Thursday March 25, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Venice
On this Day:
In 421, on this day, Friday March 25 at 12 PM – the city of Venice was founded. How do they know it was founded at precisely that date and time? Read on…
Although no surviving historical records deal directly with the founding of Venice, tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice consisted of refugees—from nearby Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino, and Concordia (modern Portogruaro), as well as from the undefended countryside—who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasions. This is further supported by the documentation on the so-called “apostolic families”, the twelve founding families of Venice who elected the first doge, who in most cases trace their lineage back to Roman families. Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen, on the islands in the original marshy lagoons, who were referred to as incolae lacunae (“lagoon dwellers”). The traditional founding is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto (Rivoalto, “High Shore”)—said to have taken place at the stroke of noon on 25 March 421 (the Feast of the Annunciation).
Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers (more exactly between the Brenta and the Sile). In 2020, 258,685 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice (centro storico). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.
The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for a millennium and more, from 697 to 1797. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as an important center of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following a referendum held as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence.
Venice has been known as “La Dominante”, “La Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals”. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork. Venice is known for several important artistic movements—especially during the Renaissance period—and has played an important role in the history of instrumental and operatic music, and is the birthplace of Baroque composers Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi.
Although the city is facing some challenges (including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings), Venice remains a very popular tourist destination, a major cultural centre, and has been ranked many times the most beautiful city in the world. It has been described by the Times Online as one of Europe’s most romantic cities and by The New York Times as “undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
While in Venice, I ordered a plate of pasta. The waiter put down a huge platter in front of me. He saw my eyes grow wide looking at the mound of steaming food and said: “Eat the spaghetti with no regretti!”
Second, a Song:
“’O sole mio” is a globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898. Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua and Alfredo Mazzucchi (1878–1972). There are other versions of “’O sole mio” but it is usually sung in the original Neapolitan language. ’O sole mio is the Neapolitan equivalent of standard Italian Il mio sole and translates literally as “my sun” or “my sunshine”.
“’O sole mio” has been performed and covered by many artists, including Enrico Caruso, Rosa Ponselle and her Sister Carmella, Andrea Bocelli, Beniamino Gigli, and Mario Lanza. Sergio Franchi recorded this song on his 1962 RCA Victor Red Seal debut album Romantic Italian Songs. Luciano Pavarotti won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for his rendition of “’O sole mio”.
In 1961, while becoming the first person to ever orbit the earth, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin hummed “O Sole Mio”.
What could be more romantic than to be serenaded to “O Sole Mio” while taking a gondola ride in Venice? Juan Orrante has posted this video clip of a trip he took to Venice. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“At the bridge I stood lately in the brown night. From afar came a song: as a golden drop it welled over the quivering surface. Gondolas, lights, and music – drunken it swam out into the twilight. My soul, a stringed instrument, sang to itself, invisibly touched, a secret gondola song, quivering with iridescent happiness. – Did anyone listen to it?” – Friedrich Nietzsche
The Japanese Shogun Smile elicited the following memories:
From Russ Waugh of Gimli, Manitoba, Canada:
“Hi Dave, I was at a Yamaha Dealers Meeting in Bellville, Ont in the middle 80’s and we were entertained by a Japanese drum troop, which I do not remember the name, but was great in person and you feel the tension in the area (outdoor performance and very dark out) with the loud sound vibrating almost made the hair on your neck stand up. Russ”
From Sandy Weams of Campbell River, BC, Canada:
You just took me down memory lane.
I read the book Shogun in High school and then ended up living/working in Japan twice for a total of 7 years and visiting twice afterwards again.
Been to Hiroshima twice and can say a nuclear bomb today will be even more devastating than Hiroshima.
I saw the taiko drummers and they were riveting. My first time arriving in Japan was during Cherry Blossom season and I was training in Tokyo. At lunch time I wandered around and found myself at the Emperors Palace with hundreds of the most beautiful cherry blossoms. It is customary to celebrate under the cherry blossom trees with food/drink and song.”
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky
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