The Venetian language: literary traditions and popular idioms
Carlo Goldoni – written Venetian language
The perfect meeting point to start a walking tour to discover the identity of Venice and learning about its language is from Campo San Bartolomeo, a large square always bustling with locals.
Standing in the middle of the square there is the statue of Carlo Goldoni, the most famous Venetian playwright of the 18th century, a milestone in our literary tradition: a lot of his plays were written and performed in Venetian and they were largely successful all over Europe. Another illustrious name is Giacomo Casanova, who translated the Iliad into Venetian, so proving it a literary language in all respects.
During La Serenissima, when Venice was at the height of its power, the Venetian language was understood in most of the Mediterranean ports and it was used as an official language in the State papers (bills, sentences, ambassadors’ reports, etc.) that are still preserved in the National Archive, an invaluable evidence to the century-long history of Venice.
People chatting at the Rialto market – Venetian dialect spoken today
Although Venice is now part of Italy and it is not an independent Republic any more, local people here still commonly speak Venetian. The best place to listen to the most authentic and genuine Venetian dialect of course is the Rialto market, where locals do their shopping and meet up to have a chat.
Foreigners may wonder how different Venetian is from Italian?! Quite a bit!
The Venetian language descends from Latin but over the centuries it was influenced by the languages of many other countries that Venice traded with, such as Greek and Arabic: for example, the word “fork” is forchetta in Italian and piròn in Venetian, that is similar to the Greek word piruni. The result is a language that Italians from other parts of Italy don’t quite understand!
Talking about food, for example, if you want to buy some artichokes and zucchini, in Venetian you will ask for articiochi and suchete (while in Italian they are called carciofi and zucchine) or caparosoi, peoci and canoce for clams, mussels and shrimps (in Italian vongole veraci, mitili and cicale di mare). Very different words describe very different traditional foods: Italy is a most diverse country!
Idioms: how can you drink a “shade”?
Venetian is a very popular, colourful, lively and vivid language: its beautiful words and its meaningful idioms well represent the character of Venice and of its people.
At a bacaro (traditional local bar), you may be invited a béver un’ombra (literally to drink a “shade”, actually a glass of wine), which refers to the tradition that there used to be of drinking a glass wine in the shade of St Mark’s Campanile. On the other hand drinking water is definitely not advisable in Venice, because “l’acqua marsise i pai” (water makes wooden poles to rot), which you experience here more than anywhere else!
While drinking a good prosecco and talking about the facts of life, you may be told that xe inutie filar caigo (there’s no point in “spinning fog” and getting worried), that you’d better take it easy, as the tide sie ore la cala e sie ore la crese (goes up and down every six hours), like all the ups and downs in life. So there’s no rush, no worries!
Given this Venetian outlook on life, you will feel there’s no better way to experience and enjoy the culture of Venice, than choosing a tour with BestVeniceGuides! 😊