Where Am I?


The first photos shows the view as I look out the window, and the second photos shows the interior. Where am I?

Posted in Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Recital this Sunday!

Put it on your calendar! The Beautiful Woman in Venice recital returns! Sunday, May 22, join us at the Italian American Heritage Society in San Jose to hear me talk about Venetian women composers, musicians, and more. I’ll be accompanied by Tina Paulson singing pieces by these composers, Barbara Strozzi and Antonia Padoani Bembo, as well as pieces by Vivaldi, Rossini and others. If you’ve never heard harpsichord, this is your chance as well.

Here’s the flyer with details and location. If you missed the show in January, now is your chance to see it!

ABWIV IAHS flyer 2

Posted in A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Venice, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Redefining Beauty” Videos: Modesta Pozzo

Oh no! I’ve run out of “Quattro Minuti con Casanova” videos. Time to go back to Venice and make some more! Until the next trip, I offer you a new series of videos about the beautiful women of Venice that I feature in my book. I’ll call them “Redefining Beauty” to honor the many ways that women are beautiful besides their physical features.

Here I am standing in front of the Frari church as I recall the unique intellect of writer Modesta Pozzo. Under the pen name Moderata Fonte, she wrote The Worth of Women and The Thirteen Cantos of Floridoro, plus a few shorter works. You can hear some details in this video about the life and works of this sixteenth century humanist. Please share your thoughts about how she redefines beauty for women.

Thank you to the random person going by who agreed to film me that day.:)

Modesta Pozzo

Modesta sporting quite the popular ‘do.

Posted in A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Venice, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garden of Earthly Delights

I recently watched a film set in Venice, The Garden of Earthly Delights (2004), directed by Lech Majewski. It follows Claudine and Chris, who meet in London, but move to Venice; Chris is obsessed with his video camera and films what feels like every moment in their lives together.

I’m not going to review the film here; the NY Times review and others are available online, and there’s an IMDB site plus the director’s website with plenty of opinions and facts. It gives good Venice, as they say, in that the city gets lots of screen time. Majewski has an eye for details around the city, such as the capitelli (altars) on city streets, or the old men sitting in chairs in front of the communist hangout (both depicted here in this short collection of scenes):

I couldn’t help but wonder if the camera man just filmed whatever he wanted, without getting permission inside museums and churches. There are even shots inside the Basilica San Marco that seem to be during mass!

The IMDB site lacks information about the film, but I wanted to point out this one astonishing detail that most people would miss, unless they sit all the way through the credits (which I did because I was too lazy to get off the couch). At one point, our two lovers, Chris and Claudine, visit a squero to see how a gondola is made. And the boat makers (known as squerioli) are none other than Roberto and Nedis Tramontin! Domenico Tramontin and his sons designed a gondola in 1884 that has become the only truly accepted design ever since, the iconic asymmetrical black boat that rides Venice’s waters. Nedis and Roberto are the present day gondola masters who have carried on the family business. Here’s their website if you want to know more about them, and a picture from the site:



I enjoyed The Garden of Earthly Delights quite a lot. I got sucked into its atmosphere of nostalgia, longing, loss, and eroticism. But it was when I got to the credits and saw that the actual Tramontins were in the film, that I wanted to share this tidbit with you. For gondola lovers, you may need to see this film just for the few minutes with the Tramontins!

Posted in Gondolas, Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bird’s Eye View


Last weekend I finally finished this puzzle.  I had been working on it sporadically for about nine months, sometimes pulled away from it by other projects and tasks, but always coming back. Working on this involved a large dose of insanity and borderline OCD. The 1000 pieces look alarmingly alike in both shape and color, and the picture on the box left off about two inches on all sides. But I was determined to not give up.

As you can probably imagine, having a puzzle sit around for nine months means that it was moved often. You can see that six pieces went missing. I’m surprised it wasn’t more. At one point, I discovered that my cat had taken to sleeping on the puzzle at night. I never caught her at it, but I started to realize there was a a disturbing amount of black hair amongst the puzzle pieces. So then I started covering the puzzle under two large cardboard posters (one alone wasn’t large enough). What pieces the cat kicked off probably got sucked up by the vacuum.

Simone, the puzzle thief

Simone, the puzzle thief

And then there was the time I left my friend Laura alone in my house and came back to find this:


Yes, she disturbed some of my organized piles, but it also made me take it all a little less seriously. It’s too easy to get sucked in to something like this and become obsessed over something that is meant to be fun and relaxing.

One of the best things about this puzzle was recognizing the places I know well. The Hotel Bernardi near Campo SS Apostoli, where I stayed the first time I went alone to Venice (and were I return to visit the owners who have become friends). The Casanova sites, like the Erbaria or Cantina do Spade. Favorite churches like the Miracoli. Palaces where some of the Beautiful Women of Venice lived, such as the Palazzo Loredan Corner of Elena Cornaro Piscopia. Solving Venice puzzles is one more way I live vicariously in Venice when I cannot be there.

But this week I also bought my plane ticket to return to Venice in July.:)

Posted in Venice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Soul and Wit

Giustina Renier Michiel drawing

“An almost general custom in Italy is to deny Mothers the most precious gift, which is their Daughters’ education, which leaves them nothing but the sweet title of Mother” (qtd. in Calvani 10). Venetian author and translator Giustina Renier Michiel penned this lament in her introduction to her translation of three Shakespeare plays. As a matter of fact, Giustina was the first person to translate the Bard into Italian, with the goal of providing her daughters with a morally instructive set of examples. It seems apt to mention her today, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death, as a Venetian connection to the Bard’s life.

Giustina’s  girls—Elena, Chiara, and Cecilia—could learn from the experiences of strong characters who take their fates into their own hands. Marry for love, not custom, like Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello, or direct a kingdom’s destiny, like Lady Macbeth, but learn the disastrous consequences of avarice and superstitious belief. Giustina explained that she translated Othello, Macbeth, and Coriolanus to prepare for her daughters “a reading, which can, whenever possible, give them joy and instruction, contributing to their happiness and moderating their growing passion with examples” (10). Or, as Giustina’s biographer Susan Dalton, points out, “she often evokes the ideals of civility: of modesty, sensibility, reason, and self-discipline” (Dalton, Engendering 84). Much of Giustina’s writing focused on these goals and ideals, fueled by her love for her daughters.


The Michiel Family by Pietro Longhi

Giustina was a modest woman. Though she was born into the noble class, she chose to dress in simple linen or wool gowns, unadorned except for roses in her hair. Her paternal grandfather Paolo Renier had served as next-to-last doge, and her maternal uncle Ludovico Manin served last. Giustina married Marc’Antonio Michiel, and, though it was an arranged marriage, they found happiness together and had three daughters. However, this did not last, and the couple later separated. Giustina created a life for herself, hosting a literary salon and taking on translation work.


Corte Contarini, where Giustina held her literary salon

Giustina’s notes prove that she had to make countless discerning choices in order to create plays that were true to their author’s voice. “Soul and wit are perhaps more essential to the accurate transportation of sentiment and taste from one language to another than the ability to write philosophical works,” Giustina wrote. “A sprightly and animated style covers and even embellishes the faults; whereas a languid and cold one makes the grace itself vanish” (qtd. in Calvani 8). Giustina made editorial choices, such as omitting racist lines against Othello (Calvani 13), and she eliminated stage directions since she translated the plays to be read, not performed (14). Wherever she omitted lines or changed them drastically to match Italian idioms, Giustina provided the literal translation in her notes and explained her choices. “Most of all,” she believed, “it is necessary to strive to make the Authors speak in the language into which they are translated, as they would speak themselves, if they wanted to communicate their ideas in that language” (qtd. in Calvani 8). Giustina was fluent in English, French, and Italian to the point that she could capture the essence of Shakespeare’s dialogue, its “soul and wit.”

Giustina knew that, though translation work was generally deemed acceptable for women to undertake, she still would face criticism from male scholars. Her own early biographer, Vittorio Malamani, accused Giustina of not actually doing the work herself but of taking credit for Melchiore Cesarotti’s work (Calvani 7). Well aware of the prevailing prejudices against women writers, Giustina accepted the advice of Cesarotti, and she quoted previous translators to lend her work credibility. As noted earlier, Giustina chose to translate Othello, Macbeth, and Coriolanus for their educative qualities, both in morals and in emotional insights, particularly on marriage and parent/child relationships. Emotions, she noted wryly, “may be the only topic a woman can discuss without fear of accusations by men” (qtd. in Calvani 9). Calvani also comments that these plays in this order “[offer] to young women the image of a woman’s life, from youth till maturity” (10).

No reviews survive to mark how the translations were received when they were published in 1798, but the fact that they were reprinted in 1801 suggests that they enjoyed a decent popularity. As Alessandra Calvani contends, “to translate means to have authority over the original text and over the translation reader at the same time” (2). In this way, Giustina created work of the same value as other scholars, despite what any misogynist detractors might have said.


Giustina Renier Michiel

Shakespeare pops up in Venice in a number of places: It’s the setting for The Merchant of Venice and Othello, for example. But probably few people know that a Venetian woman was the first to translate this famous writer’s words into Italian. So today, besides celebrating the works of  this amazing playwright, I’m also celebrating the talents of Giustina Renier Michiel.


Posted in A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Venice, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Time to Redefine Beauty”


Coronation of Morosina Morosini Grimani, who gave women a public persona

Check out this new website, which promotes nonfiction books by posting articles about their topics. As NFReads.com says on the site, “Learn something new every week: get weekly updates on interesting articles by nonfiction authors and discover their books.” It offers a wide range of categories, from art to law, sports to spirituality, health to history. Today you can read about some of the Venetian women that I included in my book A Beautiful Woman in Venice. Here’s the article, titled “It’s Time to Redefine Beauty,” and the website; just click on this link:


If you’re an author yourself, I encourage you to participate on the site. Tony Eames, who runs the site, was helpful and easy to work with, and he offers this site for free to both writers and readers. What a wonderful resource for all of us!

Lucrezia Marinella

Venetian author Lucrezia Marinella

Posted in A Beautiful Woman in Venice, Venice, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment