Better Than 20 Years Ago


IMG_0194While in Venice this summer, I inadvertently ran into an old friend, Diego. He is a gondolier who I met in 1997 when I was researching and writing my book Free Gondola Ride about Venice’s gondoliers. On the same night that I saw the heat lightning in Piazza San Marco, I wandered on to Campo San Moise, where the gondoliers ply the canal. It was quite late, and rather quiet, so when one gondolier called out to another, “Hey, Diego!” my ears perked up. Could it be the Diego I knew? I had seen him only once since I had published my book.

I peeked into the casotto, the little boathouse where they store their personal items, and sure enough, I found Diego. I didn’t even have time to ask, “Mi ricordi?” when he said, “Kathy! Have you written any more books?”

We chatted for over an hour about family, writing, social media, Venice, gondoliers we know. He even gave me some leads for my research into glassmakers in Murano. “You go to the church and ask for my friend there. He knows all the little stories about Murano,” Diego said. He also mentioned a historian, whose books I’ve consulted in the past; he and Diego went to school together.

Diego apprised me. “You look better than you did twenty years ago,” he said.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said. But I could say the same about him. He showed me pictures of his beautiful family, while I showed him a photo of my partner RJ.

“But he is in a rock band?” Diego asked, seeing RJ’s long hair.

Diego informed me that an article I had published in my local newspaper in, I think, 2004, was brought to Venice by a tourist, and then somehow the local Venetian newspaper got ahold of it. They translated it into Italian, and it was reprinted in another local paper as well. Without my permission. “I guess after more than ten years it’s too late to sue for copyright infringement,” I lamented. Another friend said I should be flattered that they liked my writing.

Here’s Diego in 1997 when I first met him.

As we chatted, a couple other gondoliers came by to say hello. “She is the one who wrote Free Gondola Ride, you remember?” Diego asked them.

One guy looked familiar, though he said he didn’t remember me. As he walked away, I said to Diego, “He’s the guy in the picture kissing me, right?”

“Yes! You are right!” he replied. Here’s that infamous picture.


The guy smiling in the background is Dino, who I got to know later, and whose painting adorns the cover of my book. By total coincidence, Dino was my very first gondolier in Venice, giving me and my students a ride in his boat when I was there in 1996.

Here’s the book cover, featuring Dino’s painting “Rowing Lesson.”


I’ve found that one of the most satisfying things about writing is the people I get to know. This was another lovely example.

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
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8 Responses to Better Than 20 Years Ago

  1. How wonderful! It does seem like yesterday when you wrote that book and we were in Venice not long after looking for your friend Stephan (was that his name/spelling?) to take Mary, Laura, Will and me on a gondola ride. It is my favorite photo of Mary in a gondola on the Grand Canal. I can’t wait to be back in 27 days…not that I’m counting. Any suggestions of who I should look for to take my traveling lady friends and Linda on their first gondola rides?

    • Stefano is still working the Santa Sofia traghetto area, as are Max, Giannino, and Bebo. I think you’re staying in that area, right? Or if you’re near San Marco/Danieli gondola station, you can ask for Paolo (who used to work at S Sofia) or Enrico. At S Marco/Piazetta you can ask for Franco, and of course at S Moise, ask for Diego. I’ve stayed in touch with all of them (and a few others). What great guys!
      And that’s my favorite photo of Mary too. I still have it on my mirror so I see her every day.

  2. Great story Kathleen!

  3. I’m planning a trip to Venice and Croatia this fall and have been devouring your articles. I’ve lived in Europe but somehow never been to Venice. Looking forward to the trip! Check out our California wine country blog at and follow us if you like what you see.

  4. Nancy Schwalen says:

    I remember Free Gondola Ride. I still have it. It is great you are still connected to some of those gondoliers.

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