Venetian Nomenclature

Glossary of Venetian Nomenclature
acqua alta /abnormally high tides, causing flooding to many parts of Venice and the lagoon islands
altana/ a roof or terrace, usually of timber
anagrafe /census of population

bacino/ the body of water where ships were moored between San Giorgio de Maggiore and the ducal palace
bailo/ Venetian patrician representative or ambassador in the Ottoman imperial court at Constantinople who also supervised Venetian traders there. Giulio’s uncle Girolamo had actually been taken prisoner there once as secretary to the Bailo.
balovardo/bulwark or rampart in defensive works to a town
barena/ sandbar or low-lying bank in lagoon, usually visible at low tides
barnabotti /nickname for less affluent, relatively uneducated members of the noble class, some of whom openly sold their votes for the money.
bastion da vin /usually a warehouse for wine, or the official place for selling it (‘a spina’ meaning by the drought)
barbacane/ a jetty, or oversailing upper story of a building, also beams or wooden corbels carrying these jetties out over the streets.
beccarie/ butcher shops near Rialto
bocca di piazza/ main street leading into east end of Piazza San Marco
bora /cold wind and storm blowing from the Alps through the north- eastern Adriatic, sending high waters coursing into the Venetian lagoon. Makes for much flooding mostly in winter.
borghesi /townspeople who owned their land or buildings
bottega/ retail shop (botteghiere is a shopkeeper)
bragolare/ to go fishing
bravi /professional bullies and thugs hired by anyone to intimidate or kill.
bricole/ oak piles or stakes in lagoon indicating navigable channels, also mooring posts, even outside channels
broglio /name of the courtyard at the Doge’s palace where members of the council met to discuss candidates for offices. Became synonymous with bribery, intrigue, and corruption.
barchiello/ produce barges which ply the dogano
burchielle/ small barges
calle/ narrow street or alley
campo/ village square
campo de rialto/ piazza where bankers recorded credit transfers, both local and international, under the arcades. Preceeded the Dutch ‘Bourse’ by hundreds of years as such an efficient market for money transfer.
canalazzo /local term for grand canal
canali /channels of the lagoon
Candia /known also as Crete, it was one of only a few colonies still left, at the time of our story, of Venice’s Mediterranean colonial empire, along with islands and other holdings littered up and down the coasts of Dalmatia and Greece. By the early 1600’s very few ‘mude’ or trade caravans, sailed still for the fear of pirates, privateers from England and Holland, and, of course, the Turks. Giulio’s family and state guest, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Demetrius is from Crete.
caneva/wine store
capitello/ small walled shrine in street which leads from San Marco to the Rialto
caranto /the bed of clay and sand under the mud which held fast the piles driven down as foundations for the buildings which still stand in the Dogano
carrizade/ even narrower calle ( alleys) used just for access to densely sub- divided multi-terraced apartments
casa in soler/ house with an upper story (‘solaio’ is an upper room)
casaria rialto /dairy market
cason(e) /isolated house or hut in lagoons, usually for fishing or hunting. Some could be big, the size of villas
catastico/land register, with titles and details of rents or tithes
cavana /usually a boat shed or enclosed dock, also a small pool or swamp

cittadini /proven citizenship for three generations. They could not be patricians unless a woman from a cittadini family marries into a noble family. the high Chancellor, or ‘cancelliari’ comes from the cittadini and is the only othe figure besides the doge who is elected for life. He wore the purple robe with wide sleeves along with the procuratori. He was in charge of all the segretarii such as Giulio’s father Andrea Alberti. These secretaries of state were recruited from the ranks of the privileged cittadini class to serve in the bureaucratic infrastructure of government.
‘Cittadini de intus’/ were foreigners who had resided in Venice 10 years and held certain public offices or engaged in arts and professions. They could trade within the republic.
‘Cittadini de extra’ /had to reside for 16 years in Venice and for that could sail under the banner of S. Marco and practice the noble art of commerce, protected by the military and diplomatic service.
“Cittadini de jure’ or ‘originarii’ /went back at least three generations, like Giulio’s family. This class included many patrician women who had married cittadini men and could not by that definition be patricians any longer. Often the cittidini men they married were a thousand times better off than poorer patrician families like some ‘Barnabotti.’ Those cittadini originarii  like Giulio who passed their ‘prova’ at the chancellery became responsible for the entire bureaucratic infrastructure of the government. The highest positions besides Chancellor were Vice Chancellor like Antonio’s uncle Padovan and the three ‘cifristi,’ or cryptographers like Giulio’s father, Andrea,, who served as Secretaries to the Ten and Senate. These secretaries were referred to as the ‘Circospetti,’ and all the others, ‘Fedelissimi.’ Wherever all of them they served, under admirals, or generals, or ambassadors, or as under-ambassadors of state themselves, they were expected to exercise the utmost discretion in the execution of their official duties. While the patricians were constantly rotated to prevent abuse of privilege and power, the secretaries came to be the reliable voice of experience needed to keep the wheels of government going smoothly, especially important during the intermittent wars being waged which confounded a city state with its concommitant layers of overlapping authorities and checks and balances–amounting to a mass of contradictions. Venice was a government distrustful of power, and war demanded a concentration of it that was impossible to maintain. It is said Venice would certainly have collapsed by its own weight (government) much earlier than it did if it wasn’t for wars which maintained certain alliances by diplomatic and mercenary means, including large purchases of munitions from friendly foreign governments. In the end it was the secretaries who palliated the inherent problems of a limited leadership in times of peace let alone war.

collone/ two granite columns at the end of the Piazzetta facing the Molo
coltrina /a cortina or curtain wall in a defensive system
compravender-baggi /buyers and sellers of produce who transported crops from farm to market

corte /courtyard
crosera/ crossroads
‘disce pati’/ ‘learn to suffer’ scratched in prison walls, graffiti dep[icting fate of those sent to prison
dogado /original core of Venetian territory, encompassing the lagoon surrounding Venice from Chioggia to Murano and Grado., including all such Lidi
dogana da mar/ customs house on the point of land which divides the grand and giudecca canals
doge ruler, elected at first by popular vote, then by the noble class
ducale /letter or decree from the doge and the Signoria to one of their appointees, usually governors or podesta of subject towns
erberia /a town or neighborhood outdoor vegetable-market
felze /portable cabins on gondolas
filatoi /silk weaving or twisting
fondamenta/ quay or waterfront
fondamento /foundation of a building. Also used for salt beds of lagoon
fontego or fondaco/ store or warehouse, often for flour, grain, or other bulk materials
A Romanesque Palazzo built during the middle ages, with a design derived from the ‘casa a torresele’ with its long portico and loggia
between two small towers on each end, this Palazzo owned by the current Doge, became converted right at he time of our story into the Fontego dei Turchi. This turkish emporium on the grand canal was managed by Giulio’s uncle Girolamo Alberti, who had much experience with both Jewish and Saraceni traders from the East.. Its first floor atrium was where wholesale merchandise was received and stored.
forno /oven or furnace, usually of a bakery, sometimes a brick or lime kiln
fortezza stellare/ fortress at Palmanova in the Friuli to repel invasions of Hapsburg Austria. Just finished by the time of this story, it is where Giulio’s father, Andrea Alberti, is taken prisoner.
ghebbo /a unit of land apparently confined to the southern part of the lagoon, also a ditch or drainage channel

ghetto /where the Jews lived, an old site of a foundry (gettare)
osteria /hostelry or tavern, usually with accommodations for travelers
laguna /Venetian lagoon both ‘morta’ and ‘viva’, both living, and ‘dead’ mostly due to silt accumulation from rivers’ discharge
lido or lio /long, narrow island forming a barrier between the lagoon and the open sea
lista /white stones of immunity in front of ambassador’s embassies
loggetta /headquarters of arsenal workers, at foot of campanile, who were responsible for maintaining law and order during sessions of Maggior Consiglio
luganegher /pork butcher
magazen /warehouse
massaria /treasury, usually of the town council where rents were collected and disbursements made
miaria, mier colloquial for migliaia /or one-thousand Can refer to a measure of land, like ghebbo
maggio /a unit of measure for bulk goods, esp. grain, flour, salt…one miglia equals approx. 250 kg. or approx 550 #. (a mazeto is a ‘short’ ‘maggio.’
Malamocco/ port town on the Lido which is the main scene of the book. Malamochi or Malamochini are the residents there. The island itself was once called Malamocco, and took it’s name from the river named by the Romans ‘Metamauco,’ which was changed to the ‘Brenta Flu’, and which wound through Venice before giving its name to the Malamocco Canal.
malvasia /Mediterranean destinations that produced this sweet grape wine.

marangona /one of the bells in St. mark’s tower which marked the beginning and end of the workday for the arsenal’s marangoni (woodworkers)
mariegola /rule book of strict standards and practices for each craft. Venetians were adamant about maintaining the highest quality and uniformity of goods in an age, at the time of this book, which was busy undercutting quality wherever possible to gain access to markets. Emerging powers such as England and Holland even sabotaged Venetian goods with false markings to gain a greater share of their trade.
margariteri /glass bead makers
mezzadri /renters of land (often owned by scuole or churches or convents) to farm, who could leave it as inheritances
molo /wharf in front of the piazzetta by the doge’s palace
monte de pieta/  state-run pawnshop, which sometimes evolved into a state-run loan system
muneghie /nuns
nomboli /hindquarters of beef
ortolano /market-gardener, grower of orchard crops
palificata /pilings of timber stakes, usually as protection against the sea off the lidi windward shores
paluda /swamp, marsh
parangon /place in Rialto district where the highest quality of silk was woven it became a standard.
parrocchie /parishes within districts (sestiers) of the city
passo /standard Venetian measure of length, a pace or stride, approx. 1.8 meters or yards, divided into 5 piedi or feet

piazza /large town square (piazetta a diminutive for smaller towns)
pescaria /fish market on the Rialto
pistoria /bakery (‘pistori’ are those who prepare the dough, not the bakers)
podesta /governor of town who presided over locally elected towns councils. Position was appointed by central Venetian government. Term of office usually about 16 months
portego /main hall on first floor (piano nobile) where guests were received and entertained.

pozzi/ wellheads made of sometimes ancient and decorated construction material placed at the center of campi and courtyards, surrounded by sand through which water from gutters filtered into the well for use by the neighborhood or home. Acqua Dolce was brought into the city from the terra firma on barges to replenish these wells when they ran low. Underground, a wall was built first, to confine this sand so as to keep the water pure.
procuratie/ official residence of procurators of San Marco, p. nuove is on the south side, p. vecchie is on the north and is where Giulio lived.
proto/ usually chief surveyor or chief architect
provveditore/ head of government department or commission
rendite or livelli/ rents or tithes
rio /a narrow, minor canal
riva /quay or waterfront
raga /an important retail street
ramo /a short connecting street between two bigger ones
regatta /boat races for either men and women made famous in Venice
riello /a diminutive of ‘rio’ or narrow canal.

riva/ word referring to both the banks where goods and people are loaded and unloaded, and the steps where both passengers get on and off the waiting boats.
sacca /an enclosed area of water, bay or harbor
salina /salt pan
salizzada/ paved street, an important thoroughfare
salon/ great hall or room in Venetian palaces.
saraceni /Venetian name for ishmaelites, or ‘infideli’ Not Christian, and certainly not catholic. Most Venetians, feared their emerging strength, but maintained respectful and friendly trade relations.
schiavine /large woolen blankets
scirocco /warm wind and storm from the south-western Adriatic causing flood waters to pour into the Venetian Lagoon, mostly occurring in summer.
scuellini /makers of soup bowls
scuola /a religious confraternity, or a trade (arti) guild
scuole grandi /major fraternities, usually run by cittadini, where patricians could only be members which participated in charities, hosted performances, funded floats and marched in parades, sponsored saints-days and other things
sestiere /one of six administrative districts of Venice… S. Marco, S. Polo, Cannareggio, Castello, Dorsoduro, and S. Croce
signoria /Inner circle of venetian government, consisting of doge and his six councilors, as well as the Capi della Quarantia
sospiri /bridge of sighs connecting the doges palace with the ‘piombi’ or lower prisons (built after my first two books.)
sottoporteghi/ narrow arcades built into walls of private houses to accommodate pedestrian traffic
squartate /drawn and quartered bodies displayed to public as warnings
squero /boatyard for construction and repair of small boats, run by squerioli boatbuilders
stretto /dialect for narrow passageway
stua /public bathhouses (dens of iniquity)
tansa /tax
terrafirma /mainland of the Veneto (from Friuli in the northeast to the Polesine in the south, to Bergamo and Crema in the west) Padova was perhaps the closest geographically and in relation, especially with its great university there which Venice managed. Much of Giulio’s mother’s family was from Padova. Trade with Venice did, however, supported the economies of the cities on the mainland considerably, as did the surety of staples held in Venice and distributed in times of drought.
testori/ silk weavers
ternaria/ department of government with power over tax and sale of oil. Place where it is stored.
togas /floor-length robes were the standard dress of patricians over age of 25 and cittidini as well. Their colors varied according to position
extra wide sleeves, known as ‘all ducale’ belonged to procurators of S. Marco, or otherwise very distinguished senators.
traghetti/ ferry. There were three kinds, those that plied the canals, those of the lagoon, and those to and from the mainland
serenissima/ name for Venice, the serene
valle /shallow basins of enclosed water within or on the edge of lagoons, including the small islands covered by thick grasses, blue-green in the summer, turning red in the fall
vallecella /two-oared rowing, the rower standing- facing the bow
valli/ fishermen who worked the valle
vino a spina/ drought wine
zattere /fondamenta on the Giudecca (Zueca) that took its name from rafts which had come down the Piave river with wood for the pilings
zornadieri/casual day-laborers (worse off than mezzadri but not as bad off as beggars (mendicanti)

Venetian governmental offices

Consiglio dei Dieci/ council of ‘Ten,’ inner cabinet of government concerned with matters of state security, which gave it wide powers over military affairs, and foreign policy. It could act quickly and independently without restrictions other offices had.
Deici Savii Sopra le Decime/ The office at the Rialto responsible for administration of tithes, livelli, and taxes. Organized surveys of land and property in Venice and all of terrafirma (mainland provinces under control of Venice)
Milizia da Mar/ Responsible for financial administration of lesser communities of laggons such as the Lido and Malamocco.
Offitio alle Acque/ ministry responsible for surveying and maintenance of the lagoons, and all associated ports, rivers, canals, sea- defenses
Cinque Savi alla Mercazia/ Venetian Board of Trade. In our story, their head was Senator Vendramin, founder of the Banco Giro.
Collegio della Milizia da Mar/ Office which recruited for and equipped galleys and galleazze
Gran Consiglio, or Consiglio Maggiore/ Great council which convened on Sundays, closed to non- nobles. Elected the new Doge when the old one died. It also elected the minor council members called the ‘serenissima signoria,’ each who served for only 8 months to a year. These members wore scarlet robes.and comprised the supreme authority of the state, all serving to severely restrict the power of the Doge. They also sat with the ‘Ten’ Elects highest positions in government, including ambassadors and commanders of the fleet, as well as mainland commanders and positions of governance in peace as well as war.
Pregadi /Senate, or upper house of the state, elected by the Gran Consiglio (mostly for one year only). The senate conducted foreign affairs, and heard the relatione of the returning ambassadors as well as receiving their daily dispatches from their embassies all over the east and west.
The senate also presided over financial affairs. Giulio’s father, Andrea, was a secretari notonly of the council of ten but this body as well and acted as liason between both. They nominated the Cinque Savii all Mercanzia/ mentioned above.and elected the officers of the Banco Giro. They managed the environmental issues of flood control and food, and health and sanitation. They debated recommendations of experts in areas of agricultural reform. They were responsible for education and the University of Padua. They were responsible for the judicial system as well. They oversaw the decisions affecting Pasquale Alberti. They were responsible for the merchant fleets and national defense both at sea and on the mainland. The top brass answered directly to them.
In sum, shore they controlled almost every aspect of Venetian life and the officers elected by the Gran Consiglio.

Pien Collegio appendage to the senate, consisting of the signoria, and 16 savi who administered various things like war and troop movements and payment, arranging state visits, and activating new state laws and directives. These people met every morning in the doge’s apartments, arranging whatever proposals were due to the senate which met every Thursday and Saturday. Secretaries prepared their findings and reports. They grew to be very powerful. Just like the council of ten, it consisted of the most accomplished and worldly politicians and aristocrats, though severely limited in their time of office.

Venetian trades, professions, and vocations

avvocati (lawyers)
nodari (notaries)
segredi (secretaries)
medici chirurghi (doctors)
pittori (painter)
marinari (seamen)
piovan (village priest)
fizzier da marangoni (ships carpenters)
fizzier da maggio (caulkers)
maestre, professori (masters, teachers)
marzeri (mercers)
barcaroli (boatmen)
gondolieri (gondoliers)
facchini (porters, deliverymen)
murari (bricklayers)
botteri (coopers)
piatteri (sellers of pots and pans)
contadini (farmhands)
sartori (tailors)
stramazzero (matressmakers)
calafati (caulkers)
vetrieri (glassmakers)
pegalotti (pitch-sellers)
fabbri (smiths)
vallesani (fishermen who worked in the valli)
taglapietre (stonemasons)
pescadori (fishermen)
ortolani (market-gardeners)
beccheri (butchers)
gallinieri (poulterers)
frutaroli (fruit-sellers)
erbaroli (greengrocers)
bigaroli (pasta-makers)
pescivendoli (fishmongers)
fornieri, pistori (bakers)
osti (wine-sellers)
aqauroli (water sellers)
casolini (cheese and salami sellers)
locandieri (innkeepers)
pizzicamorti (removers of the plague victims & their possessions)

Annual Events and Holidays in Venice (Festa)

Sposalizio del Mare Wedding of the Sea on Ascension Day

Redentore Festival of the Redeemer, celebrating deliverance from the plague of 1575, culminating at the Redentore church on the third weekend of July

Boats and Ships:

provveditore dell’Armata /naval officer in chief
commandador /(fleet commander)
ammiraglio /(admiral), perhaps 5, one per squadron
capitano, sopracomito/ (captain, chosen from patrician class)
galleotti /(galley crews)
bertones/ ocean-going ships,mostly English and Dutch, of various sizes, easy to maneuver and with high sides, hard to board from low lying hulls of galleys and galleasses. Very seaworthy in rough waters, able to sail in all seasons. Armed with as many as 50 guns (canon and culverin) divided between both decks. Held hundreds of sailors/soldiers, carried good cargoes many over 1000 butts capacity (1 butt=29 cubit feet=1500#) These square-rigged ships grew bigger and bigger over the course of the 17th a point where Venetians had to attach ‘cammelli’ or camels to the sides of the great ships at the deep sea docks at Proveglia so they could be floated into the bacino

brazzere/ small 6-8 oar Uskoki pirate ships off Dalmatian coast, fast and maneuverable galleys of 20 oars /side (great galleys much bigger)open to weather, sitting ducks for bertones and other pirate ships
galleottas/ crews which filled 24 benches w/ as many as 6 men per oar, also consisting of as many as 200 soldiers
galleons/ some w/ 50 guns and 500 soldiers
fuste /smaller lighter bertone
marcilane/ smaller craft, of French origen
galleasses (galeazze)/ low, well-armed fortresses used on the Spalato trade route up and back the north-eastern Adriatic. Really just large galleys,
the galleasses were commanded by a ‘governatore’ and aided by ‘nobili di nave’ all members of the participate. They carried up to 200 tons of cargo and a crew of 200 men and boys. They were part of what was called an ‘armata sotile’ or rowing fleet. Piero helped with what sail they had as part of the crew, and witness the inhumane treatment by the ‘sopracomiti ‘ or ‘governatore candannati’ of the prisoners who rowed chained to their benches. 2 or 3-masted, with canon on the forcastle, they were heavy imposing ships, and could inflict much damage by ramming. Under sail, the oars could be raised ‘acconigliati’.
As war was on, the armata, though engaged in trade, was still responsible to the supreme commander ‘Capitano Generale da Mar’. Non-patricians such as the Almiranti, ‘Comiti’ and ‘Piloti’ also assisted on the galleasses. The ‘Agguzini’ were directly responsible for the galley crews, and could be very wicked task masters

Units of Exchange

Ducat=1 zecchino= 12 lire 8 soldi
Lire=20 soldi
Crown or Scudo=8-9 silver lire


Botta (butt)=10 staia (bushels)=3 salma
Salma=3-3and ½ staia=240liters


100ducats exchange instead of guild providing 1 oarsman from their ranks for a year


moleche soft shelled crabs, fried in an egg-yolk batter
mazanete hard shelled crabs served in December
caparozzoli clams
fegato meat dish
castradina smoked salted mutton from dalmatia, boiled and served with savoy cabbage served in honor of the Madonna della Salute
mazori alla vallesala wild ducks (traditional meal around Redentore)
cicheti small snacks
baccala mantecato stockfish ground with olive oil and garlic served on fried polenta
canoce boiled shrimp
peoci mussels

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