Gondola Stuff: Fridge Ferro


A fridge magnet my friend and travel buddy Laura gave me. It’s holding up her drawing, a photo of my nephew, and a favorite quote.

I’m guessing that you all already know what the ferro symbolizes? Each prong represents one of Venice’s six sestiere, with the opposite side representing Giudecca. The top is shaped like the doge’s hat, with the arch underneath shaped like the Rialto Bridge. But you already knew that.

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Redefining Beauty: Giustina Renier Michiel

How does one go about translating Shakespeare into other languages? His language is so particular to its time and place, and he coined so many new phrases and has such an immense vocabulary.

Yet Giustina Renier Michiel was arguably the first Italian to translate his plays from English into Italian.

In this video, see where she held her literary salon in Venice. I film in the sotoportego where her guests would spill out from the small casino to sit at tables or have their drinks outside.

Here’s an excerpt from my chapter on her, titled “Good Soul and Elevated Genius” from A Beautiful Woman in Venice:

“When Giustina looked at her three daughters in their nursery, she wondered about their futures. What would society expect of them? What rules would they be governed by? Would they be honored more for their intelligence or their beauty? Would they feel the freedom to put down their embroidery and pick up a pen? Elena, Chiara, and Cecilia, her blond angels with their rosy cheeks and high foreheads might now be playing with dolls or braiding each other’s hair. But Giustina wanted to ensure that her daughters would grow up to read the classics—not only Aristotle and Petrarca, but also the Bard, that Englishman William Shakespeare.

“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). 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. Her 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 Coriolanusto 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.”

Giustina received criticism from male scholars, saying that translation wasn’t serious scholarship but could be relegated to women. I go into detail in my chapter to discern the level of care and knowledge it takes to accomplish what she did. Giustina is also much beloved, particularly by Venetians, for her publication of Origine delle feste veneziane (Origins of Venetian Festivals), which records the plethora of unique Venetian celebrations in six volumes. This has become an invaluable resource for historians.

If you’re at the Piazza San Marco, it’s just a short detour to see this site and remember this pioneering translator and writer.


P.s. Why does YouTube always choose the worst thumbnail shots of me? I don’t really look that psycho all the time!

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Venice, My Muse: An Interview with Roger Feuerman

“Signorina Kathleen,

It is I, Casanova, from here in the 18thcentury. And not First Spritz Is Free contributor Roger Feuerman.

He claims he is too exhausted from laboring to finish his Venetian young adult fiction novel and penning a new musical to respond to your blog questions. I am skeptical of this, having translated Homer’s poem The Iliad in less time and with less perspiration.

Nevertheless, he has asked me, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova De Seingalt, to quill a response in his stead.”


Casanova, how has Venice seduced you?

“That is a fiction in itself. Since, from the tip of my distinctive nose down to my monogramed hose, I am the scoundrel who has seduced Venice! Do not let signore Ruggiero infer otherwise.”

What do you never fail to do in Venice?

“I always bow to a lady before climbing out her window.”

What is your Venice soundtrack?

“Pigeons chirping in the Piazza San Marco. Bells ringing out from the Torre dell’Orologio. But mostly the clinking of twice empty prosecco glasses in Campo Santo Stefano.”

Walk or take a boat?

“Gondolas have curves and are dressed elegantly in black. Need I say more?”


Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.

“The Chiesa di San Moise. It is a church close to the casino Il Ridotto. I can gamble at faro, run out and repent, and be back at the playing table in ten minuti.”


The church of San Moise resembles a decorated cake

Which is your favorite Venetian festival and why?

“The Festa del Redentore. Because, appropriately, I, Casanova, get to walk on water!”


Spritz or Bellini?

“Bellini. He was a better painter.”

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

“Introduce me to your girlfriend.”

If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?

“I would have dinner at Poste Vecie at the Rialto market with the one person who, after swallowing a repast beginning with fresh oysters, could regale me with delicious stories of romantic mischief. That person? I would dine with myself!”

Casanova: genius or cad?

“Modesty prevents me from claiming both. But I just saw modesty go out for a stroll on the Riva, so you may claim them for me.”

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

“I would hire an interior decorator for my prison cell. It so lacks charm.”

Doge's Palace

Casanova’s prison cell was under the lead roof, in the white portion of the Doge’s Palace, above the Bridge of Sighs

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

“I would buy Palazzo Malipiero, and declare it a national treasure, as it holds many memories for me of my life as a young adventurer. ”


Which gelato flavor are you?

“The flavor Rogue, I think. It is quite delicious.”

Can you tell us more about the writer Roger Feuerman’s creative pursuits?

“I could, but I shall not make poor use of your time chronicling the curiosities of that scribbler who masquerades as a scribe living in the British colony of New York. Instead, read the writing of a master storyteller. Peruse my autobiography ‘History of My Life’.”

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Venetian Emoji #2

What does this emoji signify?


And no, the photo is not upside down.


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Dear Venice, Wish You Were Here #4


“Many desirable lots unsold.” –Ed Harris

Was Harris a real estate agent? A lackey of Robert Kernodle who had some cash to buy property in Venice?

Again, what is the date? So difficult to determine in these old postcards. But notice that there is no zip code as part of the address. Zip codes went into effect in America July 1, 1963.


This card is  quite a mystery! Besides the intriguing message from Harris to Kernodle (Kernodle!), there is also the photo and place name–see the back of the postcard, bottom left. The Chiesa dei Gesuiti is near the Fondamente Nove, but not facing a canal, and looks like this:


The church in this photo does appear to be the Scalzi next to the present-day train station. The train station, built in the 1860s, replaced the church of Corpus Domini, which was consecrated on June 29, 1394, later known as Santa Lucia. Here’s an old drawing of it:


And here’s the Scalzi, for comparison with the postcard. The “Scalzi” refers to the order of “discalced” Carmelites, or “barefoot” nuns, for whom this church is their seat in the city.


You can see that the train station on the postcard does not look like the current train station, which is curious. The train station was extensively remodeled (rebuilt, really) over a period interrupted by war, from 1936 to be completed in 1952. So does that indicate that this postcard is pre-1936? Here’s the current train station.


So I think that the person who made the postcard didn’t know Venice very well and labeled it wrongly! I hope that Harris and Kernodle (Kernodle!) were better at paying attention to details than whoever made this postcard!

(Photos of the postcards are mine, and the Gesuiti is by my friend Danny (that’s me in the white t-shirt! All others are from Wikipedia.)

Since I posted this blog, I also heard from Adriano, tireless sleuth. He shared the following: 

<<The stamp was a Vittorio Emanuele III, value 25 cents printed from 1929.

The postmark is referring to VIII (8th) year of “Era fascista.”

So the VIII (8th) year was from 28 October 1929 to 27 October 1930; the postcard was sent on Saint Valentine’s day on 14th February 1930 (see 13-14 and #2=February on postmark), but the sender was a man (Edward) and signed with his surname. The postcard was sent to another man (Robert) and the text is a business message. But for a business message the postcard is an unsuitable medium, much too slow, for business a telegram is better… May be a spy story😬?

The church is Scalzi near the station; the bridge is the old one and also the station.>>

And here’s the location of Kernodle’s house in Missouri. It’s a pretty house, no?

I wonder if any Kernodles are living there now? 

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Sharing: Postcards from the Boot


A friend recently introduced me to this website Postcards from the Boot, a paean to Italy and all its foods, colors, sights, and joys. Look for the May 4, 2019, post, also listed under the “Places” category. Carla Gambescia clearly loves Italy and has a knack for capturing that love through photography. Enjoy her photos!

I’ll add a few of my own, taken this summer in Burano. I was getting into textures and colors.


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In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Villa Borghese


The Temple of Aesculapius within the Villa Borghese (Wikipedia image)

The Villa Borghese is one of Rome’s treasures. It’s roughly 198 acres of gardens and contains a number of buildings, art venues, statues, water features, and walking paths. The Spanish Steps lead up to it at one end, and another entrance is at the Piazza del Popolo. The layout, influenced by the English natural style, was designed in the 19th century, so it looks different than what Casanova would have seen. But he writes about walking through these gardens when he visited Rome in 1744.


We entered the gardens along this paved pathway

“I went by myself to the Villa Borghese,” he writes, “where I walked for two hours in desperation.” This was just after Barbaruccia had involved him in her affair and failed elopement, and Casanova had been advised to leave Rome. “I loved Rome,” he continued, “and having started on the high road to fortune, I saw myself an outcast not knowing which way to turn and with all my hopes blighted.” He felt that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing in trying to help the young lovers, but he realized that he never should have become embroiled in the affair as it could only harm his reputation and status. “But at my age and with my small knowledge of what misfortune meant, I could not have a caution which could only be the fruit of long experience,” he concluded.


Adriano points to the Spanish Steps as we prepare to descend them

These gardens offer a lovely place for such unsettled thoughts. Casanova left them, unable to determine a course of action. But I got to stroll these grounds with Adriano Contini that day and imagine young Casanova in turmoil.

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