sisters, the taller one now an inhabitant of Palm Springs and widow to a Polish composer. Her daughter is publishing a young adult book called, I think, The Secret of the Matador, that she hopes I can push in our public schools.

I found the photo of the folks I met on the boat!

I walked with them back to SS Apostoli and parted after taking their picture. I think they were all tipsy. The little old man kept taking my arm or pinching my cheek or whispering in my ear. I smiled and moved away or laughed. 

And the man who kept pinching me…

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Gondola Stuff: The One I Didn’t Buy


Saw this gondola planter in an antique store yesterday AND I DIDN’T BUY IT! Crazy, right? But you know how it is when you have no willpower and the next thing you know you’re a hoarder. Or you tell someone you collect teddy bears and the next thing you know there’s a bear on every surface of your home.

So just because this is shaped vaguely like a gondola, and it has a ferro, doesn’t mean I have to buy it. It’s not even black, for heaven’s sake! And the ferro is gold! And whoever heard of flowers painted on the side of a gondola?

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In His Dressing Gown and Nightcap

“The first known devotee of this modern way of travelling [by carriage] is Giacomo Casanova. This quite clearly means that the adventurer from Venice and world famous lover was also the first great user of the modern private carriage of whom we have complete knowledge, thus being the forerunner of all of us motorists.”


In this excerpt from his Foreword, Hartmut Günther piqued my interest. I had heard of Casanova the adventurer, the lover, the gambler, the spy, the priest–but not Casanova the carriage devotee. Most people think of C as the great lover, while some know that he also did many other things. But it’s also true that his memoirs comprise the most detailed travelogue of the 18th century, providing an enormous amount of details regarding clothing, food, post roads, inns, passports, and other elements of travel.


This coach is similar to one Casanova and his brother Francesco owned and traveled in from Paris through Frankfurt to Vienna, a total of 1,360 km.

As a birthday present this year, my friend Marco, a great Casanovist, sent me a copy of Hartmut Günther’s book The Casanova Tour: A Handbook for the Use of the Private Travelling Carriage in Eighteenth Century Europe and America. It contains such remarkable information as a Table of all of C’s journeys, from 1734 to 1797. By studying C’s memoirs, letters, and other documents, Gunther determined that C traveled by fourteen different methods (including donkey, mule, and sledge) for a lifetime total of 64,480 kilometers! Of that total kilometers C traveled up to 1774, 54.4% of his travel was by carriages he owned, plus another 8.1% by other private carriages. If he were alive today, I bet he’d be thrilled to be zipping along the autobahn in a snazzy BMW or Fiat. The only thing missing from these statistics that I personally would like to have seen was how many miles C traveled in a gondola–but that would probably be impossible to ever know, as he didn’t record every time he stepped aboard one of Venice’s iconic boats.


Casanova often traveled by post, which means he went from one postal station to the next in hired carriages that traveled these roads meant for mail (or post) delivery. In fact, the author’s own ancestor, Johannes Eckart (1725-1790) met Casanova in 1783 when C stayed at the Thurn and Taxis Imperial Post station in Emskirchen where Eckart was the postmaster. Günther includes in this book maps of the post stations around Europe. In fact, he even includes the story of how Casanova spoke with local officials in order to have Udine added to the post route between Trieste and Venice, and with this diplomatic favor thereby secured the help he needed to return to Venice after his exile. C also was paid a handsome 100 silver ducats.


The Golden Stag Alte Post. Can you see the stag on the corner?

In case you like old documents, Günther includes a bill for cleaning C’s carriage in 1783 in Ausgburg. Marco Leeflang (my friend!) found this among C’s papers at the castle in Dux, where he died. I love historical minutiae. Günther also includes a translation of a letter Casanova received from his Venetian girlfriend Francesca Buschini. She remarked to Casanova that he had traveled “eighteen posts without stopping…after 42 hours fresh as a rose, and that you slept at least eighteen hours as well as if you had been in bed.” In his own memoirs, C writes of traveling in his “dressing gown and nightcap” so he can sleep more comfortably. Günther also includes an ad C placed to try to sell his carriage: “For sale a travelling carriage, with two seats, on four wheels. Address to Hotel du Louvre, street between the bridges.” We generally think of famous persons only doing lofty deeds, not traveling in their dressing gowns or selling their carriages.


So, though today is my birthday and Marco sent me this lovely gift, I now can share it with you! As I was searching for a photo of the post inn where C met Johannes Eckart, I discovered that Günther has actually made this remarkable book available online for free! So happy birthday to you all!

The Casanova Tour


C’s travel routes until 1774, by Hartmut Günther

(Image of carriage from https://janeausteninvermont.blog/2011/02/02/travel-in-sense-sensibility-part-iv-carriages-contd/, and though this carriage is from Vermont, it looks quite similar to the one C would have owned, as shown in Günther’s book.)
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