Venice is known as La Serenissima, and the city itself reminds me of the feminine, but powerful ways women have held power. Like the water that surrounds the city, giving it its beauty as it ravishes its treasured architecture, Venice seems to me a beautiful, sensual woman that no traveler leaves indifferent. One of her most notable citizens was a woman named Veronica Franco. If her name is unfamiliar, it should not be a surprise. All throughout history, there have been ways for women to hold power even in the most restrictive societies. Sometimes this power was held covertly or subtly and perhaps, it was not wielded in the way that we do today.
Born and raised in 16th century Venice, Veronica came from a family of “honest courtesans.” These were considered the highest level of courtesan, women who were intelligent, witty and well versed in the arts. To think that honest courtesans only had sex to gain money and power would be a mistake. Rather, it was a combination of wit, learned conversation and charm, along with beauty and sumptuousness (in dress, décor and dining) and of course, sex, that kept wealthy patrons coming back for more. Interestingly, a number of honest courtesans also wrote poetry and Veronica Franco’s artistic output is still around today.
Veronica isn’t that different than the city itself. Beautiful and fragile because of its ultimate structural instability, Venice is ephemeral- a city at the mercyob117iw-ousDKGIEELMDFEIJFFIF of tides- and to many, romantic. Like the courtesan’s client, we can’t leave it alone.
-Alba Brunetti

February 2013