Home in 16th Century Venice
Sabine d'Ricoldi da Forli
Venice is a marvel of engineering and architecture, consisting of 18 islands joined by more than 400 bridges, separated by canals that act like paved streets.
Travel was done by boat or on foot. There are artistic delights to be seen around every turn. At the heart of Venice is the Basilica of St Mark, like the jewel in the crown.
Venice is thought to have been settled by escapees from the barbarian hordes of Europe. They went to the lagoons hoping to hide, and eventually built up the city we know today.
The Rialto was the first harbour of Venice. The barrels, boxes, spices, wine and oil perfumes, which were unloaded on the bank of the Grand Canal, were housed in the warehouses called “fondaci”. During the day the goods brought outdoors were sold on the stalls around the church of San Giovanni Elemosinaro.
The market could be reached by an opening in the bridge called monete, which today can be seen only in a picture in the collection of the Academy of Fine Arts. The bridge, painted by Carpaccio was replaced with that planed by Antonio de Ponte, - built in stone on a single arch, - in the second half of the fifteenth century.
The city is divided into six districts known as ‘sestieri’ – these were: San Marco, Castello, Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, and Dorsoduro.
Venice expanded its territories, and became a major trading centre for the Mediterranean region. With the discovery of America the monopoly Venice had on trade dispersed and its economic and political power decreased until eventually it was annexed into Austria in the late 18th Century.1
In the 15th – 16th Centuries Venice was at the height of its power. It was the centre for trading, art, music, writing, architecture and political machinations.
The streets in Venice generally have ancient and above all curious names which reflect different work that was done in the area (like Calle del “Pestrin”, which means milkman, of “Pistor”, which means baker, of “Fruttarol”, which means fruit seller, etc), commercial activities (like “Mercerie”, where you could buy fabrics, “Frezzerie”, where they made arrows, Calle “Fiubera”, where they made buckle for shoes, etc.) and the origins of inhabitants (like Calle dei “Preti”, the street of the priests, or “Muneghe”, meaning nuns, or “Ragusei”, which refers to the people from Ragusa, Dubrovnik nowadays, who lived in that area of Venice, riva dei “Schiavomi”, the “big slaves”, refers to slaves brought from the Dalmatian Coast, etc.).
There are also many stories about place names. The Riva di Biasio comes from Biagio who was thought to be the owner of a little 16th Century restaurant (an “osteria”). Biasio was well known by all the sailors as a good cook, especially for his delicious meat dishes. However Biasio became infamous when a customer found a baby’s finger in his plate. Another story about Biasio reports him to be a butcher who sold human instead of animal meat. However the story about his death is very clear. He was condemned to death by the Serenissima Republic, tortured on a boat crossing the width of the Grand Canal. Then, as a warning to all Venetians, he was tied between the two columns of the Piazzetta and publicly beheaded. Biasio was then cut into four parts hung of four hooks on the four cardinal points of Venice so that everyone could see him and remember his crime.
On a lighter note, Campiello Mosca (meaning fly) has its origin not in relation to annoying insects, but in reference to the false beauty spots, called mosche. These beauty spots were worn by both men and women and were very important during the period of the Serenissima as they were used as silent and secret messages depending on where they were placed on the wearer’s face, following a precisecode. A woman who wore a beauty spot near an eye would mean: “I’m irrestistable”.
The Venetian Pallazetto
Ca’ del Glicine is a typical Venetian palazetto of the renaissance period: the term Ca’ is short for casa, or house. The windows of the piano nobile (the first, or “grand floor”) are framed by Byzantine shaped arches.
The main façade, with a 15th Century ground-floor arcade lies on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, a walk along the waterway.
The Mediterranean climate of Italy means very mild conditions in Venice. Winters are quite mild and sunny, temperatures ranging from 13-18 degrees Celsius.
About 1/3 of the country has arable land, with 25% of the land devoted to pastures and cropping.
1 http://www.mi.cnr.it/WOI/deagosti/regions/ veneto2.html#Venice site visited 11 July 2002
2 Venetia: the website of Venice http://www.venetia.it/ site visited 11 July 2002
3 Venetia: the website of Venice http://www.venetia.it/ site visited 11 July 2002