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Arts and Crafts of a Venice that no longer exists

With the help of a Venetian doc, we want to retrace the now silent part of the most fascinating city in the world. We want to introduce you to that part of Venice that should not be missed and those silent particularities from the flow of tourism so aggressive that even the Venetians with the deepest roots have escaped.

Venice is not a toy, not even the inspiration for a single night of love, but it is the essence of a millenary story made of ingenuity, art, creativity, genius and an incredible organizational ability. It is not easy for a people to manage life on the water and in the water, yet the Venetians have been able to build wonderful houses, sumptuous palaces, indestructible bridges, extraordinary churches, fields and alleys (squares and streets) that as in a precious embroidery are intertwined in the Sestieri, ie the districts that divide the city into six parts, each with its own history and consequently with different characteristics. The house numbering is unique for each sestiere, except for the larger areas, and sometimes reach four digits. One of the characteristics are the Nizioleti, that is typical Venetian road signs that consisted of small white “sheets”, made in wall painting, so much so that the names of the streets or canals and the directions to the crucial points of the city are painted by hand directly on the walls of the houses, within a white rectangle defined by a square. The word itself intrigues us and from the various researches it emerges that the Nizioleti themselves are an interesting cue to bring to light the trades that have disappeared, a sort of perennial memory. Each “nizioleto” bore the name of the trade that was practiced in that calle, field or campiello. For example, in the Sestiere di San Marco, there is Calle delle Ballotte, it was the street where the craftsmen who made the ballots or balls used in the votes for the magistracy of the Serenissima Republic of Venice worked, hence the term ‘ballot’ then spread nationwide; Sotoportego del Banco Giro is located in Rialto, the commercial and financial heart of the city, indicating the place where the State Bank operated; in the sestiere of Dorsoduro there is the Calle dei Cerchieri, the place where they forged the iron circles necessary to make the barrels; in the Sestiere of San Polo you can read Calle dei Nomboli, a place of butchers who displayed cuts of meat; Calle del Scaleter is located in several areas and represents the profession of pastry chef producer of sweets with special signs resembling a staircase, which were consumed especially during weddings. It is also said, however, that these sweets had the function of mocking the lords of Verona (the Scaligers) with whom the Venetians had stormy relations, and even the Calle del Pistor indicated the place where there were the shops of bakers, from the Latin pistorius. But the most amusing is Calle Mosche in the Sestiere di Santa Croce, indicating the place where the forgeries were made in which the Venetian ladies embellished their faces.

Some of these trades have survived until a few decades ago, today you can still see some small and rare activities such as squeraroli (boat builders), the workers (foreman), the framer. Everything else no longer exists. Even Venetian speaking is less and less heard, the voices of people who meet for a convivial and colourful Venetian chat become a fortune to hear. Traditions, crafts, but also the ingenuity of building and expanding beauty in harmony with Venetian aesthetics have disappeared. We always point the finger at the only possibility of not letting what remains of Venice die: the incessant restoration and continuous care made by competent people with a soul in tune with the delicate balance that allows Venice to exist.

Daniela Russo e Giampietro  Baroni

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