The Guild of St. George, Ruskin, and Me

Peter Burman, the Director of the Guild of St. George, has been enjoying his copy of Venice Rising at his home in Scotland. In fact, he has written a book review, which you can read here. It was shared this past week in the newsletter that goes out to the Guild of St. George Companions.

Wait, you haven’t heard of the Guild of St. George, you say? Founded in 1871, it’s a group of people, mostly from Great Britain but with members around the world, who have taken up John Ruskin’s cause of trying to make the world a more livable place amidst encroaching industrialism. As the website says, “How can the ideas and writing of a Victorian polymath and social critic become actions that make lives better in the 21st century? In 1860, John Ruskin wrote these visionary and challenging words, ’There is no wealth but life’. In a world which still contains too much injustice and inequality, facing a climate emergency and now (summer 2020) riven with the social, political and economic impact of Covid-19, Ruskin’s words resonate as urgently as ever and can inspire each of us–as individuals, Guild Companions, communities and organisations–to make a difference.”

My own copy of Ruskin’s Stones of Venice

Besides writing the book review, Peter has also been speaking to various groups to inspire them to take up the cause of protecting Venice, a city that was particularly dear to Ruskin’s heart. You may already have your own copy of his Stones of Venice, considered one of the seminal texts about the city’s architecture.

Peter’s talk shares the ideas from two books: If Venice Dies by Salvatore Settis, and Venice Rising. I feel so honored that he has chosen our book as a way to share the stories of Venetians living through the city’s historic flood, pandemic, and over tourism. In the book review shared here, Peter quotes from the Venice Rising and discusses issues Venice faces as well as the optimism and hope for a new future that Venetians are working towards. He also urges his readers to consider supporting the grassroots organizations that are protecting and reimagining the city: We are here Venice, Venice Calls, and No Grandi Navi, which Peter has already met with in order to coordinate support.

I’m honored to know that the stories in Venice Rising have inspired others to protect Venice’s important and unique heritage.

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Venice Rising on the Radio!

Tomorrow, January 23, Radio Venezia will be promoting my book Venice Rising: Aqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth. Tune in from 1:00 – 2:00 pm Venice time–4:00 am in California, so I’ll just be dreaming about it!Here is the streaming site Andrea Rocco will be spinning music, so tune in and dance! Thank you, Rosemary and Graziella, for promoting this event!

“Vi annuncio che domani, sabato 23 , a Radio Venezia, durante la trasmissione condotta dal grande Andrea Ricci… nella fascia dalle 13 alle 14, si parlerà del libro “Venice Rising, Acqua Granda, Pandemic, Rebirth”! Un libro su Venezia alla Radio di Venezia… ci stava proprio!! Anche Radio Venezia ed Andrea Ricci in questo modo danno il loro contributo alla città di Venezia, vi ricordo che gli incassi delle vendite di “Venice Rebirth” sono totalmente devoluti ad associazioni Veneziane che lavorano per il benessere di Venezia! segui #VeniceOneWay ogni sabato e domenica dalle 12:00 alle 15:00 con Andrea Ricci ! In streaming in tutto il mondo, basta cliccare sul link:”

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Big Brother in Venice

It’s nothing new in Venice to learn that someone is watching your moves. The State Inquisition did it for ages, with residents often denouncing their neighbors.

Well, now Venice has the 21st century version, a system that tracks the whereabouts of visitors to the city–where they’re from, where they pause in the street, even how fast they’re moving. This CNN article outlines the details and gives examples of the kind of information they can collect. Or here’s a second, shorter article from Inside Hook that summarizes the program.

Here’s a small example from the CNN article of what they discovered:

“There are 97 people in the area around St Mark’s Square on this Saturday afternoon, according to Bettini — of which only 24 are not Italian.And so far today there have been 955 people in the area, 428 of whom have come from abroad. Of the 527 Italians, only 246 are resident in Venice (if a mobile phone is regularly logged in the city, it is counted as a resident).”

Image from the CNN article

Is this sinister or a necessary step? Will this be a new tool in regulating the number of people who visit the city so that it’s not crushed under the weight of the 30 million (!!!) annual visitors? What do Venetians think of this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please add a comment!

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Venetian Emoji #5

The latest in my series of Venetian emojis: the three-eyed alien. Can you see the resemblance? 

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Announcing the Second Edition!

The square where Casanova and his teenage friends knocked over a stone table in the middle of the night.

Need a little armchair travel? Want to peek into Casanova’s adventurous life?

I’ve reorganized and clarified some material to create a second edition of Seductive Venice: In Casanova’s Footsteps, available now from Amazon (print on demand). That means that you folks not living in the US can now access the book more easily. Use this link, which should get you to the second edition. (If you just search the title, you might still find a used paperback of the first edition–wish I could get Amazon to fix this!)

The second edition is also available now in Italy, published by Supernova Edizioni under the title Casanova’s Venice: A Walking Guide, so if you’re in Venice or other major Italian cities, you should be able to find it there.

Here’s the back cover blurb for you:

Skip the crowded tourist shops of Piazza San Marco. This guide is for lovers, scholars, and adventurers. Whether you do one walking tour or all seven, you are sure to have a memorable experience steeped in history and yet uniquely your own. Learning history has never been so fun or so seductive. Drink a Bellini at a cafe where Casanova spied on his friends. Sneak down back alleys to the house where Casanova lost his virginity to two sisters. Kneel in the church where Casanova passed out while giving a sermon. Discover the secret view of the Grand Canal by the palace where Casanova’s hairdresser worked. Create a little of your own history while being seduced by the lover and his city.

The church where Casanova give his first and last sermons (before passing out).

The following Casanovists helped with the research for this book and have this to say about it:

Marco Leeflang, Casanova scholar, editor for Intermédiaire des Casanovistes, and featured in the film Casanova’s Love Letters.

“Kathy Gonzalez is one of the bright lights in a new generation of Casanova scholars.  Kathy’s book reflects not only original research done by her in Venice but also the learning of other Casanova experts around the world, whom she consulted.”

Ian Kelly, author and actor. Mr. Kelly’s work on Casanova was Sunday Times Biography of the Year when it was published in 2009.

I wish this book had existed when I was living and working in Venice on my biography of Casanova, but anyone wanting to relive 18th century Venice can hardly do better than being taken in hand by Giacomo.”

Tom Vitelli, editor, Intermédiaire des Casanovistes, and author of books and articles about Casanova.

“Kathleen Gonzalez has written the definitive guide to Casanova’s Venice—a work tourists have long sought in vain. You really haven’t seen Venice until you’ve seen it through Casanova’s eyes, as presented so richly in Kathleen’s guide. 

Tony Perrottet, author of The Sinner’s Grand Tour and Napoleon’s Privates, and writer for the Smithsonian Magazine.

“The lack of a guidebook to Casanova sites has long been a glaring gap for literary pilgrims to Venice. Kathleen Gonzalez’s meticulously researched new book is sure to fill it admirably.”

Order your copy here!

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Women Making Glass–Present and Past

More and more women are taking up traditional rowing in Venice, in organizations like Row Venice and as gondoliers. Now more women are also taking up glass blowing, Traditionally, women made beads using a technique called lampwork, or they strung beads, sitting in their homes or outside their doors visiting with other women.

But this article in Apollo magazine describes women who are taking up glass blowing at Venetian furnaces. Agnese Tegon, seen below, is the only woman working at a furnace, according to this article. Though of course women are glass makers around the world, Murano has held to tradition for hundreds of years and rarely welcomed women to the furnaces. The article also discusses the work of women bead makers, their work being featured at Venice Art Week this past Fall.

I’m thrilled that women are taking up this art in Murano. Thanks also to the glassmakers who are opening the doors and inviting women in. Who wouldn’t want to invite fresh ideas and broaden the field?

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In Casanova’s Footsteps: Rome–Momolo’s House, Via Gregoriana 36

In Vol. 12 of History of My Life, Casanova tells us that he is visited by Mariuccia, whom he had met at the house of the Abate Momolo back in 1760, which story is recounted in Vol. 7. It is this story that I will delve into now.

“Momolo” is the name C devised for Giovanni Righetti, originally of Venice. Momolo was a scopatore, whose job it was to sweep Pope Clement’s rooms. (Carlo Rezzonico was originally from Venice as well; he took the name Pope Clement XIII.) Casanova used this pseudonym for Momolo to protect the identity of Mariuccia.

Pope Clement XIII

Casanova had met the Pope at Monte Cavallo and he tells us that “As I left, an elderly Abate approached me, asking me in surprised tones if I was the Casanova who had escaped from the Leads. ‘I am he,'” Casanova replied.

“‘And you do not remember me? I am Momolo, gondolier in those days for the Ca’ Rezzonico'” (Vol. 7, Ch. IX, p. 189).

Casanova was surprised to see this priest before him but soon learned from Momolo that many people dressed in the typical robes of an abate. “I heartily congratulate you,” Casanova replied, and I beg you to excuse me if it makes me laugh.”

Momolo didn’t mind. “Laugh away,” he replied, “for my wife and my daughters laugh too every time they see me dressed as a priest.” He followed this by inviting Casanova to his home behind the Trinità dei Monti.

Momolo lived at Via Gregoriana 36.

Notice that Via Gregoriana lies to the southeast of the Piazza di Spagna.

You can see how close Momolo’s house was to the Trinità dei Monti. The room that Casanova rented to meet with Mariuccia would have been somewhere behind but near the church.

Momolo invited Casanova to dinner, and though C made wry remarks about Momolo’s “ugly” sons and the “smell of poverty,” he accepted the invitation. He even sent his valet Costa to his rooms to return with a Parma ham and 6 bottles of Orvieto wine, which rounded out the dinner of polenta and pork chops.

Momolo invited his neighbor to attend with her daughter, though his own four daughters disparaged them. “They are hungry,” said the father; they shall share the food which Providence sends us” (191). Casanova then remarked, “I see two starvelings come in; a very pretty girl of modest bearing and a sad-looking mother who seemed ashamed of her poverty.” C learned that the daughter was Mariuccia (or, this was his pseudonym for her), and he was soon captivated by her “perfect beauty.”

The conversation turned to the Roman lottery. Mariuccia told C with all seriousness that she would bet on number 27, which he proceeded to do; he sent Momolo himself to stake “forty scudi in notes of hand and … twenty scudi unconditionally on twenty-seven, of which I made a present the the five girls at the table, and twenty scudi on twenty-seven coming out fifth for myself” (191). He claimed to choose “fifth” because Mariuccia was the fifth girl he had seen at the house.

Well, you can probably guess that the improbable came to pass. Twenty-seven came in fifth, and Casanova won a considerable sum. (Translator Trask adds a note about discrepancies in C’s memory, but we can be assured that it was a considerable prize.) However, when Casanova returned to Momolo’s house for dinner, the daughters were all glum and said they had also quarreled with Mariuccia, who was not joining them. “You ungrateful creatures!” Casanova exclaimed. “Consider that day before yesterday she brought you good luck. It was she who gave me the twenty-seven. In short, find a way to bring her here, or I will leave…” (196). He had brought gifts for all, generously sharing his new wealth with them all, but he threatened to take these gifts away if the daughters didn’t fetch Mariuccia and regain their gay spirits.

Mariuccia arrived and pressed C’s hand in gratitude. “Since I could only press her hand, she could reply only by pressing mine in return; but I needed no clearer language to be certain that she loved me,” he declared (196-7). They set a secret meeting time and place, which you can read about in the post about the church at the Trinità dei Monti.

As a side note, translator and editor Willard Trask tells us that in 1763 Righetti’s/Momolo’s daughter married Gaetano Costa, who had been Casanova’s secretary and valet (until making off with a number of C’s belongings) (Vol. 7, Ch. IX, note 12).

(Location images from Google maps and portrait of Pope Clement from Wikipedia.)

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Happy New Year from the Past

Countdown to a new year!

Happy New Year, 2013!

Oh wait, it’s going to be 2021!

But I’m sharing with you photos from my New Year’s in Venice 2021-2013. Hope you’re finding a fun way to ring in a new year and say goodbye to the old. I want to think that 2021 will be better than 2020, but I’m also looking for silver linings. In 2020, I got married, and I got to spend way more time at home exercising and having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my beloved RJ. I published the anthology Venice Rising. I found a greater gratitude for all I have.

But for 2021: The US will have a new president! And the vaccine is coming.

So let’s drink that ginormous Bellini, toss some balloons around the living room, make some noise, kiss something, and toast to the end of 2020.

The Bangladeshi guys I danced with to “Chanmak Challo!”

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Greetings from Guggenheim!

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice sends you holiday greetings!

This video is a fun stroll through the rooms of the Palazzo dei Leoni, with quick glimpses of Kandinskys, Calders, Chagalls, de Koonings, Dalís, Duchamps, Klees, Magrittes, Modiglianis, Ernsts, and my personal favorites, Giacomettis, Kiefer, and Goldsworthys. (Okay, there are LOTS more, but you get the idea.) Go to the website, where you can see all the artists in the collection and browse online.

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“Just-In-Times” for Christmas

image from the St. Justin’s website

My mom is a member of St. Justin Parish in Santa Clara, California. Her Ladies Guild group has just posted these book reviews of Venice Rising in their monthly newsletter, the”Just-in-Times.” What great reviews!

“Hi Ladies,

I just finished the book Venice Rising and want to share a few thoughts. This is a book filled with hope, resilience, optimism, it is a compilation of 31 individual stories of a people who lived through the ‘Aqua Granda’ in November 2019 and then stepped in the path of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Acqua Alta – high water – in Fall, generally November, the waters rise in Venice, but in the Fall of 2019 the waters rose beyond what very few have ever seen. Clean-up began immediately and then early 2020 the pandemic reared its ugly head. These are stories of a people whose buoyancy, positive outlook, and confidence are helping them through these times. In this book we can relate in some way to the Venetians as we all are going through this pandemic together. Thanks to Kathy Gonzalez for these stories she brings to us. I believe you will enjoy this book.”

“Hello Ladies,

To add to the comments above, I found the book to be very easyreading and the letters from the Venetians so interesting. I liked that the book included biographies and pictures of the letter writers. You can tell that the Venetians were a community that looked out for each other. They loved their city and moved forward with hope and determination. Even through the devastation, they appreciated the quiet beauty of Venice without the tourists.

I have never been to Venice but have given the book to three of my Italian friends. Those who grew up in homes where the Italian language were spoken enjoyed the letters in the book that were left in Italian. I plan to give more of the books for Christmas gifts as well.”

The advertising apparently works: Mom sold three copies over the weekend!

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