In most cities the ospeàl is not a place you want to visit. But if you are in need of medical attention you should go ae porte del ospeàl where you will be treated as an emergency by the doctors.
There are 139 ciese in Venice, in fact the city started with the foundation of one. Early Venice consisted of a number of ciese (singular ciesa) each with a field in front of them and houses around the field. What am I talking about? Churches of course. Ciesa (also sometimes written cexa, ciesa, ciexa and pronounced che-ay-sa) is the Venetian word for church. Unlike the Italian, chiesa, it starts with a soft ‘ch’ sound.
For lovers of Venice September 5 2018 is a date to look forward to and one that you don’t have to travel to Venice to enjoy. It sees the publication of Bella Figura Publications’ latest volume: Dream of Venice in Black and White.
Since 2014, Bella Figura’s founder JoAnn Locktov has been indulging the appetite of Venetophiles everywhere with her high-quality picture books, Dream of Venice and Dream of Venice Architecture, which will now form a trinity with Dream of Venice in Black and White.
The photographs in the first Dream of Venice come with delicious sides of anecdotes about Venice from such luminaries as Woody Allen, Erica Jong, and director Nicholas Roeg of Don’t Look Now fame. The latest volume has been stripped of words, just as the photographs have been stripped of colour, save for an introduction by Venetian writer Tiziano Scarpa.
Venice is a city where one overdoses on colour from the unbelievable turquoise of the canals in the eastern side of the city, to the terracotta rooftops marking the shape of the Venice from the air. Photographing it in black and white forces the reader into a different way of looking at Venice anticipated by Scarpa’s different way of looking at Venice and her people in his brilliant, if occasionally fanciful, introduction.
Taking away Venice’s colour emphasizes the fragility, but also the timelessness of the city, which are two themes many of the photographs explore. We see Venice as she appears for a few days each year in the winter, when as Scarpa says, ‘the sky… [is] … the same color as the flagstones.’ In Dream of Venice in Black and White, Venice is trapped in an eternal winter. But this is an apt metaphor for the much-vaunted decline of Venice even if it has been a very long winter.
The depopulation of the historic centre of Venice may only recently turned exponential, but it started in the seventeenth century. By the eighteenth century, Venice started taking on many of the characteristics that we now associate with theme parks and was to some extent a prototype Las Vegas. When the Republic fell in 1797 Venice lost its original purpose and began its transformation into a white-elephant city. The title of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice resonated well in the nineteenth century as it was one step away from Death of Venice.
The photographs in this book will break your heart with their beauty coupled with the realization that, if Scarpa’s introduction is correct, the Venetians and their way of life depicted here will soon disappear. Even ugly realities are transformed and transfigured, such as the arresting image of ‘The Old Man in Via Garibaldi’ by Alain Harmon. At least two of the photographs show images that must be on all tourists mobile phones, the view through grille of the Bridge of Sighs, and the basilica of Santa Maria della Salute as viewed from the Accademia Bridge, but again they are made unfamiliar by the lack of colour.
All the details known to residents of the city are highlighted in the book. Seagulls, dogs, nuns, the contrast between young and old, and walking. Walking for Venetians takes on a new significance since it is the primary mode of transport around the city. Even if you take the vaporetto or have your own boat, every journey requires a surprising amount of walking.
My favourite photograph in the book entitled is entitled ‘La Serenissima’ (an adjective that was coined to describe the Venetian Republic but which has in recent years come to refer to the city). An old woman, in a winter coat reminiscent of the robes worn by renaissance Venetian patricians, walks along the fondamenta on the Giudecca. For me, she is the young woman that renaissance and baroque painters used to symbolize Venice grown old and wandering the streets, the ghost of past glories.
Once again, JoAnn Locktov has created a masterpiece that you will not be able to put down. You’ll be drawn into the book’s point of view, each photograph a meditation on Venice past, present, and future. And if this is not reason enough to buy it, like all of Bella Figura Publications’ books, a proportion of the proceeds go to support Venice, this time in the form of the IKONA photo gallery. But to find out more about that, you’ll have to buy the book and did I tell you that you can from September 5?
DISCLAIMER: Bella Figura Productions supplied me with a free digital copy of Dream of Venice in Black and White in return for an honest review.
When one thinks of birds and Venice, the pigeons of the Piazza San Marco are probably the first to spring to mind. However, for Venetians, the birds that really affect daily life are the cocàli—aka seagulls.
Not surprisingly for a city placed right next to the sea, Venice has an awful lot of seagulls and when you live in Venice they affect many aspects of your day, but one more than others.
In Venice, the domestic refuse collection system works like this. Every morning, except Sundays, you need to put your rubbish (scoassa) in the street, outside your front door, between 08.00am and 08.30am. It will then be collected by the local authorities. There are different days for different recyclable materials, but general rubbish can be put out every day—except Sundays (see below). If you don’t close the your rubbish bags properly, you will find that they have been attacked by the cocàli and that the left-overs of last night’s dinner are all over the street, turning the calle into a massive scoassèra (rubbish dump).
This is so common that Carlo and Giorgio, a pair of popular Venetian comedians, even wrote a song (Scoasse) to warn residents of the dangers of not bagging your rubbish properly.
The refrain is: ‘A domenega mattina Signor Rossi, de Venessia, un sacheto in fondamenta buttò.'(On Sunday morning, Mr Rossi, from Venice, dumped a bag of rubbish on the quay.) The song goes on to tell how an old lady (una vecia) gets injured after a cat (gato), rat (pantegàna), and of course a cocàl attack the rubbish bag.
The cocàli can be enormous. I’ve often seen tourists, eating sandwiches in the street, get attacked by seagulls determined to have a share. Or maybe, since its illegal to eat street food in the precincts of the Piazza San Marco, they were employed by the local council to confiscate the sandwiches. Who knows?
According to tradition, the first Doge of Venice was a man called Paoluccio (or Paolo Lucio) Anafesto. Venice at that time was part of the Byzantine Empire, ruled by the Emperor Phillipikos Bardanes, and was administered by a tribune appointed annually. This was a dangerous time for the region. It was constantly under attack by the lombards, people from outside the Empire who had already settled in northern-Italy and sought to expand further. The system of annual tribunes produced weak leadership at a time when a strong leader was necessary.
The Patriarch of Grado, up the coast from Venice, in the direction of modern Slovenia, decided to call a conference in the nearby town of Eraclea, to elect a dux (leader) for life to provide the leadership the area was lacking. Paoluccio, a well-respected native of Eraclea, was elected. The title Doge derives from this original latin title of dux.
It’s unclear whether Dux Paoluccio was truly independent (as later Venetians insisted he was) or under the command of the Exarch of Ravenna, the most important Imperial official in northern-Italy.
Paoluccio was listed as the first doge throughout the time of the Venetian Republic, however, in recent years historians have argued about whether he really existed. There have been attempts to conflate him with other contemporary characters, such as Exarch Paul of Ravenna and the Duke of Treviso, who was actually one of the lombard invaders. There is also an argument as to his true dates.
Tradition however, maintains that he was Doge for twenty years from 697, although it cannot agree over how he died. Some cite old age, and some cite a rebellion that led to the installation of his successor, Marcello Tegalliano.
When, on the 27th August 1576, the ancient Venetian artist Tiziano Veccellio—known in English as Titian—breathed his last, his fellow countrymen would have mourned him more deeply. However, he was just one of an estimated 50,000 Venetians who died of a virulent plague between 1575 and 1577, about one third of the city’s population and more than the current number of people resident in Venice.