Venice brought us together. Rita and I met through my blog and developed an online friendship until we met in person last year to attend the Casanova exhibition together last year in San Francisco. Since we live only about 45 minutes apart, we’ve been able to meet up again and again. Now retired, Rita Bottoms was Librarian and Curator of Special Collections at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and worked with many photographers, writers, musicians, publishers, artists, and filmmakers. Her books of particular interest to Venetophiles are Riffs & Ecstasies, Venice with paintings by her husband Tom Bottoms (Cafe Margo 2013); Riffs & Ecstasies: True Stories in Italian & English (Damocle Edizioni, Venezia 2014); and, Venice: Writing Under the Influence, in Italian & English (Damocle Edizioni, Venezia 2016). She contributed a chapter to First Spritz Is Free: Confessions of Venice Addicts, where her chapter riffs on that love affair.
How has Venice seduced you?
I am ensorcelled by her grand waterway, her mirrors and damask covered walls and rooms with golden lighting, her color palette of wine and coral and terra cotta, her stones, her carvings, her tiles and floors, the curved and gathered drapery tende alla veneziana under the Florian and Quadri arches of Piazza San Marco, and by my friends, that gathering of inspirers and encouragers who welcome my wild ideas and with whom I am always home.
What do you never fail to do in Venice?
Rejoice at the first sight of the city perched on the water, spend as much time as possible next to the Grand Canal, walk endlessly, go to Bookshop Damocle, drink many cups of coffee at Caffe del Doge, and eat Spaghetti alla Vongole Veracci and Coda di Rospo at Trattoria alla Madonna.
What is your Venice soundtrack?
Church bells, water lapping, and silent nights.
Walk or take a boat?
Love to do both.
Which church or campo best epitomizes you?
I love the space of l’Erbaria that makes it possible to sit and watch the action alongside the Grand Canal, while enjoying a drink or a meal, or simply stepping into the water. Its proximity to the bells of San Giacomo dell’Orio is a plus.
Spritz or Bellini?
I definitely choose a Campari Spritz as much for that gorgeous red color as for the lovely bitter taste.
What do you always tell your friends to do when they visit the city?
Take the vaporetto both directions on the Grand Canal in daytime and at night.
If you could have dinner with any Venetian, living or dead, who would it be and why? What would dinner be?
I would love to have dinner with the fabulous contemporary art collector, Peggy Guggenheim, in the dining room of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. Her unwavering support of artists made her a favorite of mine. I feel she would welcome Emily Harvey to the table, also a collector and champion of contemporary artists, and who, before her death, established a foundation to bring them to Venice. It would be dellightful to break bread and drink with these two dynamos! I have no doubt that whatever was served for dinner would be divine, followed by delivery to our homes on Peggy’s gondola.
Casanova: genius or cad?
Since he continues to generate interest among scholars and excite imaginations for all these years as the subject of more than one film and a feature of a recent art exhibition that toured major U.S. museums, there must be more to Casanova than his detractors would allow.
What would you do with $30,000 U.S.?
I would purchase many meters of damask cloth from Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua, stay at the Hotel Danieli for at least three nights, and divide the rest between The Emily Harvey Foundation, and Publisher, Pierpaolo Pregnolato, to make a marvelous publication.
If money were no object, which palazzo would you buy?
I would buy the very narrow light red and cream striped Palazetto Tron Memmo, across from vaporetto stop San Silvestro.
Which gelato flavor are you?
Gelato di Limone.
How can readers learn more about you and your creative pursuits?
Rita’s books can be found at City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco; Libreria Pino, San Francisco; Bookshop Santa Cruz; Bookshop Damocle Edizioni, Venezia, and from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.