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?