Until the last minute, it wasn’t sure at all if the ponte votivo – the votive bridge, built for the Venetians to reach their Basilica every year on 21 November, would be ready and waiting for the Venetians in 2019: Venice had suffered three devastating floods within a week, the first reaching level 187 cm, while the last hit the city only on Sunday, 17 November. Continue reading “Grateful for Venice.”
Bad weather causes floods (acqua alta) in Venice during November every year, Venetians have learnt to live with it. We did had an uncanny feeling about last night, but it was a surprise when the sirens sounded four times, annoucing acqua granda > 170 cm.
People rushed and tried to save as many belongings as they could from the first floor of their homes and shops. At 10:50 pm, the high tide reached level 187 cm at Punta della Dogana, and obviously more in some areas of Venice and the Lagoon: Up to 197 cm, as my uncle says. If that’s the case, this flooding is worse than in 1966.
Speaking with people who witnessed the acqua granda of 1966, they stressed how surprising the flooding of 12 November came. The electricity and phone lines at the office predicting the sea levels (Previsioni maree) broke down, so updates still arrive at irregular intervals.
The water in the Piazza never went down below 120 cm for the past 36 hours, another sign that the maree (tides) have become confused.
So what happened in Venice last night and today? This time, it’s a dire combination of libeccio (southwesterly wind, causing the rivers discharching into the Lagoon to swell), scirocco (southerly wind, pressing sea water into the Lagoon), and even bora (northerly wind, which feels icy cold and blows so strong that vaporetti were destroyed and the waves became pure disaster). Storms like these happen more often as the climate changes and also caused heavy rain in other parts of Italy and in Dalmatia.
When storms like these hit a Lagoon weakened by deep water canals, bringing the floods directly into the city (direttissima), Venice is struck by disaster. At the same time, the Lagoon soil and some islands are slowly sinking (due to subsidenza): Along the quays fortified by concrete and in the area around the inlets where the Mose barrier is installed, the ground sinks up to 3 cm per year!
The crypt and nartex of the Basilica were flooded and all night long, people were working to empty it from the salt water with buckets. For now, we can’t say what will happen: Salt water attacks the facades. It climbs up the walls and penetrates inside. Its effects can’t be seen immediately when still wet but in 1-2 weeks, we will notice the damage: more porous bricks, white lacings and a rotten smell all over.
Lina witnessed both incidents, 1966 and 2019. What makes me thougtful is that she says that 2019 WAS worse: 53 years ago, Venice was so much stronger and fitter to survive.
Today like in 1966, Venice was saved from her worst fate, being washed away by an infuriated sea, by the stone barriers called Murazzi, built on Pellestrina between 1714 and 1768 to counter the rising sea levels after the end of the Little Ice Age.
The murazzi are huge stone barriers raising and shielding Pellestrina from the open sea: Inaugurated in 1767, they were built to shield Venice for the next 500 years (or so the engineers of the Republic of Venice envisaged). They are the only protection Venice has, to this day. These barriers work and have saved Venice from being TOTALLY SUBMERGED, today and in 1966.
How can you help Venice? We’re going to update this post regularly, and share addresses below:
While you could start your day like I do on weekends, with a cup of bergamot and calendula tea at Serra dei Giardini, there are many specialties you shouldn’t miss in the pastry stores! This is how Venice really TASTES. So let’s take a look where you could go and enjoy seasonal breakfast treats!Continue reading “Four Beautiful Cafes in Venice”
The market is getting so colorful, and all the ingredients for the famous Venetian soul food dishes are now in season! This post shows you what the market has to offer, a few days before Halloween and the beginning of the Agricultural Year in the Veneto, on 1 November.
The soul food soups are back at the Rialto Market, and the breezy October weather is their perfect background: Finally, cool enough to taste them: Le creme = le vellutate, velvet cream soups mentioned on the “menu” above: Crema di funghi means fresh mushroom cream soup, crema di zucca is THE favorite soup of the Halloween week – squash cream soup, of course! And crema di fagioli is a creamy soup made from white fagioli di Lamon beans. This soup is one of my favorites, flavored with chili, olive oil, white pepper and rosemary.Continue reading “The Rialto Market in October”
Perhaps you have time to bake a Venetian cake this weekend? Adapted to the season, and alleviating any symptoms of cold weather we might be suffering right now. We have a favorite family recipe, based on a historical one, popular in the 13th century Venice. Yes, that’s the time when Marco Polo’s family was living here ..
This recipe, like all historical ones, has got to do with colors, which make for surprising effects: food that is uplifting, fights migraines, and may even prevent other disorders of autumn, like colds and a weak immune system. [wprm-recipe-jump]
Our recipe is for a simple cake, made with ingredients you can find RIGHT NOW in the Venetian countryside, il Veneziano and the area surrounding the Lagoon, called L’Estuario (Estuary). If you take a closer look, you can see pomegranates everywhere in Venice now in fall. Many Venetian gardens have at least one pomegranate tree, and they also grow wild in the Lagoon. You can make them out when you walk along the wild gardens on the path leading from the vaporetto stop (imbarcadero) to the central area of Torcello, towards the churches and Locanda Cipriani.
The strengths of Venetian historical recipes are part of a forgotten, comprehensive concept, which includes the right amount of seasonal colors into food. For example, the red color in the recipe reflects the season, while other ingredients make up for colors this season is missing in nature. And yes, this is closely related to Ayurvedic cooking, of which the merchants of Venice were VERY WELL aware. Venetian spice masters initially took up recipes from Asia and the Levant, but soon adapted them to European taste, and what ingredients were available in Europe. And they created spice mixtures, not only for flavor, but to obtain the desired health effects.
Historical recipes always include local fruit as well. In this case, it’s the pomegranates growing everywhere in the Lagoon. Drinking one glass of pomegranate juice, freshly prepared, is the best way to prevent autumn colds, or recover from them more quickly, according to ancient manuscripts found in Venetian monasteries (San Francesco della Vigna, or San Zanipolo, a monastery that was closed, just like San Zaccaria).
In the past, Venetians just loved the pomegranate taste: they used to drink mulled wine flavored with warm pomegranate syrup, or apple and pear juice, during Christmas. Now, that’s a recipe we’ll taste later, in December 🙂
In the past, nourishing cakes like this one were offered during the Festa della Salute, accompanied by dosa calda – a warming drink made from spices and figs, offered to the pilgrims on Campo della Salute, exactly in the place where in our times you can buy the candles. Dosa Calda was a staple drink, a thick warm broth, or sweet drink, followed by the castradina dish (smoked mutton with cabbage and spices, which you can still eat in Venice in the week before and after la Festa della Salute). And there used to be pomegranate cakes as well, whose recipe you can find below.
Ingredients that go into this recipe are syrups and juices made from fruit ripe in autumn, nut flours, and warming spice mixtures. Those spices make all the difference, by the way. Honey would be used invariably, as Venetians were experts in making honey, preferably from Lagoon and citrus blossoms. And there might just be a hint of home-made liquors to further enrich these uplifting, nourishing soul food recipes.
This is the tool box you need to cook Venetian soul food and bake spice cakes, like Venetian bakeries and families have done for centuries.
Each family has a favorite autumn cake, a festive treat eaten in November to celebrate harvest time and the feasts: All Saints Day, San Martin, and Festa della Salute. Our cake comes fIavored with grappa, a “naked cake” covered with nothing but a red-golden frosting made from grappa, cinnamon, apple and / or pomegranate juice.
Torta mandorle e grappa con glassa al melograno: Almond-grappa cake with pomegranate icing
Mood stabilizing, a natural and sweet remedy against autumn disorders, while at the same time, enhancing your immune system. We have included a gluten-free variant in the Recipe notes below.
- 90 gr almond flour
- 90 gr wheat flour (GLUTEN FREE: Farina di ceci – chick pea flour)
- 50 gr brown cane sugar
- 7 tablespoons bergamot honey (or any citrus honey)
- 50 gr butter
- 3 teaspoons spice mixture (caccia-caigo): cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, dried rose petals
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoons grappa
- 50 ml milk (or sweet cream in case you have cold)
- Mix the flours with two teaspoons baking powder. In a second bowl, create a smooth paste consisting of 50 gr sugar, 50 gr butter, honey, spice mixture, and one egg. Add your flour mix to this paste, and carefully stir in 50 ml milk and the grappa.
- Pour the cake mixture into a round cake form and bake for approx. 25 minutes (160 degrees Celsius,) or until golden brown – you can see the right color in the image).
- Wait for approx. ten minutes before you decorate your cake with a frosting made from 4 tablespoons citrus honey, 5 tablespoons sugar, and the pomegranate juice.
- Substitute wheat flour with chick pea flour. You could also use almond flour ONLY, which would be a very luxurious variant of the cake. In that case, you might need some 2-3 tablespoons additional honey.
- Substitute the egg with 3 tablespoons honey.
- Substitute butter with margarine.
- Substitute milk with almond milk.
- You could also substitute the grappa with almond milk and/or organic apple juice.
- The gluten-free variant requires a careful mix of spices: Create a mixture of 1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon, 1 flat tablespoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon white or black (ground) pepper. You could also add 1-2 dried rose petals, or a few drops of rose essence to enhance the flavor of the spices.
PS: Most historical Venetian recipes were gluten free in the first place, or can be easily adapted. So they would be very USEFUL in our times.
Want to know more about Venetian heritage, and historical recipes? This week, until 20 November 2018, we are offering a give-away on the occasion of the upcoming Festa della Salute: You can win one access to our new online course: four modules plus little gifts, dedicated to rediscovering Venetian heritage, and ideas on how to benefit from it today. Click here to enter the give-away, and here to read more about La Festa della Salute!
The two weeks before and after November 1 are always thoughtful here in Venice: It’s the time when severe flooding occurs, more often than in other months. A severe episode of excessive flooding (acqua granda) happened on 28-30 October 2018. In this article, we explore why this acqua alta turned out so severe, and what it had in common with the devastating floods of 4 November 1966.
Did you know? The engineers of the Republic of Venice set up the Tenets of the Healthy Lagoon, laid down in the promissio ducale of Doge Pietro Lando in 1545.
The short-term effects of any acqua alta are called “nuisance”. Cleaning up as best as you can comes first: You swipe and disinfect the floors and the walls! and you open the doors and windows hoping for ventilation and the sun to dry up wet patches in your home. You even switch on the heating to accelerate the dry-up process, even though you know you’re wasting money. This layer of filth and mud that acqua alta leaves behind in our homes IS ALWAYS a nuisance, reminding us of what happened even months and years afterwards, as it leaves stains and rims on the walls and floor.
Acqua alta leaves its marks and crumbles the facades of Venice! We must bear in mind how acqua alta affects the chances of Venice surviving in the FUTURE, in the mid-term (<10 years) and long-term (>10 years). Not only severe acqua alta like in October 2018 when the water level climbed to approx. 156 cm, but also minor “routine” episodes weaken the buildings.
Acqua alta determines whether Venice can physically survive, as salt water attacks the buildings, making them porous and crumble. In my thesis, Ecologia e Urbanizzazione della Laguna di Venezia, I covered longevity issues and the measures the engineers of the Republic took: They have accumulated an immense wealth of know-how on how to steward the Lagoon. In my opinion, this forgotten voice should be heard when decisions are taken today.
Was the Lagoon flooded regularly in the past?
Yes. High tides (acqua alta < 150 cm, acqua granda > 150 cm) occurred from the beginning, and the causes are the same as today. Once every 50 – 100 years, the tides simply stop working and the Lagoon remains flooded for several days, looking like an immense lake! It happened on 4 November 1966, and it happened to a lesser degree on 29 October 2018.
How did Venetians keep the Lagoon alive in the past?
I distilled Five Tenants of Lagoon Stewardship from documents published by the engineers during the times of the Republic (421-1797). By 1545, the Lagoon was well on its way of turning into an uninhabitable swamp: The engineers of the past had to fight the RIVERS, not the sea!
Those rivers discharging their waters and sediments into the Lagoon: Brenta, Sile, and Piave in particular. The engineers succeeded in turning the situation around in 1610, when the last of the five dams (Taglio del Novissimo), built to keep out the sediments, was doing its work.
The Savi alle Acque, the Authority entrusted with managing the Lagoon, were well aware that the focus of Lagoon stewardship had to be shifted: They had saved Venice, but without the sediments building natural barriers, the Lagoon was fast becoming an arm of the sea.
This is why the Savi alle Acque observed five tenets to ensure a balanced and healthy Lagoon, minimizing the risk of excessive high tides:
- Laguna sana e intatta: Only a healthy Lagoon guarantees the survival of Venice and her island communities (Le Venetiae). Managing the tides and river sediments prudently is done by building dams and safeguarding the barene (marshlands).
- Spartiacque: By 1610, the Lagoon was divided into two areas, Laguna viva and Laguna morta (morta means less exposed to salt water): Just north of Venice, a watershed divides the salt water areas from the fresh water zones in the north: There are two Lagoons to be managed properly!
- Laguna Viva: South of Venice, Laguna Viva is located, nourished by the currents arriving from the sea through the bocche di porto (inlets). Laguna viva must be prevented from turning into an arm of the sea, as sediments accumulate sideways of the river mouths.
- Laguna Morta. North of Venice, Laguna Morta is located, whose salinity levels are low and even zero at the river mouths. Laguna morta must be prevented from turning into a swamp, as river sediments accumulate in front of the river mouths.
- Managing the tide cycles. The currents nourished by the tides remove and accumulate sediments. Sediments need at least several decades to build up, but invariably reduce the ideal depth of the Lagoon (around 100 cm). Tide cycles need space to do their work: Emergency areas capable of soaking up excessive tides are needed. For this reason, the marshlands in the Lagoon called barene are so important as they act as sponge soaking up excessive water. At least half the Lagoon surface should consist of barene. Currently, they make up 18 percent.
- Emergencies are defined as adverse meteorological conditions (rain, scirocco winds) happening during full or new moon.
Just a short overview on how Lagoon stewardship was successful until 1797 (end of the Republic), and what happened afterwards.
400 – 1610: Measures taken to prevent the Lagoon from turning into a swamp: I Tagli
- Assetto stabile (Lagoon Master Plan): Separating sea and fresh water currents and defining the watershed by means of tagli (dams). The first dam was built in 1324, stretching from Campalto to Resta d’Aglio, corresponding to today’s Canale dei Petroli. These dams caused floods on the shores and they were classified as flooding zones. Only military fortifications and small villages were located there.
- Ponte de l’Lovo: In 1509, Ponte de l’Lovo was removed, a long island formed from river sediments which almost reached Venice.
- Escavazioni: From 1530, canals in Venice were thoroughly cleaned once every ten years.
- Tagli: The dams Taglio del Re and Taglio di Cavazuccherina were finished in 1543, shifting the rivers out of the Lagoon. This is how Torcello and the northern Lagoon islands were saved from turning into a swamp by the sediments of the Sile river.
1430 – 1797: Measures taken to prevent the Lagoon from turning into an arm of the sea: Fortificando le bocche di porto e le isole
- Bocche di porto: Two of the five bocche di porto (inlets) were closed. Over-sized merchant cogs and the Venetian armada had to anchor OUTSIDE the Lagoon, along Scanno della Piscotta, a sandbank off the Lido: This “floating port” was created when the former port at Torcello turned into a swamp. The smaller trabaccolo boats were allowed into the Lagoon and anchor along Riva degli Schiavoni.
- Fondamente fortificate in città: Doge Andrea Gritti (1523 – 1538) focused on overhauling the quays and used Istrian stone to fortify them.
- Canale di Santo Spirito: In 1727, the newly dredged Canale di Santo Spirito allowed smaller cogs to enter into Bacino di San Marco. To counter-balance this dredging, the inlet at Pellestrina was narrowed.
- I Murazzi: When it became clear that the ocean level was rising after the end of the little ice age in the 17th century, the Murazzi dams were built of Istrian stone, raising the low-lying islands Lido and Pellestrina. In a speech Doge Francesco Loredan made in 1753, he expressed his conviction that the Murazzi would be fit to protect the city for another 500 years. He was right: Despite being damaged, the Murazzi saved Venice on 4 November 1966 from being completely flooded. And they saved Venice on 29 October 2018 from drowning under waves more than six meters tall.
Since 1797: The Lagoon is turning into an arm of the sea
- Interramenti: One third of the canals of Venice were filled in the 19th century, which considerably reduced the area for high tides to expand.
- Ponte della Ferrovia: The Lagoon was excavated to build the Railway Bridge (ponte della Ferrovia) under Austrian occupation, which damaged the watershed severely.
- Porto Marghera e zone industriali: In 1918, Marghera port was built in the former emergency areas. One third of the Lagoon was urbanized to extend the industrial area. Rivers swelling during heavy rainfall now discharge their excess waters into the Lagoon.
- Canale dei Petroli: Dredging this canal along the former tagli (dams) caused the destruction of 40 percent of barene in the southern Lagoon.
- Scavo di canali profondi: Deep water canals allow cruise ships and oil tankers to enter but also cause floods to reach Venice in less than 30 minutes.
Why didn’t the Mose barriers work on 29 October 2018?
The Mose system is still inactive, and when it will be fully operational isn’t sure as of now. The task of keeping Venice alive is done by the Murazzi, built by the engineers of the Republic of Venice.
Welcome to my neighborhood in Venice, where I grew up! This is the first of four blog posts, in which I introduce you to the part of Venice I know best. I’ll take you for a walk around Castello, east of Piazza San Marco, and will share my favorite restaurants for lunch and dinner. You will also receive tips where to stop for coffee and pastina (cake), a tramezzino, and breakfast.
Do you know the area east of San Marco? It’s beyond this bridge you can see above, a “very beaten path” in summer. Even at 6:00 am in the morning, people stop on top of Ponte de la Canonica (the oldest stone bridge in town), taking pictures of the Bridge of Sighs ahead. In the distance, you can hear the faint noise of the vaporetti, arriving at and leaving Riva degli Schiavoni. For now, all is quiet, and after a short while, people turn their head left, and hesitatingly look at the narrow calle, which like a bottleneck leads down the bridge towards a campo in the distance.
In a way, those people are right as a change takes place, and they will step onto those islands first settled in the 4th century AD. Outwardly, this area looks like in the images below. The true story of Venice, though, is inside: In courtyards, secret gardens, and semi-private campielli and corti, opening up amidst a maze of streets.
Let’s walk down the calle with a beautiful name, calle de la malvasia vecia (malvasia vecia means old wine bar): It looks very touristy at first. The cosmetics store closed in December 1992 (! we still miss it …), and a fast food restaurant is now in its place. There are several shops, selling handbags, glass, marbled papers. So yes, a few things changed here as well, and to see the authentic Venice, you need to take one of those secret calli taking you deeper into the oldest neighborhood of Venice.
We’re now on the island group OMBRIOLA, one of the three oldest areas in Venice (the other two are the Rialto islands, and Olivolo, as San Pietro di Castello was called 1500 years ago). Most of the buildings you can see in the images date back to the 10th – 12th century AD: Greek, Byzantine, and Dalmatian merchants were living here, selling and shipping their goods. They stopped in this area, off Riva degli Schiavoni, at the San Zaccaria guesthouse, or other “hotels” run by nearby monasteries. Farther ahead, along Rio de l’Osmarin and beyond, many of these merchants settled in Venice for good, and created marvelous gardens in Levantine style, which is our secret, forgotten Levantine heritage.
This was a very beaten path in the past, just like it is today, with one significant difference: 90 per cent of travelers in the past were merchants, “business travelers” instead of tourists. The economy and urban structure of Venice looked VERY VERY DIFFERENT, as you can read here.
So after walking down a narrow calle you arrive at the little campo, called Campo SS Filipo e Giacomo. It looks nice and quiet in the morning. Show owners wash the street and wipe their windows, the edicola just opens in the midst of the campo. A sweet smell makes you turn left, towards a bakery (Castelli). Still closed are the shoe and fashion store on the right, and the pharmacy just beyond.
This is what I see first thing in the morning when I leave the house. Here we do our shopping, even though a few stores closed doors during the last decade (the shoe store on Ponte de la Canonica is just one of them …) We do have a fine choice of restaurants, bakeries and pastry stores though, and we’ll start exploring them now.
Ristorante Conca d’Oro. My mother’s favorite restaurant in Venice. This is where we went for a special treat when I was a child. Today, it’s still an excellent restaurant, with a menu both innovative and partly historical. It’s a nice setting during any season, and cozy inside on an autumn night.
Pasticceria Castelli. Located on Campo SS Filipo e Giacomo. This is where I buy Pan del Doge, Venetian sweet bread, made from the same dough as zaeti biscuits are. This sweet bread is a nice gift which my friends abroad just love. The pastry store also offers a fine choice of liquors, which I buy to flavor our cakes. And for breakfast, my favorites are the cestoni di cocco – little cakes topped with coconut-lemon cream – you can see them above.
Pasticceria Bonifacio: Located in Calle degli Albanesi. The Albanian merchant community used to live here, centuries ago. Whenever we have guests coming over for coffee or tea, I buy a plate of pastine (pastries) at this pastry store. Usually, it’s also my last stop for coffee (un caffé, or cappuccino in the morning) before I “go on a photo expedition” to take images for the blog 🙂
Bar Verde: I practically spent my childhood in this place located on the corner between Calle delle Rasse and Campo San Filipo e Giacomo. Its walls were painted grass-green in the 1990s. If you are searching for the best cioccolata densa in Venice, look no further, you’ve come to the right place.
Their tramezzini are my favorites as well. I love the tacchino e rucola variant (turkey and rucola) which come with a home-made mustard filling. My perfect lunch in autumn, and I always have a tè al limone and pastina al pistacchio (soft almond cakelet, filled with pistachio cream).
Trattoria Rivetta. Riva ~ rivetta means bank: this trattoria is located on Rio di San Provolo, next to the bridge, Ponte di San Provolo. Family friends, this was grandfather’s favorite place to spend an afternoon. Their restaurant is often booked out because it is very small. Yet, after 1:30 pm, you might find a table after a short wait at the bar, and there might just be an apéritif on the house as well 🙂 This is the place I ‘d send you to if you asked for a very creamy coffee after lunch or dinner.
Aciugheta. In the 1990s, the owners taught me how to make pizza. If you’re not so much into pizza, you might still try a small version of their signature dish, una pizzetta with a sardine, as starter or on their antipasto plate (cicheti).
True, Venice is not a “pizza” expert of any sorts, but we do have a tradition of baking focaccia bread here. The “Venetian pizza” is thus a focaccia variant, and the Venetian pizza is much thinner than the one you get to eat in Naples.
Aciugheta offers one of the best desserts in town, in my opinion. Try their warm chocolate cake, or, if you love pistachio as much as I do, the warm pistachio cake with liquid pistachio filling, plus pistachio ice cream!
Il Ridotto. Aciugheta has a luxury restaurant arm, which offers set menus for lunch (under EUR 30 each). They use Lagoon ingredients to create colorful and healthy dishes. It means that you can also taste honey from the Lagoon in one of their desserts, while many main dishes and starters include herbs growing on the barene (semi-flooded Lagoon islands).
Trattoria Da Nino. Located under a sotoportego (very refreshing in summer), leading from Campiello del Vin to Campo San Provolo. In case you order pasta or fish, you can recognize Lina’s cooking in the dishes, as she shared many recipes with them … The menu is simple, and you get to know the food Venetians ate in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the next part of this blog series, we cross two bridges and explore the area around Rio de’l Osmarin, where Greek and Dalmatian merchants were living, in the midst of paradise gardens. There are also ancient monasteries, scuole, and a few secrets historians are now unearthing. Amongst them, culinary ones 🙂
All images in this article: JoAnn Locktov / Bella Figura Publications
Before entering the give-away please read our Give-Away Rules.
What happens when a Venetian sees images of her city in black and white? WITHOUT those colors of the rainbow, mesmerizing all year long (with the exception of two weeks in December, when Venice looks really drab). Our Venice is sparkling mermaid blue, emerald-green, Istrian white and crimson red. I’ve seen how during a thunderstorm in April, circles of indigo black and seashell turquoise water surround the island Murano. This combination of colors you’d expect to see in the Indian ocean impressed me most so far.. Yes, we are so lucky to live in such a place, and we take colors for granted.
The color-sensitive Venetian blinks and keeps turning the pages of JoAnn Locktov’s third book, Dream of Venice in Black and White, while Venice is losing her corners and reflections but gaining so much more in depth. And in history and imagination.
For her third book on Venice, JoAnn Locktov asked photographers from all over the world to share their favorite images. This collection is truly impressive: Silent, joyous, secretive, veiled, expressive, happy, wistful and sometimes sad. It’s like Venice has gone on a retreat overthinking ways to survive and flourish again. This is a city with a strong will to live!
Dream of Venice in Black and White shows Venice, the timeless city: Without the colors, the gap in time is bridged effortlessly, and you’re suddenly part of the Venice of the 12th century. When the Doge’s Palace wasn’t yet the landmark building that it is now, but rather looked like a medieval castle of Mediterranean origin. And when the facade of the first Basilica di San Marco, built in the 10th century, was still raw, made from brickstones and not clad in precious mosaics.
This kaleidoscope draws you deeper in the Venice of the past, a unique experience even for us Venetians who should know their neighborhood by heart, so to say. Because this book really takes us back to the times we want to explore, searching for the traces of our heritage.
Dream of Venice in Black and White holds a second surprise: All of a sudden, we are back in our times. This is not a book on a city all Istrian stones, it bridges the gap between the Venice of the past and the present.
To our times of easy travel and fast-paced lives, Venice has adapted. By now, she’s not just the home of Venetian families, whose ancestors have been living here for centuries, but a temporary one as well, to an ever growing number of travelers, as Tiziano Scarpa, a Venetian writer and novelist, puts it in the introductory chapter of the book.
See what living in a historical city is like in our times: People crossing the Piazza on passerelle during high water in winter. People buying fish at the Rialto market, returning home from shopping, dancing amongst the arcades, or walking into the sunset across Ponte de l’ Lovo bridge, into the direction of one of the oldest, and overlooked, cafes in Venice.
When I last returned home for the weekend, I tried to imagine which secret my neighborhood would unveil in black and white:
Without the distraction of color, we feel her mood, experience times long past, and we take a step back and reflect. Black and white also has the capacity to transcend time, which reflects the perennial beauty of Venice. JoAnn Locktov
Dream of Venice in Black and White encourages you to reflect and be creative, conjuring up stories behind the images. It’s like learning to put together the pieces of a city that will celebrate her 1600th birthday in 2021: Venice, the capital of the longest-lived nation state of the world: Res Publica Venetiae, La Serenisima. Between 421 and 1797, this city and Republic had been the great constant on the European map, and her fall left behind a gap and trauma, and most probably unresolved issues on the political stage. For Venice had been a great communicator and diplomat nation where people turned to during difficult times. Unique character traits, overwhelming and comforting at the same time.
JoAnn Locktov succeeded in assembling some pieces of Venetian heritage, capturing the hidden message that Venice would like to share with the world and her visitors.
Dream of Venice in Black and White unveals knowledge lost more than a century ago: The secret of recovering and regaining one’s strength after falling. Not just once was Venice hurt but she took the time to heal behind the scenes and only then, rise and speak up. This is why the core of Venice, despite being severely impacted by overtourism, is still alive. There’s this pride and strength deriving from our long history which will be key for the city to survive and find her place in the world again.
Heritage, knowing your roots, is a source of energy supporting Venetians in our times just as it did help those in the past: During the last fifty years of her existence as Republic, Venice was sidelined when other merchant nations entered the stage. Venice the old city state, while outwardly launching Carnival, was waiting out the storm behind the scenes.
Outwardly, Venetians were setting the stage for Carnival, which lasted six months per year and was attracting travelers much as it happens today. And they succeeded: Revenues from the spice business reached a 200-year peak in 1792, and clients switched back to their Venetian suppliers.
In Venice, the past and the present become blurred. As you can see in the image below, the Lagoon is an arcaic landscape, and the techniques to keep it alive haven’t changed. It’s this fact that connects us to our roots and history, every single day.
In the past, Venice was three square miles of sustained determination with a singular focus on the common good. The shared values of the inhabitants created a legacy of courage, ingenuity, and dignity. JoAnn Locktov
In history, Venetians had enough determination and courage to embrace change on their own terms: Venice developed a special mix of timeless values, lifestyle and ways of coping, and Dream of Venice in Black and White is revealing them:
The Lagoon is our lifeline and not just a backyard and backdrop.
The present and the future must be nurtured continuously. Venice as city exists despite, and thanks to, the forces of nature, channeled for hundreds of years of focused work.
Inclusiveness and beauty in everyday life
Dream of Venice in Black and White shows how people enjoy living in Venice. There’s time for a little break and joy from small surprises on the road.
Light at the End of the Tunnel.
As a child I was asking myself, can we locate the source of this secret strength somewhere in Venice? My grandparents did have an answer to this question. For many Venetians, it’s the wide Campo della Salute, in front of the Basilica. This is where Venetians go, you can see it below in a luminous image which in my opinion, fully captures the secret strength of Venice. (Hint for photographers: Only from here can you view both the Campanile and Doge’s Palace with gondolas in the foreground).
Disclosure: We would like to thank JoAnn Locktov for sending us a copy of her book for review, and for sharing images from her book with us.
Dream of Venice in Black and White, with English – Italian texts, is available on Amazon. Do take a look at the website of Bella Figura Publications, where you can see many more reviews and excerpts of all the Books of the Dream of Venice Family. In Venice, you can buy the book at the bookstores Libreria Studium (San Marco), Libreria Cluva (Santa Croce) and Libreria Toletta (Dorsoduro).
Dream of Venice in Black and White – Give-Away!
Would you like to win a copy of Dream of Venice in Black and White? Click below to enter our give-away, open until 16 October 2019, 0:00 Venice time. Please read our Give-Away rules stating how this Give-Away works and how the winner will be drawn and notified.
Seeing Venice and the Lagoon from the Campanile often starts or “wraps up” a visit to Piazza San Marco. Even more so when you are visiting Venice for the first time! But there’s so much more than just admiring the view or getting oriented. A visit to the Campanile can be a journey back in time. In this post I’m describing what you can see from the Campanile, from my father’s, a Venetian architect, point of view.
These are the stories of Venice my father used to tell me when I was a child and he took me on a rare visit up there. He pointed out the islands to me in a special order, telling me stories so that I was able to remember their names and position in the Lagoon. If you have children and would like to tell them about Venice, you might love reading this 🙂
You will see, each part of Venice and each island had a function to fulfill and role to play in history. It still has, or rather in some cases, it should have, in order to save the ecosystem of our Lagoon.
The shade of the Campanile reminds me of a compass needle .. and it is an impressive bell tower, standing 98.6 meters tall. It was rebuilt in 1902, following the collapse of its predecessor, and was finished in 1912 according to the original building instructions of 1514.
It doesn’t take more than a minute to reach the visitor platform of the Campanile located just under the bells. From here, you can savor the view from one of the four panoramic windows. We’ll do it in a clockwise direction, North, East, South and West, to tell the story of Venice in chronological order. There is so much more to see than simply the sights pointed out on the panoramic maps fixed below the window ledges! And yes, it was here that in 1609, Galileo Galilei presented his new invention, the binoculars, to the Doge of Venice.
Panorama Nord – 3000 BC – 1000 AD: Secret Ancestors – From our unknown origins towards growth
The north is where one part of Venetians came from. The north is where the other part of our ancestors coming from the Levant settled. From here, starting in Torcello, our Lagoon was urbanized between 300 – 1200 AD. The people from Altino fled to the safety of the Lagoon after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD, in particular to Torcello but also to Santa Cristina and Ammiana. In order to survive and pay for the goods needed not available in marshy Lagoon, they created their “gardens of white gold”, their large salt pans. Salt was the very first resource enabling Venetians to start trading with the countries in the Levant.
The first monasteries were created here, growing fruit, vegetables and aromatics, such as San Francesco del Deserto, San Francesco della Vigna and San Zanipolo on the northern fringe of the Rialto Islands, later called Venice. Also, in Venice, the church of Santa Maria Formosa can be made out, the area around the church is ancient and connected to one of the oldest festivities in town, La Festa delle Marie. And of course, Murano can be seen, where the glass industry moved from Venice after a fornace (furnace) had burnt down setting fire to one fifth of Venice at the end of the 12th century.
Panorama Est – 1000 – 1400 AD: We are growing – The Merchants of Venice are building a Spice Empire
By 1000 AD, settlers began moving towards the Isole Realtine, the 118 islands that make up our town. And ships had to be built to provide Venice and the formerly independent Lagoon settlements like Torcello with a living from the rich harvests in their salt pans.
Looking out from the panoramic window towards the east has always been my favorite. Not just because my family’s house can be seen from here. But this direction makes you think and dream of a prosperous, growing Venice. Trading her salt with the east, the Levant. Here, the boats coming from the east were moored, delivering their goods to Levantine merchants residing right behind Riva degli Schiavoni. Schiavonia means Dalmatia in Venetian, by the way. And from here, you can see the Arsenal where the Venetian ships sailing east were built.
The Arsenale, occupying the eastern parts of our town, was inaugurated in the 12th century. It was the first conveyor-belt industry in the world producing merchant cogs to transport salt and bring back wheat and other goods in exchange, and soon, loads of spices. This was the start of the flourishing spice business of the Serenissima, the longest success story in economic history.
In 1203, when Doge Enrico Dandolo set out as commander of the fleet of the Fourth Crusade, the Arsenale was able to deliver one fully fledged merchant cog per day!! Riva degli Schiavoni was created as long quay where boats were moored bringing merchandise from Dalmatia for the growing town. Precious garments, wool, wood, carpets. Foods like almonds, olive oil and loads of pepper. And dried meat, castradina, that was to save the lives of many Venetians during the outbreaks of bubonic plague.
But also at that time, additional orchards, vegetable plots and even vineyards had to be created in the midst of the ancient salt pans of the Lagoon to feed the growing population. We still get vegetables from the eastern part of the Lagoon, from Sant’Erasmo and le Vignole, in particular.
Also, Venice was in need of growing her population due to the outbreaks of bubonic plague … In particular, immigrants from the Aegean and Dalmatian Coasts kept arriving, creating la Venezia Levantina such as San Giorgio dei Greci and San Giorgio degli Schiavoni. Merchants from Turkey, Germany and Flanders opened rep offices including warehouses, the so-called fondeghi.
Panorama Sud – 1400 – 1800 AD: Politics and Venice – Peak time, ups and downs and fall of the Republic
Now turn south and view how the Republic of Venice reacted to these new settlers and visitors. Sometimes, islands were assigned to them. For example, Venetians built homes on the Lido for the Armenian immigrants in 1717. Quarantine islands were created in the Lagoon where the merchants had to stop for forty days before being allowed into the city, to save the population from the plague. Hospitals were created on the islands. San Lazzaro degli Armeni was originally a quarantine island, as was San Servolo.
This is also the area of town where the churches were built during the pestilence times that hit the town in the 16th and 17th century, Il Redentore and Santa Maria della Salute. You can see both of them in the picture above.
By then, the Southern Lagoon gradually shifted its commercial focus. Salt pans were moved out of the Lagoon and into the waters surrounding Cervia on the Adriatic Coast next to the Po river delta. Instead, vast valli da pesca, fish farms, were set up to feed the 300,000-plus inhabitants of Venice.
In the 16th century, the commercial focus moved away from the Mediterranean towards the Atlantic, involving other nations like Spain, Portugal and England. Venice was to re-position herself or .. that brings us towards an issue unresolved until our times. Venice then stopped living up to her vocation and potential.
Panorama West – 1797 to this day: Showdown, Sundown and / or Mapping our Future
We have entered a different age by now. After the fall of the Republic in 1797, difficult times and utter poverty were followed by the age of industry. The merchants went missing all of a sudden. Production facilities looking rather alien popped up in Venice, financed by foreigners as Venice had become completely impoverished. Her ancient heart and economical structure based on the spice trade had ceased to exist.
The western part of the island of Guidecca was chosen to set up factories and workers’ quarters (eg Mulino Stucky, which has now been turned into Hotel Hilton). And Venice became connected to terra firma … Above you can see the two bridges connecting Venice to the mainland, car bridge left, train bridge right. In the background you can make out the industrial areas of Marghera / Mestre.
Napoleon who conquered the Venetian Republic came from this direction. Under the Austrians, the railway bridge (ponte ferroviario) connecting Venice with the mainland was built. In 1933, this bridge was re-enforced by a car bridge (Ponte della Libertà)
Also in the 1930s, on the edge of the Lagoon, industry facilities were created in Marghera and Fusina. Finally, the canals of the Lagoon were deepened in the 1960s, starting with Canale dei Petroli, to allow oil tankers cross the Lagoon and reach Porto Marghera entering via the Bocca di Malamocco.
And finally, in the age of mass tourism, the cruise ships follow in their wake, anchoring at the cruise ship terminal. So the latest addition to the western panorama is: cruise ships ..
By the way, from this macro view of our town’s history we can deduct a micro view as well. We could call it the Venetian Garden Atlas because gardens were not created haphazardly. The Venetian Lagoon became a completely a self-sufficient entity. I will write how the Lagoon was urbanized in a sustainable manner in one of my next blog posts.
This post sums up interpreting the view from the Campanile through my father’s eyes, an architect and historian. He died in 2001 but I will always remember discovering Venice with him.