In Memoriam–The Steaming Lady

176 years ago today, Marina Querini Benzon died. She is the subject of the famous song “La Biondina in Gondoleta” about a languorous blond with her lover, floating down the canals. She was quite a liberated woman for the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century. She witnessed the fall of the Venetian Republic and Venice’s takeover by the French and then Austrians. But she still ran a literary salon at her palace, entertaining her guests with refreshments that weren’t always so fresh, plus music and conversation. Her most famous guest and good friend: Lord Byron.

But I have a favorite story about Marina. As she grew older, she would have her gondolier take her to visit friends at their palaces. The gondoliers developed a nickname for her. “Xe qua el fumeto!” “Here comes the steaming lady!” they said. She kept a slice of hot polenta hidden in her bosom, and the steam escaped. She’d pull out the polenta for a little nibble now and then.

Marina Benzon

The original portrait of her was apparently lost, but this copy gives you a sense of what she looked like. Minus the polenta.  (from the website

I’ll have a whole chapter on her in my forthcoming book, A Beautiful Woman in Venice, due out by summer.

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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2 Responses to In Memoriam–The Steaming Lady

  1. Nancy Schwalen says:

    I am certainly having a hard time picturing how she’ story polenta inner bosom without messing up her clothes.

  2. From the descriptions I’ve read, it was a sizable bosom!

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