Tag: History

Bits of Rusty History

The Certosa island was home to an armaments factory, the Pirotecnica della Certosa, for the first half of the 20th century. It was shut down definitively in 1958. I found this on the ground a few days ago.

Venetian rowing in the 18th century

Antonio Vivaldi, the composer from the 18th century who wrote The Four Seasons, also wrote operas to be performed in Venetian theatres. They were rather modern for their time, and one of Vivaldi’s critics published a pamphlet against him, called “Il teatro alla moda“, which […]

Ancient graffiti

Ancient graffiti


The current entrance to the hospital in Venice originally housed the Scuola Grande di San Marco, an important confraternity and one of the six Scuole Grandi of Venice. In the early 19th century it was turned into a military hospital by the then Austrian rulers of Venice, and later it became a civilian hospital.

The facade dates back to the late 15th century, and is one is one of the marvels of Venetian renaissance architecture.

If one examines the walls of this building after dark with a torch, all sorts of little wonders appears. The stone work is littered with graffiti, most of which are probably fairly old.

Here are some of those I found one evening.


This looks like a 18th or early 19th century ship with several masts. The naval past of Venice is evident.


Another wooden ship, probably a war ship as it has portholes for guns.


Yet another ship, but this graffiti might not have been finished. It looks a bit rudimentary compared to the others.


Here’s a fairly long writing, which I cannot really read, except that it says Venezia at the end.


Some mixed scribbles, including a few years: 1745 and  1872. Of course, a year is just a number, it could have been written any time. There’s also an @ in the middle.


This graffiti is made by a different technique than scratching the stone. It shows at least two gondolas, on with a felze which is a type of cabin that mostly fell out of use in the 19th century.

There’s also a year there: 1670 or maybe 1690.


Here too is a (partial) gondola, but at least the ferro is clear.


A five pointed star, whatever that might mean.

Lessico Veneto – Malamocco

I recently found some scanned books from Venice of times past. One of them is a kind of historical encyclopedia from the mid 19th century, and I must say it has its little oddities 🙂 The entry for Malamocco – a small hamlet on the […]

Book: Barche del Golfo di Venezia

A dear friend of mine recently gave me a beautiful gift – the book Barche del Golfo di Venezia – an illustrated description of most of the traditional boats of the Venetian lagoon and the upper Adriatic Sea. The various chapters describe not only the […]

The Abandoned Islands of the Venetian lagoon

In 1978 two Venetian men in their mid twenties rowed around the lagoon of Venice, photographing all the abandoned islands there.  The result was a book with photographic documentation of the state of abandonment of each island.

Recently, some thirty years after, the book has been republished, now with a English parallel text and some recent pictures of some of the islands.  Some islands are in a  better state, but others are much worse.

Isole abbandonate della laguna veneziana

As a frequent traveller in the lagoon this book was a must have, and  I bought it a few days ago.

Many of the islands in the book are places I have been many times, and as recently as this week I have been to S.Giacomo in Palude, Lazzaretto Novo, Sant’Ariano and La Cura, taking my own photos of the state of disrepair or recovery of each.  As a historian it is very hard not to be intrigued and curious about the ruins and the past of these islands, and this book is a great help in understanding why the islands are like the are now.

Here are a few picture I’ve taken in the last week from some of the islands (left to right: S.Giacomo in Palude, La Cura and Sant’Ariano):

S.Giacomo in PaludeLa CuraSant'Ariano and the ossuary

I still haven’t read it all. Many of the texts are reproduced from old descriptions of the lagoon islands, mostly 19th century texts, and the Italian is quite hard to read. The English text is a lot easier, but it feels almost like cheating 🙂

The book is:

Isole abbandonate della laguna veneta
The Abandoned Islands of the Venetian Lagoon

by Giorgio and Maurizio Crovato,
London (San Marco Press Ltd), 2009 (orig. 1978)
ISBN 0955813867

Ten percent of the price will go a Venice related charity, depending on where in the world the book is bought. In Italy the money goes to the association that takes care of the Lazzaretto Novo island, which has been recuperated and restored since the first edition of the book.

The Sea Stallion at sea

The Sea Stallion, a reconstruction of a thousand years old viking longship, has departed Dublin on a 1400 nautical miles journey back to Denmark. They expect to arrive on August 9th. The ship is a replica of a 30m longship, build in Dublin around 1040 […]

Ogliastra hinterland – abandoned towns and ancient towers

On friday the 28th the sea was livelier than we wanted to be part of, and we decided on an excursion by car to the mountains in the Ogliastra hinterland. First we drove to Jerzu which is a bit further inland from Cardedu, where the […]


Tuesday evening (March 25th) we left Palermo for Trapani. The ferry was scheduled to depart at nine in the evening, but we ended up at Giacomo’s chatting until after seven, and arrived at Trapani harbour at ten to nine, only to discover that the ferry departed from a new more distant pier, which we had problems finding as the signs weren’t quite in working order. We hauled our gear from the car onto the ferry, said a hasty goodbye to Giacomo and hurried on board, only to hear a message on the loudspeakers that departure had been postponed to ten o’clock.

CagliariInitially the sea was quite rough, but it got calmer during the night, and we had a reasonably quiet passage to Cagliari where we arrived at about ten in the morning.

Francesco Muntoni of Cardedu Kayak wouldn’t be able to pick us up until in the late afternoon, so we carried our gear to the nearby bus station where it was possible to leave luggage for a while. We checked in our bags, and a greenland paddle, and set off exploring the city.

The elephant gateCagliari is an ancient city. It was founded by the Phoenicians some 800 years BC, and later pass into Roman hands, followed by Byzantine, Pisan, Aragonese, Spanish, Austrian, Piedmontese and finally Italian. We walked through the busling lower quarter Marina on our way up the hillside to the old fortified city, the Castello, which in comparison seen almost lifeless.

On the beach on NolaFrancesco Ravasio, one of the persons who brought sea kayaking to Sardinia over twenty years ago, met us at the station at half past three, and he took us for a short excursion to Nola before dropping us off at Diana Canoe, a local kayak producer run by Stefano Diana.

Diana Canoe makes a wide range of recreational kayaks in fiberglass, and they can make almost anything in fiberglass and kevlar. When we were there they were even working on some fiberglass roofs for ambulances.

Diana CanoeFrancesco Muntoni of Cardedu Kayak came to Diana Canoe a bit later to pick us and a couple of kayaks up. Francesco uses kayaks from Diana Canoe for most his excursions in the Ogliastra area in Sardinia. The kayaks in question are in part designed by Francesco himself, especially for daytrips with less experienced paddlers along the rocky coast near Cardedu and in the area of the Golfo di Orosei.

We had a quiet drive to Cardedu in the dark, and arrived there at about ten in the evening, dead tired and ready for bed.

Dig and you will find

Whenever people put a shovel in the ground in Rome they’ll hit something ancient. It is not restricted to the centre of the city. Here in the surroundings of Grottaferrata, some 25 km outside Rome, the same thing happens too. Shortly before I arrived, a […]