Venice: History of the Floating Cityby Joanne FerraroCambridge University Press, 2012Venice has inspired as many books as there've been fools to fall in love with the place - the number is vast, in scientific terms, a gazillion. There is no cataloging them all, let alone reading them all, but the nonfiction - the stuff that remains when we've decided to omit the countless romances and murder mysteries, that is - can be roughly grouped into three sub-species. One of these sub-species - by far the most numerous - no sooner gets your attention than it brings up the magic of Venice: these books are full of languid sunsets, handsome gondoliers, and the Bridge of Sighs. They're perennially popular with tourists (armchair and otherwise) and will therefore be with us in all their super-abundance until the last thin spire of the city has sunk beneath the placid waters of the Adriatic. The second sub-species isn't nearly so numerous or demonstrative (although it looks covetously at all those tourist dollars) - it exists solely to strike a cool, defiant tone toward ... you guessed it ... the magic of Venice. Instead, they're about the sham of Venice. Whether it be William Dean Howells, Mary McCarthy, or Peter Ackroyd, the writers of these books spend most of their time talking about grumpy natives, poor plumbing, and gawking tourists. They all go to the Lido and hate it. They all get kept awake at night by wailing cats. In the course of writing their books about Venice, they all complain about how many books have been written about Venice. This second sub-species of book is unfailingly fun to read - until the last chapter, when the supposedly cynical author always commences to fall under the spell.The third sub-species of Venice book is the rarest of the three (only a couple billion of them have been written in the last 1,500 years): books that aren't about the magic of Venice and aren't about the sham of Venice but instead are about ... Venice.
... I have chosen to emphasize four themes that are timely and important in the postmodern age: the construction and evolution of identities; the multiculturalism of material life; social hierarchy; and gender as a cultural construction.
Ordinary people, however, could afford little for their homes as most of their income went for subsistence. They made do with the bare essentials: a bed with modest linens, an iron pot or two for soups and stews with a hanging chain, cooking pans, water pails, lamp and candlestick holders for lighting, benches, and stools.
On the eve of the 1630 plague, there were also festering sores in the Venetian leadership. In 1628, Ranieri Zeno challenged the authority of the doge, Giovanni Corner, a scion of one of Venice's oldest dynasties. Belonging to the "Longhi," the groupe of families that had held the dogeship regularly until 1381 but were then kept from high office until Corner's ascendancy in 1612, the doge's expanding influence raised alarm: his sons held both church offices and positions in the Senate, in violation of the laws of the Republic. Zeno, currying the favor of a disgruntled group of impoverished nobles, attempted to break Corner's hold over the Signoria. The reforming impulse, however, fell apart, and the dichotomy between rich and poor continued to cause rifts.