Last year I got to meet a unique Venetian character: Fiora Gandolfi Herrera. Now in her seventies, Fiora has lived an international life, was married to a soccer star, but now lives in her Venetian palace. She is an artist in many ways–a sculptor, a clothing designer, a writer, and on and on. Her house is like a museum, filled with paintings, colorful crockery, lush fabrics from around the world, books on every surface. Here’s her kitchen table, where she served us a fruit macedonia:
Fiora has been written about by numerous people. Probably the best known to Americans would be John Berendt, who wrote City of Falling Angels about Venice. He was captivated by Fiora and wrote an essay about their friendship. I’m not sure where it’s published, but she showed it to me (on her computer) when I visited her last summer.
Fiora is also a prolific author. So far the only book I have by her is Venice Reflects, which pairs photos of water reflections in Venice with fabrics or other patterns in the city. It marries Fiora’s passion for her city and for fabric design. Speaking of fabric, her “phone book” is a white cloth chair where she writes down important numbers.
Here’s her secret garret room:
I got involved with Fiora when she showed up at my bookstore event in Venice last February. She is working with another artist, Manuel Carrion, to place plaques on Venetian houses related to Casanova. She graciously invited the two of us to her house last summer, where I got to know her better. She was picking my brain for American slang terms for “lazy.” She had “couch potato” and 5 or 6 others, but I was able to add a few new ones to her collection.
She’s a delight.
If you want a visual of her, here she is on YouTube discussing WE: