Venetophile or Venetianist?

I’ve started reading The War of the Fists by Robert C. Davis about the battles that Venetians used to wage atop their bridges. The city divided into factions–the Castellani and the Nicolotti, with subgroups within those. Originally, fights, bullbaiting, religious ceremonies, festivals, and such took place in the campo–the field–behind the palaces. A campo was an empty dirt or grass space that was kind of unused most of the time; it was only later that it became the heart of each parish. Then as the bridges grew taller and more rounded to accommodate the gondola with its felze, fighters realized that there was an advantage to fighting on top of them. They could stand above the crowd to taunt their opponent and to watch for the police when they were coming. Also, there was a clear winner to each fight because the loser got dumped into the canal. Bridges generally had no railings then. An interesting note: Jacopo Barbaro’s astonishing 1500 map of Venice (a woodcut made in reverse so it can print properly) shows the city as it was transforming from flat wooden bridges to rounded stone bridges.

Davis refers to Venetian historians (and others who love and study Venice) as Venetianists. He describes them as having a “persistent reverence” for their “chosen field.” Judith Martin, author of No Vulgar Hotel and also known as Miss Manners, refers to herself and her fellow Venice-lovers as Venetophiles. I love the mashup of “phil” meaning “to love” with the idea of Venice, though she mashes it onto “Veneto,” which refers to the whole region that includes places like Padua and Verona. Not that there’s anything wrong with those cities–they’re lovely–but I guess my real love is Venice herself. It’s like being in love with, say, Marco, and then being told that you also have to love his cousin Franco. Maybe Franco’s just not as cute.

So what am I? Venetophile or Venetianist? Or some other animal? Any suggestions for new terms to describe this breed?

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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5 Responses to Venetophile or Venetianist?

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    Such wonderful details. I am amazed (but not surprised) at how immersed you are in this lovely subject. (and I will get to the preface today).

  2. If I had a cousin named Franco I certainly wouldn’t even suggest having to love him as well – even if he did live in Venice… Opps, this isn’t a private conversation?

    Until your post Kathy, I’ve only heard Venetophile as the title for what we are. God forbid that a controversy over a title should bring regional pride to the top of some Venetian bridge for assuaging but precision in titles should be strived for. Besides, Verona’s passions are already well documented around balconies!

    So what title would I suggest, is a wonderful question…

    Veneziano is my preferred title but even with my Father being born there, my Northern Californian (…precision…) upbringing makes this seems a bit pretentious.

    With Venetian historic dominance of the seas and trade around the Balkan Peninsula, the blending of Latin and Greek into Venetophile might seem correct but it makes me suck my teeth… I’ll leave it at that, so on my next visit to La Serenissima I will be able to serenely cross “il ponte dei greci.”

    In a pinch, the fully latin, though anglicanized, Venetianist, might cross my lips when asked how I would identify myself. But trying to balance my passion, pride and pretention, I feel most comfortable wearing the title Venezianista on any bridge, anywhere!

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