The Gardens of Venice, journeys with Damerini to the artistic jewels of the Lagoon

VENICE – «You will be immediately struck by stenches and smells, songs and music of all kinds; the characteristic smell of oil cooking in the frying pans rises in your throat; the flavors of sauces and stews come from the kitchens; from the dark cantinoni, where colossal steaming polenta dominates, the scents of Barletta wines and Friulian spirits evaporate; at the door of his salon, a barber sprays the scent of indefinable water into the murky air; and street vendors, under the noses of passers-by, stir cooked squid in the red broth in the huge green terracotta basins or, dry, the molluscs and crustaceans of the Adriatic Sea. The trattorias have pantries that are wide open to the street, behind which you can see the halls with the set tables in dark lines. Narrow street, long, crowded and cosmopolitan, from which branches off a wet Albanian and another dirty Padovani, taking you to the back of the prisons of the Republic ». It is the description of Calle delle Rasse included in the Book of the Gardens of Venice. A journey into the greenery and artistic jewels of the Lagoon, by Gino Damini. Published in 1927, the Pendragon publishing house deservedly proposes a new edition. The title is a bit limiting because it speaks not only of gardens but also of different places, traveling back in time to visit a fascinating Venice that has now disappeared. there new editionand it is an excellent excuse to remember Gino Damerini, a character who has been forgotten. Damerini was born in Venice in 1881 and died in Asolo in 1967. She was a journalist who wrote history books and plays.

When he made his debut as a journalist at the beginning of the 20th century, seven newspapers were published in Venice. He later directed it from 1922 The Gazzetta di Venice, historical newspaper founded at the end of the 18th century and taken over in 1940 by the Gazzettino, of which it was the evening edition and suppressed at the end of the Second World War. He has published dozens of books, as anyone who studies Venetian history knows, and regularly comes across his bibliography. He was also an important Casanovista, a member of Giacomo Casanova’s group of admirers who worked to keep alive the memory of the Venetian adventurer. It is not for nothing that the Englishman James Rives Childs, author of a biography of Casanova in 1961 that is still a point of reference today, thanks him. “Damerini was the pen of the Venetian Right,” notes Filippo Maria Paladini, Venetian, history professor at the University of Turin, author of one of the essays in the monographic edition dedicated to Gino Damerini by the Ateneo Veneto in 2000. Friend of Gabriele D’Annunzio (writes D’Annunzio in Venice), he was the man who historically accompanied the political projects of Giuseppe Volpi and Vittorio Cini.

His writings, in fact, are almost never accidental and also mark an important advance in research capacity: Damerini limited himself at the beginning to secondary sources (already published books), later he deepened the research of primary sources (documents from the “archive”), giving way to the publications given greater historical value. For example, his book on the Ionian Islands is functional to the project of expanding Italian influence in the Mediterranean. The Ionian Islands in the Adriatic System: From Venetian rule to Buonaparte (note the use of Napoleon’s surname before its Frenchization by removing the u) it came out in 1943. In the same year he wrote: “Venice would have remained unredeemed, the Campofomido cycle would not have been completed if not with the reintroduction into Fascist Italy of all the possessions of the Venetian State, as it arrived in 1797, heir and continuator of both Rome and Venice ». The dominant idea in those years, which Volpi and Cini tried to embody, was that Italy had had two great empires: the Roman one on land and the Venetian one on the sea. Therefore, Fascist Italy had to restore the spheres of influence of Rome and Venice. However, it was not so easy because two schools of thought were opposed: one focused on restoring Italian power in Dalmatia (in 1943 the east coast of the Adriatic had been annexed to the Kingdom of Italy), the other instead , more concerned with Greece and dealt with the Dodecanese. Apparently, the first was supported by former unredeemed, such as Giovanni Host-Venturi from Rijeka, Minister of Communications to Gabriele d’Annunzio in Fiume. The second, on the other hand, was sponsored by men like Volpi who were interested in more than just raising flags but in economic hegemony. However, it was a Venetian-centric vision in contrast to that of the rest of Italian Fascism, which was not very interested in Adriatic affairs.
Not that there was always bad blood between Damerini and the top of the city, on the contrary. There was a deep rift with Volpi, owner of the Gazzettino, a popular newspaper, when he bought the Gazzetta di Venezia, an elite newspaper, and suddenly closed the editorial office without even bothering to protect the content. It is Dameini who personally brings the backward volumes to the Marciana library, so that at least these can be saved. At this point, the now-former director leaves Venice in an outraged exile on the hills of Asolo. The books on the history of Venice in the 18th century are also not without political implications. “Behind Damerini”, Paladini puts it more precisely, “one saw the long shadow of the historiography of the 19th Film Festival).

In those years there was an eighteenth-century Venetian reappraisal that denied the decline of the Venetian state (curious that the same thing is happening today with the Separatists, obviously influenced by Fascist historiography) in an anti-French key. To argue that Venice was still a prosperous state in the 18th century and had been killed by the French (forgetting the role of Austria, among other things) was to distance oneself from the Enlightenment and its “Masonic-democratic” values ​​as opposed to the national and imperial values ​​promoted by Benito Mussolini and his Venetian collaborators.
Just as there was no break in the ruling class in the post-war period (just think of Achille Gaggia and his Sade), so were the cultural exponents. Damerini would continue to play a leading role in Venetian art without ever renouncing his political leanings. When Mario Isnenghi, professor of contemporary history first in Padua and then in Venice, writes the introduction to the book by Maria Damerini, Gino’s widow, he begins it with a metaphor and refers to the woman’s explanations around the house in Asolo to reach: ” Always turn right! To come to us, always turn right ».

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