Venezia – Searching for Goldoni

Thousands of tales have been told, books written, pictures painted and yet there is always something new to explore in Venezia –  that grand dame of a city. Me?  What did I explore?  Well, I didn’t go to the tourist packed spots like a normal person.  No, with my iPhone in my face I went back and forth across the Rialto Bridge and the same canal about thirty times – searching for Carlo Goldoni.  Not some distant relative – not some gorgeous hunk of Italian charm – but a dead white male playwright.  This Venetian was writing plays in the mid to late 1700s, so I know I couldn’t really find him.  I just wanted to sense him.  Before I talk about the search, let me remind you a little bit about visiting Venice.

We took the train to the main station, Santa Lucia.  Walking out the front door we were immediately impressed by the great view of the Grand Canal –

– and then turned into blathering idiots as we watched the swirl of tourists bumping into each other. Our first challenge was figuring out mass transit.  Realizing that since one way tickets on the vaporetti cost €7.50 and we would undoubtably go more than one way a day we bought the €20 a day package for three days.  At the ticket booth, when I asked for a map of the lines I was told I had to buy a map of Venice.  Ten minutes in Venice and we spent €123.  The map by the way is useless. Do not bother buying it.  It is impossible for the eyes of anyone but a 5 year old to read.  We got a better map of the Vaporetti at our hotel. Venezia Transit is the transportation web-site and one can read it in English.

Venice is an expensive trip.  A cappuccino averages €5 – compare that to .90 in Pontelandolfo!

Who cares!  I want to hang out where Carlo hung out.  Of course since he died in 1793 I may not find the same bar he sipped an apertivo in but I can pretend.  Oh, you’re asking – who the hell is Carlo Goldoni?  YOU DON’T KNOW???

Comedia dell’ arte – you have heard of that – Groucho, Chico and Harpo Marx certainly did.  Commedia dell’arte started in Venice sometime in the 1600s. It was a popular form of street theatre – improvised scenarios between stock characters based on universal types of masters, servants and lovers – think cuckold husband, cheating wife etc.  Actors wore masks and performed “Lazzi” – signature gags and stunts.  Slapstick schtick!

Allegedly, regular comedy in Italy was apparently about to “flat line” when  Carlo Goldoni (1707-1793) leaped in with a defibrillator. My man Goldoni laid siege to the conventions of stock characters, improvised performances and the use of masks. Tsk Tsk. This did create a problem early in his career. Masked parts could be played by lousy actors. He had a problem finding actors who could act. At this point in theatre history the Italian playwright had to think more of working with his stable of actors than his public.

This Venetian began his career by writing opera librettos. Gaining in experience and in technical skill, he cautiously attempted to replace the base and (oh my) pornographic Comedia dell’arte with plays of innocent action that told the stories of contemporary events and characters. One hundred and sixty comedies remain – I haven’t read that many.  But I have read a lot – and surprisingly grasped the Italian. Some are written in the Venetian dialect – no way could I read those. He is said to have written as many as sixteen plays in one year.  See why I love him?  He’s an inspiration – I can only write one a year and then I can’t sell the bloody thing. His theatrical invention was remarkably fertile. Imagine – he believed that comedy could be drawn from an understanding of human emotions. He was not only profound, but according to those who knew him – I read all this stuff because except in dreams I never met him but loved the plays – he was charming, witty, true to nature, with buoyant spirits and an inexhaustible humor. Some folks – not just any folks but Voltaire – thought that Goldoni was the Italian Moliere!  He released “Italian theatre from the bondage of the artificial and pantomime performances – Commedia dell Arte – and laid the foundations of the drama as it is understood in our days.  Who doesn’t love him?!  

Back to my quest – I got excited by the pictures I found on line.


Il Teatro Goldoni is located in one of the older sections of Venezia.  Not only did the web-site excite me but there were posters around town about a performance of Goldoni’s work!!!!  I wanted tickets!  I wanted to tour the theater!  I love this playwright and have enjoyed reading his work.  I want to walk where he walked!  I put the address in the map app on my phone.  We took the vaporetti to the closest stop.  We walked and walked and asked and asked but couldn’t find it.  We crossed the same canal a pazillion times looking for it. I am quite sure with all that walking that I must have stepped on one cobblestone that Goldoni stepped on.  Not wanting to give up, I went into a small restaurant on a back alley and asked one more time – the waitress said the theater was just around the corner.  We asked her to save us a table out in the alley and we sprinted around the corner – wait – what corner – we tried corner after corner.


I found this little street -maybe he used to hang out on the corner with his buddies.


Look – Hotel A La Commedia!  We must be close to becoming one with the spirit of Golden.  BASTA!!! ENOUGH! Downtrodden we just went back and had not only a fabulous meal but lived a Goldoni scene.

An old woman looked down on us from a balcony and began to talk to us.  My Italian can get us food and a hotel but normally isn’t enough to hold a conversation of intricate detail.  Channeling Goldoni, the dialogue poured out of my mouth. The old woman guffawed as I regaled her with the tales of my quest.  She told me I needed to go to his house – Goldoni’s house?  Yes, it is now a museum!

Carlo Godoni’s House Museum, the Casa di Carlo Goldoni, only costs €5 and is located at San Polo 2794, 30125 Venezia. I didn’t find that either …

Ci Vediamo.

Murano – The Venetian’s Venice

Beautiful isn’t it. This isn’t a picture postcard enticing you to visit Venice. I shot this picture at 8:00 PM on a Tuesday night in Murano. What is missing from this tranquil setting? A gaggle of tourists racing off cruise ships or stepping on each other’s sneaker shod toes to get a better selfie in front of this or that.  That is what the historic center of Venice is like today. Why deal with that when you can enjoy the Venetian life style right here in Murano.

When I say Murano, I bet you say “Glass”.  Yup this is the island in the lagoon that is famous for the production of incredible glass products and the preponderance of faux Murano glass made in Chinese factories.  How do I know?  We stayed on the island for a week, chatted with folks and visited different shops.  Some shops even posted giant signs saying “Buy Murano Not Chinese.”  We did buy but from folks that were actually working on products that we could see.  Museo Del Vetro is a wonderful way to fully understand the glass business and see beautiful glass work.  For cittadini anziani (over 65)the fee was only €7.50

The vaporetti crammed with tourists that dash from glass shop to glass shop roll in about 10:00 AM and the last shopping bag laden person seems to have disappeared by 5:00 PM.  Those of you who read me know I have the patience of a gnat when it comes to tourists – loud pushy tourists.  So how did I survive even six hours of a place chocked full of crazed glass shoppers?  We stayed off the main canals and hung out where the real people lived.  That is the beauty of Murano – once you move inland away from the major canals it is pretty tranquil all of the time.

Our hotel, Hotel Conterie, was on the quiet Calle Conterie, 21.  We walked through a piazza to get there and saw children playing and people sitting on benches taking the sun.  The hotel was clean, our room was a fair size and the staff was helpful. My knees had a hard time with the two and half flights of steps to our room.  There is a hotel tax in Venice – for two people for 3 nights it was €22.90. The breakfast room used a SAECO  self service machine.  You know “push a button” to get the style of coffee of your choice.  My morning cappuccino was a major disappointment. The steamed milk was obviously steamed chemicals.   That said, I still liked the hotel. It was only a five minute walk, sans suitcase, to the vaporetti station. The boat buses run all night.  From Murano it is easy to get around to the other islands.  Venice Water Buses

In the piazza, I chatted with a local woman who said they loved living on Murano and working on the main island.  It was a safe place to raise children and tranquil.  She also pointed out a local bar/restaurant on the same sun filled piazza we walked through.

Murano Restaurant

We wouldn’t have know that “Ai Bisatei” existed and were happy she let us know that the fare was local.  We ate lunch there one day and paid about 50% less than the other restaurants charged near the main tourist driven canals. The lima beans with saor were wonderful.  We found this yummy sweet, sour and salty condiment in lots of fare – it is simply onions that seem to have been sitting in vinegar.  Of course we had to have the sweet wine with the requisite S shaped cookie.  A grown up dunker.  Hmmm.

Until we made local pals, it was a bit tricky to find restaurants that were open after the last tourist hopped on the vaporetto.  We did find three restaurants that were open in the evening.  The rest appeared to only open for lunch – high tourist time.  That was a bit disturbing.  Considering how small the island is and how most folks eat cena – the light evening meal – at home, it does make sense.   Osteria al Duomo Pizzeria, Fondamenta Maschiop 20-21 (Osteria al Duomo) sat just across a bridge from Il Duomo and did a brisk nighttime pizza business.  It was the first place I ate the traditional bacala mantecato – my new favorite lush and creamy way to have bacala.  The price point was great too.  We averaged €40 a night for dinner and wine. It was only a short walk from the hotel, we liked the food and the local people, so we ate there three times.  We became instant regulars.

Can we talk about bars?  In Piazza Roma – Pontelandolfo – tables and chairs in front of every bar announce that this is the place to grab a coffee, wine, nosh and chat with pals.  One morning, not wanting the crappy hotel cappuccino we went searching for a bar and a brioche.  We walked and walked until 10:00 not seeing one chair in front of one building welcoming us.  At ten, the tourist spots on Canal Grande di Murano and Canale San Donato starting putting out their  chairs.  I went into one small bar, ordered due cappuccini and asked where the early morning bars were.  Turned out that one opened at 7:00, one at 8:00 and this guy at 10:00. Unless you lived there you would never know it.  We did find a bar, in a kiosk, near where the boats laden with fruit, mail, and other boxes came into the canal.  It was a “stand and go” type of place.  They had a sign “no picnics here.”  Then it hit me – doink.  If there were tables and chairs outside tourists, not locals, would plop and probably not go in the one man operations to buy anything.  It was great to get a real cappuccino – cost €3.50 – €2.60 more than we pay at home in Pontelandolfo.  Now we also knew where the local spots were – sans outdoor seating.

Of course, I had to buy some glass trinkets and Jack and I decided to look inland for a local “hot shop”.  Andrea Giubelli makes beautiful necklaces – yes I bought one – and other small items. Here is his website – Andrea Giubelli.  His studio – I watched him work – is Calle Luna 12.  

Murano Impressions – just a few quick brush strokes before the video

Clear skies and quiet nights.  Laughter floating out of shuttered windows as families gathered.

Yesterday’s garbage neatly tied and hung on hooks high out side doors.  Men  dragging carts collecting trash and smiling.  Where do they take the garbage?  Barges with dumpsters collect from the carts and head off.  Where do they take the garbage?

Men and boys, fishing poles pointed to the heavens, legs dangling off piers staring at the sea.

Women dragging shopping bags on wheels from marchelleria, to fruitivendolo to the supermarket COOP.

Barge toting fruit and vegetables, barge toting building supplies, barge toting UPS boxes, barge toting cases of water, barge toting frozen Bindi desserts, barge toting everything COOP needs on its shelves, barge toting a crane, barge toting a cement mixer,  barges — the necessities and amenities of life dependent on barges.

Check out my video –

Ci Vediamo!

Cute Guy Finds Your Lost Ancestors!

Alexandra Rose Niedt, my incredible niece, called one day and said, “You’re buying Richie and I dinner – where shall we meet.”  Hmm, that sounded mysterious.  Alex and Rich had gone to a Performing Arts High School together.  Last I heard he was studying theater in  – well I don’t remember but some UK place or another.  Jack and I met Alex and Rich Venezia for dinner.  As Rich chatted about what he was up to, I caught the mischievous gleam in my niece’s eyes. Rich Venezia is an ancestor detective!  Give him the clues and he will track down that wayward great, great uncle Vito. Immediately I was hooked!  I wanted to hear all the stories, learn how he did what he does and the whole maghilla! richedit2

Eye Candy and Smart – A Killer Combination!

I whipped out my iPhone and went right to his website –  Yes, I know I would give the mal’occhio to anyone who pulled a phone out at dinner but..  Here’s the lead in on the site;

Ever heard about that eccentric great-uncle who may or may not have spent his last years in jail? Know your family’s Italian, but don’t know whether your meat sauce should be Bolognese or Neapolitan ragù? Rich Roots Genealogy provides genealogical services to help you find your rich roots.

The reporter in me beat up the writer in me and won.  This is the interview that we shared over caffè and a sfogliatelle. Yes, the tape was rolling –
M: Cute boy – I mean Rich, how did you get started in genealogy? 
R: I was really close to my grandma – my mom’s mom.  My other grandma died when I was 7.  When I was 13, Grandma Edna passed away.  Cleaning her house we discovered the family tree she’d been working on. I was in a strange place, having lost three grandparents before the end of my first teenage year, and I thought taking up the mantle to work on the family tree would be a great way to honor both my late maternal grandmother and my father’s parents. So, from the time I started working on the “Comprehensive Camperlino Clan,” I was hooked!
M: So genealogy is a passion?
Once I started playing detective, I knew it was a role I wanted to keep on playing. I began getting more serious about genealogy as a profession, and two years ago officially started Rich Roots Genealogy.
M:  Sounds like Grandma Edna was a catalyst for your business.  Tell me more about her. R: Edna Marie Foulkes was her name. She was my only non-Italian grandparent! She was so very proud of her Irish heritage, but she was also Welsh, English, Prussian, and (recently learned) Canadian. She was kind and funny and she loved spoiling her grandchildren. I remember she had this silly fake flower pot that would play “In the Mood” when you pressed a button, and the flowers would dance. Every time I visited, we’d dance together. I remember she was silly and had a joie de vivre. I like to think I gained some of my spontaneity and passion for life from her.
M: Let’s talk about the Italian side for a second – isn’t the rest of your family Italian?
 R: Yes, ma’am! My last name is Venezia, after all! Five of my eight great-grandparents were born in Italy, and the sixth was born in Pennsylvania only a few years after her parents immigrated. They were all born in different towns, and a lot of their families had actually moved a lot before the big move, so I am up to over a dozen ancestral hometowns… and counting!
M: How much of your research, specifically into Italian records, can you really do from the USA?  
R: A whole lot, actually. The Mormon church has spent decades microfilming (and recently digitizing) records from hundreds of Italian comuni at archives all over Italy. Some of these records are online on their website, others are online on the Italian National Archives’ site, and many others are available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I’ve been very fortunate that a lot of towns I’ve been researching in lately (not my own, naturally) have been available online.
M: I know you love to travel – what about your research in Italy? What records are available there?  
R: The possibilities are endless, really. Mainly, the Archivio di Stato of the province will have the vital (stato civile) records of nearly every town in that province, as well as catasti (censuses), military records, notarial records (where one can find such amazing things as a marriage contract, land records, etc.), and all sorts of other interesting (and little-used) records. In the town itself, a visit to the church is a genealogical treasure trove. Churches in Italy were supposed to keep track of baptisms, marriages, and burials of all parishioners from 1595 onward… some started decades earlier! I am on a quest to learn about the origins of my surname (my roots are all south of Naples from what I know), so it’s on my short list to head to Atripalda and see how far Venezia goes back there.
M: How often does your work get you to Italy?   
R: I try to come to Europe at least once a year, if not more. It’s in my five-year plan to be able to offer client research in Italy, too. And now that I have a place to stay not far from Naples…
M: Any pal of Alex’s can stay with us – and give genealogical advice. What’s one bit of genealogical advice you’d give to a beginner?  
R: Never give up – because you never know where your answers may lie! Genealogy is such a multi-faceted thing. Records we’d never even think to look into may often fill in the lives of our ancestors. As well, records we may have in our home (or our close relatives may have) that we may have forgotten about could lead to some brilliant findings. Remember that dusty old shoebox in the closet, above the Christmas decorations? Time to dust if off! I firmly believe that learning about our past leads us to learning about ourselves… our ancestors’ stories are just waiting to be found. They give us – well, certainly me, at least – pride, purpose, and peace.
M: Rich, you know that I feel exactly the same way – I hope that more young people become interested in learning about their heritage as a pathway to finding out more about themselves.  Grazie mille, Rich!
Little Commercial For Our Pal – 
Since Rich began accepting clients as a professional genealogist, he has helped many others find their roots in Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Scotland, St. Kitts, Sint Eustatius, France, Germany, The Netherlands, and of course in the USA. He is a member of local and national genealogical organizations, and has attended a number of conferences and institutes to continue his education as a professional. He recently received his Online Certificate in Genealogical Research from The Boston University for Professional Education, and is excited to be running unopposed for Vice President of the North Hills Genealogists in Pittsburgh.
Rich is based in Pittsburgh. His website is