Venezia è un posto talmente speciale, che alcuni termini sono di uso corrente soltanto qui, ragion per cui mi sembra utile illustrarli con qualche immagine. In questa pagina ne troverete alcuni, in ordine alfabetico. Trattandosi di informazioni principalmente destinate agli amici stranieri, ho deciso di optare per l’inglese. Le foto sono mie, e gli errori eventuali di traduzione anche; se vorrete segnalarli, o suggerire altre “voci” per questo glossario, l’indirizzo è Rialtofil@gmail.com
Venice being a very special place (I would say unique!), there are words that are mainly (sometimes solely!) used in Venice. On this page you will find some of them, in alphabetical order, with a short explanation. Unless otherwise indicated, all pictures have been taken by myself. Stay tuned, because this is work in progress and will be updated on a regular basis. The “cover” picture was taken from my windows, the day of the Regata Storica (see below, under “Appendix”).
ALTANA: where the venetian ladies used to get blonde or almost blonde under the sun (I will not tell you the trick, but the colour is still called “biondo veneziano”); nowadays they simply get tanned or enjoy a prosecco with friends. It is a kind of “roof on the roof”, and must comply with very strict rules as regards the materials used.
BANDE (“parapetti”, in Italian): the item missing in this bridge, one of the few which still is the same as they all were under the Venice Republic (if you don’t trust me, feel free to double-check in the Canaletto paintings). The legend says that when the Austrians occupied the city (after the fall of Napoleon) so often were they falling in the canals (sometimes because of the strong local wine, sometimes “helped” by the locals) that they decided to furbish every single bridge with two “bande laterali” (lateral walls).
BARENE: strips of land not suitable for the building industry (with the high tide you would have water up to your knees) but so suitable (and crucial) for biodiversity. Almost destroyed by erosion in the Southern lagoon, because of the (too) deep canals dredged in the 20th century to accomodate the needs of (too) big ships, they still cover a large part fo the Northern lagoon, from Murano to Burano and beyond. The small canals flowing inside the barene are called GHEBI.
BRICOLA (plural BRICOLE): essential part of the landscape in the two lagoons (Venice and Marano, still connected to each other by inner canals) they serve two main purposes: to moor the big boats (for smaller boats, we use single “PALINE”); and to indicate the canals where (even with low tide) you can safely sail at any time of the day. To make a “bricola” you need to bind together 3 paline, but some have 5 or 7. As for the roses offered to the ladies, their number is uneven (two paline do not make a bricola). At the crossroad of two canals, they are called DAMA and a fourth palina is added in the middle to carry the special signs or lights that make a “dama” (dama like “Lady”, in Italian).
CAPITEO (Italian: capitello votivo): as you can see in the next picture (taken in front of San Francesco del Deserto, close to Burano), BRICOLE may also serve a religious purpose, to support CAPITEI (venetian plural for capiteo). They are so simple but so beautiful, and most of them have been made by fishermen.
COCAI = Seagull! They are the true kings (or Queens?) of the lagoon, often having a rest on a “bricola”(see above), which serve them as a throne. May I introduce mine? A masterpiece of blown glass by Maestro Gino Cenedese, entirely made in Murano:
CORTE SCONTA (venetian for “nascosta”): hidden court (or place, in general). For more information, ask Corto Maltese (the cartoons character created by Hugo Pratt, who used to live and work in the Malamocco village.. right in front of the Poveglia island):
FELZE: until the early 20th century, gondolas used to have a cabin (called FELZE) to protect its passengers from weather conditions (and incidentally, to preserve their privacy). For more information I recommend the official website of the gondola makers, where you can learn much more: http://www.elfelze.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=8&Itemid=32
FONTEGO: warehouse and homeplace of the merchants of Venice. The Italian word for Fontego is FONDACO, and the two words are equivalent. In this picture you can see two of them: from the right to the left, Fontego dei Turchi e Fontego del Megio.
JULIA: no need for translation, there is only one Julia with these emerald eyes and she is the co-author of this blog.
MURAZZI: long barrier made of stones, erected by the Venice Republic (and later strenghtened, after the floods of 1966) to protect the two strips of land which separate the lagoon from the open sea: Pellestrina (almost in its entirety) and the western part of the Lido island (where the Murazzi start shortly after the Excelsior Hotel). It is a popular place for biking, sun bathing and.. testing your building skills:
NISSIOETI (Italian: NIZIOLETI): street signs, so called because they are (were) as white as the cleanest blankets (in venetian: NISSIOI). The street names in Venice are fascinating, often unusual and sometimes very surprising. Their origin and meaning can be found in “Tassini, curiosità veneziane”, a book written in the 19th century which is a goldmine of information and can be consulted online at: http://venicexplorer.net/tradizione/topos/
PALINA: where we moor our small boats (for the big ones see: BRICOLA, which is made of 3 or more PALI). They are not all like this one, but the personal touch given by the owner of this one (in Murano, close to the San Donà bridge) is really cute:
PATERA: to these stone gems called PATERE (singular: patera, with accent on the first A) I have devoted a separate entry. May I humbly refer to it? You can read it at: http://rialtofil.com/2012/08/14/patere-veneziane-cosa-sono-dove-trovarle-e-dove-farne-fare-una-su-misura-per-voi/
PORTA d’ACQUA: for many centuries, the main entry of venetian building was not the one on the street (streets were not paved, by the way!) but the door open on the canal: http://rialtofil.com/2011/12/19/porte-dacqua/ This is very visible in the Canal Grande but also in the smaller canals such as this one (Rio dei Miracoli):
RIO: small Canal, like the one of the next picture (Rio dei Meloni). Those which were covered and paved to make a street are now “Rio terà” (interrato, in Italian). More information, by Gigio Zanon, at: http://venicewiki.org/wiki/Toponomastica
SCURI: in Venice they are always green like the ones of these window, from which Rialtofil enjoys the Grand Canal. They are precious in summer time, when they protect us from the heat of the sun.
SOTOPORTEGO: covered passage connecting two streets, it provides us with: shadow when the summer is too hot, a good shelter in case of rain, and a safe harbour for the young “morosi” (for many of whom, this was the place of the first kiss):
SQUERO (probably da “scure”, one of the tools used to cut the wood by the “mastri d’ascia”): the place where traditional wooden boats are still made, in Venice. The one in the next picture is the Squero di San Trovaso, close to Fondamenta delle Zattere, but there are many others still active in the lagoon!
VERA (DA POZZO): until the 19th century, the supply of drinking water in Venice was ensured by a combination of groundwater and rainwater which was stored in the simplest and most effective way: the water was collected in every campo (square) and filtered by two layers of sand. The result was clean water for everybody, thanks to very strict rules on the use and maintenance of the wells. Every well in Venice has a story to tell, and the story teller are these stones (the “vere da pozzo”). The one in the picture belongs to the Fontego dei Tedeschi, and can be seen in its inner court:
Miscellaneous (without pictures)
ARSENALE (in venetian: arzanà): the fortified shipbuilding district where the Venice Republic used to employ up to 16,000 people. Those (proudly) working in what used to be the biggest European factory were called “ARSENALOTTI”, and a very ambitious social housing project was created for them, in what is now the SESTIERE of Castello. The Venetian Arsenale is widely quoted by Dante in its Divina Commedia.
BACARO: that’s where you can drink something and enjoy “cicheti” (see below, under letter C); in the Rialto area (after the bridge, in the San Polo district) you can find many; my favourites are listed here: http://rialtofil.com/2012/08/01/rialtofil-ha-traslocato/
BARBACANI: pictures speak better than words, and the “Prince of Barbacani” can be seen here: http://alloggibarbaria.blogspot.it/2013/03/il-principe-dei-barbacani.html PS an excellent explanation (in English) of this unusual word was already made by another blog, to which I would like to refer: http://ytaba36.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/barbacani/
BATEO: synonym for “vaporetto” (see below,under letter V).
CA’ FARSETTI: the City Council. Ca’ = CASA, and this is the way most historical buildings are still called, from the name of the old family owners.
CAFFE CORRETTO: depending on the season (and on the barman) it might mean a cup of coffee with some GRASPA (see below), or a generous cup of GRASPA with a small tiny quantity of coffee.
CAIGO (with accent on letter i): the special fog which makes the lagoon so mysterious in the winter months (November and December in particular): so thick that sometimes one can’t see the other side of a canal! Someone even says that these are the best conditions for appreciating the special misty beauty of Venice.. the weather here truly offers 4 seasons and each of them has very distinct features, like in Vivaldi’s “quattro stagioni” masterpiece. My advice is to enjoy each of them!
CANALASSO: the venetian nickname for CANAL GRANDE. Adding the letters “asso” at the end of the word “canal” gives a touch of British understatement (or self-irony), when referred to what is normally considered the most beautiful “street” of the world: “xe tuti rovinassi” (“they are just old ruins”) and we are speaking about properties which are negotiated (when they are on sale) at the price of € 40 million, on average (Ca’ Corner della Regina was recently bought by Prada, for this price).
CAVANA: where would you park your car when it snows outside? In your box, probably. “Cavana” is a shelter (roof + walls, but without floor: the water is its floor!) designed to host your boat in case of adverse weather conditions.
“CIAO VECIO”: this is how venetians call each other, even when they are 15 years old: “vecio” = old, it is ironic and means “old friend”. But don’t say it to girls (ciao vecia is not polite, especially if the one saying it is a man).
CICHETI: small food, served in small dishes (or in TRAMEZZINI). Don’t confuse it with “fast food” because it is not: being made on the spot with products “of the day” (= fresh and healthy), the quality of such “small” food is often remarkable.
“COPARLI TUTI”: that’s what you may hear locals saying if: you are sleeping or having pic-nic on the steps of the narrow bridge that venetians need to cross to get to work. Or, if you are standing in the middle of an overcrowded vaporetto with your 5 pieces of luggage when people need to get off the boat. Or, if you dump your plastic bottles (not to mention other items) in the nearest canal. Nobody has ben “killed” until now, but if you decide to spend some days in a place which is so unique and fragile, my advice is: respect the place if you want to be respected.. or go somewhere else, please. PS “MI TE COPO” is also what we sometimes tell our children when they do something wrong. I can reassure you on the fact that no blood on the floor follows, after the warning.
“FAME BEN” (make a good price to me): that’s what we say when we negotiate a price “for venetians” (which means lower, because most venetians have to live in the most expensive Italian city with an average Italian salary, and this is only possibile if we help each other!). Be aware that this will not work if you say it with a strong American (or Russian) accent, or even just with the accent of a “FORESTO” (see below).
FORESTO: anyone not living in the lagoon. Do you come from New Zealand? “Foresto”. Do you come from Padova? “Foresto”. No difference and no discrimination based on nationality, as you can see:)
GHEBI: the small canals which flow inbetween the BARENE (see above).
GOTO: “glass” (bicchiere) in the making, in the language of the Murano glass blowers.
GRASPA: eau de vie (in French) Schnaps (in German) Grappa (in Italian)… if translation in your language is not available, be careful before trying it, or try caffé corretto, first.
MARANGONA: the oldest bell still active in Piazza San Marco. “Marangoni” are the carpenters, whose working hours were dictated by the sound of this bell.
MOROSO, MOROSA (boyfriend, girlfriend): the one you love (from old Latin AMOR). Much more romantic than “boyfriend and girlfriend” or “fidanzato e fidanzata” (their Italian equivalent)!
MUGER (from old Latin MULIER): woman. When venetians say “LA MI MUGER” they refer to the woman sharing their life, irrespective of marriage (more or less with the same meaning as “ma femme” in French and “mi mujer” in Spanish).
OMBRA: glass of wine
“PARON DE CASA” (Landlord, or “Master of the place”): this is the way venetians call the bell tower of Piazza San Marco (from which you can enjoy the best overview of the lagoon). For many centuries, when people had no watch and no mobile phone, its five bells were the “master” of social and economic activities by marking the time, each of them with its unique sound. One of them (la MARANGONA) is still the original one, the others were replaced in 1912: http://venipedia.it/monumenti/campanile-di-san-marco
PEOCIO: Italian “cozza” (shellfish with black shell) but also “mean person”: “xe un peocio” is what we say (in venetian jargon) when we want to refer to someone greedy!
REGATA STORICA: the most important of the many regattas (this word was invented here!) organised in the Venice lagoon, it takes place on the first Sunday of September. The tradition is so old and strong that this event has its own official glossary: http://www.regatastoricavenezia.it/rs.php?pg=29&lang=en
REGATA DEE BEFANE: it takes place on 6 January (befana day, in Italy) close to the Rialto bridge. Its special features? 1st: due to the season, it is not unfrequent to row under the snow (and the snow in venice.. is just magic!) 2nd: those who row are men dressed like old women (“befane”), with long skirts and funny scarfs!
SCHEI: money. If you are curious to see how venetian coins looked like, you can have a look at: http://rialtofil.com/2011/12/12/monetazione-veneziana-nota-introduttiva/
SESTIERE (plural: SESTIERI): the venetian districts. While roman cities were divided in “quartieri” (from old Latin QUATER = four) the shape of Venice did not fit at all with this traditional partition. This is therefore the only city where the districts are called SESTIERI (from old Latin SEXTARIUM = sixth part of)! The shape of the iron that you can see on the prow of every gondola, according to the tradition, would remind the 6 sestieri. In fact, its mission is to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier, who stands on the opposite side of the boat. Gondolas are 10.75 metres long, and driving them requires outstanding skills indeed!
SGROPPINO: one third of prosecco, one third of vodka, and lemon ice cream happily swimming inside. Normally served at the end of dinner, if the dinner was not “small food”, and it makes miracles.
SPRITZ: everybody knows what it means, no need to explain it here. Less and less trendy, by the way, and insane: why mixing wine with water ?! My advice: try a good Prosecco, instead!
SQUERARIOL: gondola maker. Yes, gondolas are still made in Venice, and the place where they are made is called SQUERO.
“STAME BEN”: take care of yourself, sometimes used instead of “SE VEDEMO” (see you) when you part from someone.
“TI XE MATO” (you are crazy): take it as a compliment. Venice is a special place for special people, and a little touch of “madness” here is absolutely normal/necessary. If you propose a smart new idea and the answer of your friends is “ti xe mato”, it means: ” go ahead”. If the idea is really crapped, your friends would rather say: “ti xe fora” (you are out of mind) or “ti xe mona” (translation not available, for the time being;-))
TOLA, TOLE(T)TA (in Italian: tavola, tavoletta): long piece of wood used to cross the canals, when (and where) the stone bridges had not yet been built. To remind us of this old tradition, in Venice you can count no less that 6 street named after “tola” or toleta”, and an excellent bookshop called “TOLETTA”. On the same street, one of my favourite restaurant (“Ai Artisti”, close to the Accademia bridge) offers a view on one of the canals where “tolette” have been (for a long time) the only kind of bridge available.
TRAMEZZINI: small triangles of soft bread filled in with fresh products of the day. In Venice we walk a lot and, instead of having two big meals sitting in a restaurant, we enjoy having small food several times a day, together with a drink. Long life to tramezzini (with one zed, in venetian), and once you try them you will understand how much they contribute to the venetian art of living!
VAPORE (or vaporetto): this is the way we still call the “water bus” introduced in the 19th century, although these boats now use diesel engines: http://rialtofil.com/2012/11/18/da-venezia-col-vapore-1850-1866/
VECIA CARAMPANA: someone who used to trade her charme agains remuneration and, after getting “retired” from the job, tends to preach and teach moral vertues to the others. The nickname “carampana” comes from Ca’ Rampani, where this kind of professionals used to practice in the old days.
VENESSIAN: this is how venetians call themselves (instead of “veneziano”, which is the Italian form) and the language they speak with each other. Although very similar to Italian (but closer to Latin, since Venice did not experience any foreign occupation until 1797!) venetian has its own features and is still spoken by almost everybody living in the lagoon (new venetians included!) This is part of an effort to preserve our identity (while being understood by the average Italian), in a city which is hosting more than 20 million visitors every year (while the number of residents keeps on declining), and due to this huge pressure, would otherwise risk “loosing its soul”: Venice is more than its stones, and those visiting it are more than happy to find something more than “another Pompei”!
“VE VOGIO BEN”: “I love you” (who are reading this glossary) because if you have taken the time to read this.. you probably want to understand more about my beloved city, hence I wish you will be able to fully enjoy its unique features and treat it with respect , when visiting it.
Text and pictures by: