Archive for Rovigo


What was your name again?

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IMG_9546  baiamonte tiepolo

Walking home the other day, I cast my eye, as usual, on the building corner which Lino refers to as “The Wailing Wall.”  Meaning no disrespect to the original place of that name, our little angle is the perfect spot to tape up death notices.  I’ve mentioned on other occasions that the cost to publish such a notice in the Gazzettino is totally fantastical, so these rectangles of plastic are extremely useful in keeping people up to date on for whom the bell is tolling.

But I don’t usually expect to see names I recognize, mainly because the number of people I know who might be likely to demise is very limited.  And although some surnames are a little unusual, there are very few which hurl one back 700 years into one of the most complicated and desperate conspiracies ever formed to attempt the overthrow of the Venetian Republic.

So I was unprepared to see a new notice stuck on the wall, complete with photo of the deceased, announcing the death of Baiamonte Tiepolo.

This name may not connote much to you, but anyone who has skimmed Venetian history knows it as the name of one of the most audacious revolutionaries who ever tried to scuttle somebody’s government.

It was like seeing a notice for some innocuous little person who just happened to be named Benedict Arnold, or Oliver Cromwell, or Ernesto Guevara, or Gregory Rasputin.

As for someone bearing the name of a renowned Venetian noble family, this isn’t quite so startling.  I interviewed a descendant of doge Jacopo Tiepolo some years ago, and I know that there are Grimanis and Zorzis and Da Mosto’s still roaming the city.  I have also met a young woman carrying forward the storied name of Bragadin.

But it’s one thing to bear the last name; if you were a Bragadin, I think it would be cruel to name your son Marcantonio.  The name is certainly worthy of remembrance, but the boy’s life would be hell.  There are only so many witty remarks you can make to someone whose forebear was flayed alive after an epic siege that lasted almost a year, and the lad would have to hear all of them.

On the same note, the Venice phone book lists two men named Marco Polo.  They must have been doomed to a life of a steady drizzle of really funny remarks.  “Hey, Marco — back so soon?”  “Give my regards to the Khan, next time you see him.”  “Did you really invent pasta?”  And so on.

For the late Baiamonte, the drollery would have had to be more erudite, and I won’t risk any here because life is short, and by the time one (that is, me) has related as much as possible of his ancestor’s spectacular, if also scurrilous, story, the potential for humor would have dried up and blown away in the wind.  But I feel safe in saying that, thanks to his namesake and his cohorts, the year 1310 stands out in Venetian history as much as 1492 or 1776 stands out in the American annals.

Here is the drastically condensed version of his story. The plot was foiled, he was exiled for four years, and his palace was torn down.  He spent those years traveling, visiting Venice’s enemies (Padova, Treviso, Rovigo, and some very powerful families therein) doing everything conceivable to convince them to join him in another conspiracy. He just wouldn’t give up.

Not amused, Venice changed the sentence to perpetual exile.  He wandered around Dalmatia seeking new collaborators.  He was imprisoned.  He escaped.  The Venetian government forbade anybody to have anything to do with him.  Finally, in 1329, the Council of Ten decreed that he had to be eliminated, by any means.

The details of Baiamonte’s death are uncertain, which is not surprising when a person has to be eliminated. (The “Caught a cold and stopped breathing” explanation has often been sufficient.)  As for location, at least one historian states that he was in Croatia, staying with relatives, when his last day came and went.

For the Tiepolos of Lower Castello, maybe it was a point of pride to name their son Baiamonte. It couldn’t have been inadvertent.  I can’t imagine somebody saying “Heavenly days, it never crossed my mind that somebody would think of the old subversive of blackened fame.”

I notice, though, that he named his son Andrea.  Maybe he had had enough.

The great conspirator's palace was razed, and a "column of infamy" detailing his crimes was erected in its place.  Eventually the column was broken up, and this abbreviated summary placed on the pavement: "Location of column of Baiamonte Tiepolo 1310."

The great conspirator’s palace at Campo Sant’ Agostin was razed, and a “column of infamy” detailing his crimes was erected in its place. Eventually the column was broken up, and this abbreviated summary placed on the pavement: “Location of column of Baiamonte Tiepolo 1310.”


Categories : Venetian History
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Happily, via Garibaldi absorbs an amazing amount of foolishness. This is what looks like normal here, as banal and predictable as anything.

This is a glimpse of what passes for normal here, as banal and predictable as anything. Yet even here, folly is germinating, flowering, and being harvested every day.

In the simplest terms, Situation Normal translates as “deranged.” Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small, but normalcy here will never resemble normalcy in Normal, Illinois.

I suppose the town we’re most closely related to would be Eek, Alaska.

Starting with the disappearing snail who traversed Lino’s wool sweater, which was spread to dry yesterday on the portable scaffolding which serves as clothesline.  I washed the sweater, I put it outside, I brought it inside when the rain started, I left it on the scaffolding in the living room/library/office/parlor/game room/music room/mud room/orangery all night.  I took it outside this morning, and saw the gleaming little strands of the snail’s wake festooning the navy-blue surface.

What impelled it to work its way up the metal tube of the frame?  (I can imagine what impelled it to work its way down: There was absolutely nothing to do on the laundry after the fun of streaking slime across the clothes had worn off).  And where was the scaffolding when the creature began its epic adventure?  Which means: Did he come in from the rain along with the underwear and dishtowels?  If not, where did he join my textiles?  And where did he go when he left?  Or is he still here?

What drew him to the dripping garment?  (Well, maybe it wasn’t still dripping at that point.) Do I now have to add “snail repellent” to the fatal products aimed at mosquitoes, ants and flies?

I pondered all those things as I washed the sweater again, put it out on a higher level than before, and left it to go through the dripping stage yet again.  I’m not so annoyed about the snail himself, but he made me lose 18 hours of precious drying time. This is unpardonable.

Speaking of drying, we are living a period of extreme and widespread humidity.  We’ve had fog, rain, and mist, plus indeterminate watery vectors for weeks and weeks.  Even when the sun is shining, the air is humid.  We have to do hand-to-hand combat with the front door to open and close it, the wood is so swollen with damp. But I refuse to turn on the heat until driven to do so; the gas company sucks out what little blood and lymph are left in our bank account with a voracity even a vampire can’t match.  Vampires are thirsty only at night, while the gas company is slurping away night and day, even when all the gas is turned off.

I’m finished with that now.

This curious creature looks just as home here as all the rest of the other odd bipeds. I like the two dragontails, and the oak-leaf underwing is a nice touch, but I'm concerned about his feet. Somebody couldn't decide if he should have claws or the dactyls of a hippopotamus.

This curious creature looks just as home here as all the rest of the other odd bipeds. I like the two dragontails, and the oak leaves are a nice touch, but I’m concerned about his feet. Somebody couldn’t decide if he should have claws or the dactyls of a hippopotamus.

Let’s talk about other craziness.  Today’s newspaper contains an article about the discovery of a barber in the town of Rovigo who has been working for 23 years without a license, and without paying any taxes.  No license?  No problem!  No taxes?  Big, multifarious, expensive problems!  But it’s just another example of Zwingle’s Eighth Law, which states “Everything is fine until it’s not.”  He had a fantastic run, after all.  Five days a week times 52 weeks (I’m not giving him a vacation) times 23 years comes to 5,980 tax-free days.  He must have been known as the Smiling Barber.

But that’s also a lot of days for no Finance Police-person, or local police-person, or firefighter or exterminator or anyone in any kind of uniform to EVER have asked, even once, to see his books or his diploma.  That’s more disturbing than the thought of an unlicensed person wielding razor and shears, even though we know that there are plenty of licensed people who aren’t very handy with sharp objects either.

Unlicensed practitioners, even tax-paying ones, keep turning up.  Every so often there’s a story about a gynecologist or dentist or surgeon (not made up) who is discovered to have been working peacefully and lucratively for years thanks to innate genius, sheer luck, or whatever he could pick up via some YouTube video clips.

So far, these stories have concerned only men.  I’m not being sexist, I’m just reporting. Women are usually too busy being beaten, abused, and killed by their so-called loved ones to have any time left over to cheat on their taxes.

Speaking of love, a man in Cavarzere, a small town just over there, had been ignoring the restraining order imposed on him for his persistent persecution of his wife; she moved out and even changed towns, but he followed her, and the other night he swerved in front of her car and stopped, but she fled into a bar and called the carabinieri.  When they went to his house, they discovered a homemade casket sitting there, all ready for her.

No point feeling sorry for the little mullet when he's already cooked.  But I do.

No point feeling sorry for the little mullet when he’s already cooked. But I do. He’s the ichthyological version of “The Scream.”

Since today’s cadenza is in the key of Crazy, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the vaporettos. The moment has arrived.

We know that there aren’t enough of them and that most of the year has passed to the soundtrack of the suffering groans of infinite numbers of people trying to get from here to there on a vehicle that is approximately 1/2,948th of the space needed.

But the right hook-left uppercut which the ACTV dealt to the traveling public in the past four days has finally inspired enraged calls for Ugo Bergamo, the Assessore (City Council-member) for Mobility, to resign and go far away to somewhere in South Asia and cultivate ylang-ylang.  (Made up.)  (The rage isn’t made up, though.)

First it was the long holiday weekend (Nov. 1-4) which gave untold thousands the great idea to come to Venice and spend the day looking at bridges and canals. According to what I could hear just listening to the people shuffling past on the Strada Nuova, many were Italians who probably didn’t have far to travel and were going home that night. But there was a honking great lot of them.

Yet even more people weren’t shuffling; they were trying to take the waterbus. When the terrifyingly overloaded vehicles arrived and tied up at certain stops for the exchange of prisoners, hundreds of exasperated people were still trying to get aboard even when there was no space left even for a hiccup.When they were left on the dock, at least at the Rialto stop, they began pushing and yelling and coming to blows.

Mr. Bergamo acknowledged the drama, but said that nobody, including himself, had ever imagined there would be that many people coming to Venice. If I were a judge, I’d make that defense qualify as contempt of court. You’re living in one of the major tourist cities of the globe, but you can’t imagine that untold thousands of people will come on a holiday weekend? Can he imagine water running downhill?  Can he imagine beans giving him gas?

Second, on Monday it was the students and commuters who took the hit. On November 3, the transport schedule changes. Except that this year, all the distress about there being too much traffic in the Grand Canal (think: August 17) has led to the cutting of some runs.  Good idea, except that cutting to solve one problem has created another.

Because the ACTVmade a major cut in the slice of time with the heaviest traffic.  If you wanted to go to school or work last Monday (unlikely that you wanted to go, I know), you were inevitably traveling between 7:00 and 9:00 AM. But the new schedule for that time period suddenly didn’t offer 11 vaporettos.  There were five.

Mr. Bergamo says that’s going to be fixed. I guess he suddenly imagined that there weren’t enough vaporettos between 7:00 and 9:00.

I don’t understand fixing problems you could have avoided creating.  Zwingle is going to have to formulate a Law that covers that.

This is what I think normal ought to look like.

This is what I think normal ought to look like.


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