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Friday, March 31, 2023

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Canal Grande near Rialto, Venice, Italy

The Allure of Venice Revealed

A new book by SDSU's Joanne Ferraro is a sweeping portrait of the floating city.
By Gina Jacobs

The labyrinth of bridges and canals throughout the historic city of Venice leaves many a tourist confused and lost.

However, an understanding of the city’s beginnings will make discovering Venice such an intriguing adventure, that one won’t mind hitting the infamous dead ends.

Joanne Ferraro, chair of the history department at San Diego State University has penned a new book, "Venice: History of the Floating City," that delves into the history and culture of the majestic city.

It is the most up-to-date book on the history of Venice, bringing together the last 40 years of research in multiple disciplines for the first time. The book also emphasizes the city’s development as a multi-ethnic, multicultural maritime power.

“Venice is not just a western European city or an Italian city, it is a world city,” Ferraro said. “Over the ages, many people have not only come to visit but to stay, so Venice was rich with immigrant communities throughout its history.”

The Venetian culture

Beginning in the year 1000, Venice became a Mediterranean power with trading experiences that reached as far as China and to North Africa.  

“You can see it in the food that the Venetians ate; many of their recipes came from the Middle East," Ferraro said.  "The fabrics they manufactured have names that come from places like Persia or China. Their home décor has all kinds of Turkish artifacts. So it really is a multicultural environment.”

Dark secrets

Ferraro also uncovers some of the darker secrets of Venetian life, including the hidden sexual practices in the city and the social problems that arise from them. 

A specialist in the history of sexuality, Ferraro discusses how the city dealt with issues like sexually-transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancies and women who claimed to have special powers of spirituality.

Lecture and book signing

"Venice: The History of the Floating City" goes on sale Aug. 14, but Ferraro will present a special lecture and book signing at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 26 at the Timken Museum in Balboa Park. A limited number of advanced copies of the book will be available.