then sit back in your desk chair and enjoy...
I was living in Padova, Italy in the early 70's with my husband and children. My little sister, only 19 at the time, came to visit me from the States.
She decided to take a train ride to Venice by herself and there she met, Paolo. He was quite a bit older but he intrigued her.
He was working on his Venetian sailboat. She approached him and asked half jokingly if he would give her a ride on his sailboat.
He did and he took her around to all of the islands. He spoke little English and she spoke no Italian but there was something there.
She had just come from a traumatic situation in the States. Her fiance had died suddenly and she was devastated.
Paolo was the distraction she needed. She said he was a gentleman, old school, would not let her pay for anying and she enjoyed the quiet between them.
This quiet grew into an unlikely romance and they married.
Juli on her first day in Padova. No one had seen that smile in months. Working briefly as a nanny this is Juli
with one of her "charges". She was becoming a true Venetian.
Paolo was an artist and did not own a camera. In those early days he must have painted Juli dozens of times
on their sailboat with him at the helm and Juli always reading.
As wonderful as life was always sailing and reading Juli longed to work but did not have the proper papers.
One day when she and Paolo were sailing down the Grand Canal the wife of a wealthy hotel owner fell into the Canal.
Paolo jumped into save her and when the hotel owner said he wanted to reward Paolo he said, "Give my wife a job!"
Juli began a job at the front desk of one of the nicest hotels in Venice and quickly became fluent in Italian, Venetian and French.
On the side Juli taught a conversational English class and her classes were very popular because she taught using stories from the
scandalous National Enquirer. One of her students took this picture and mailed it into the Enquirer 30 years ago.
This article was published in the Enquirer the next month.
One day Juli went to the University Library with one of her students who worked there and was horrified to find stacks of books nearly ruined in the
basement nearly molding and dust covered. Juli volunteered to clean these books and reintroduce them into the university library shelves. This volunteer service
became invaluable and this labor of love became a real full time job for Juli complete with job benefits and a pension.
As much as Juli enjoyed living on the boat she longed for a real home. Juli and Paolo decided to buy the 1500's home of the
famous Venetian artist, Tintoretto. This home still had the original marble floors from the 1500's and needed a lot of work.
Deemed a historical treasure they were able to get the Belle Arte to finance 75% of all renovations. With Juli and Paolo's loving care this
was restored to the original charm. I was reminded everytime I visited to remove my shoes and grab a pair of slippers from the basket she
kept by the door. You can see the placard in the 1st picture marking this home as an historical landmark.
Juli and Paolo donated the pink and cream building to the fledgling artists of Venice. This is the building next to their home.
The style of Tintoretto was taught and many artists came from all over the world to take part in their bed and board classes throughout the Summer.
There are many artists that are world recognized today that back then were unknown and just getting into the art world.
You can see my coat hung on the original door. The shutters were so old I was always afraid to open and shut.
This windowsill was a favorite place for her cat to sleep. Her cat had the distinction of being the oldest cat in Venice.
Below are the curtains and furniture from Paolo's grandmother that she gave to Juli and Paolo. Every piece was handcrafted/handmade.
Juli's 1st love...horses. She desperately missed her horses she'd left behind in Texas. She and Paolo decided to get a country home
about an hour's drive outside of Venice near the Dolomites. Here she had her two favorite horses from Texas shipped to Venice.
Juli began competing in riding and jumping competitions. When I was in Venice packing up her houses I was amazed at how many equestrian
trophies and prizes she had accumulated.
Juli and Paolo begin spending nearly every weekend at their country home riding horses, bicycles and hiking. This is the front of the house.
To save money in the winter no one was spared from wood chopping duties and all activities were centered in the living room in front of the fireplace.
Not the fanciest kitchen in Italy but one with much love. My bolognese on the stove.
In the Summer we ate outdoors on this rickety table covered with a checked table cloth. Same scene but our table now covered with snow.
Skiing and sledding in the nearby mountains made this a Winter wonderland.
Juli's two favorite horses. View from the upstairs window.
Juli is happy, happy, happy with her horses. She was able to finance this expensive love of hers by importing used equestrian equipment
from the States and reselling in Italy. Paolo begin to ride and loved his weekends in the country almost as much as he loved sailing...almost.
Paolo gave Juli a white stallion as a gift one year. She was thrown her first time on him...see 1st pic below!
Riding, cycling, hiking and camping with good friends nearly every weekend.
Juli and Paolo after ten years of marriage. They weren't aware I took these photos. She is now fluent in Italian and he speaks a lot more English.
I found a letter among my mom's things that Juli had written her when she came for what was supposed to be a month long visit in the 70's.
Here is the exact excerpt from the letter breaking the news to my parents about her decision:
Dear Mama and Daddy,
I really don't want to come back to Texas in September. I would like to do something and I hope you will
understand and help me a little til I get on my feet. I don't want to be a burden to you but I am at such
a loss as to what I am doing with my life. I would like to stay in Italy and live in Venice. A small
apartment would cost me about $40 a month and the cost of food, etc. is cheap. I'd like to go to school
and just take Italian. I have been so very happy here in Italy and I think if I come back to Texas and
my previous way of life it would kill me. Help me try it for a year. I hope I will get settled in a couple
of months and be able to support myself. Mama, I can't think to what good end my coming back to Texas might
bring. More nothing 9 - 5 jobs just to pay rent and exist in a world, in a life I don't even like.
What's the point? Perhaps here I can find some useful purpose for my life. I don't know, but I want to try.
For now in Venice I am living on a boat with a friend but when school starts I will find an apartment.
I know you love me and want the best for me. I am trying hard to do the right thing. Ciao, Juli
Little did Juli know is that friend she was staying with would become her husband. I know that in moving to Venice she did find her
purpose and lived an incredible life. Her letter certainly resonates with so many. In Juli's life she traveled often to Paris, Budapest, Vienna.
Besides many trips back to the States she visited Central and South America and Asia. In 2000 Juli became ill and that is when I visited her
much more frequently. In 2005 I bought a ticket to Venice and planned to stay there for 2-1/2 months to take care of her but sadly Juli passed away
just five days later and I think she "waited" for me.
These were the last few days we had together in January 2005. Here we are 50 years earlier. Juli was 2 years old.
Having the ticket for over two months more I spent my days wandering around Venice,
poking my head into every nook and cranny, every alleyway, riding the vaporetto up and down the grand canal, getting off at every stop wanting to get to
know the Venice she loved so much. I spent weeks packing up her things to mail back to myself. Paolo said to take everything because he moved back onto
his boat and had room for nothing extra.
I remember once when we were in Rome on the Spanish Steps it was so crowded and I looked away for a moment and lost her.
Suddenly I heard her voice say, "Here I am!"
I saw her waving and I snapped this photo. As long as I can tell her story Juli will never be lost. I just have to look a little harder.
Picturing Juli in my mind's eye this is exactly how I see her...one of the watercolors Paolo painted in the first few years when Juli was so
happy with her new life in Venice on their boat where everyday was sailing, reading and being truly happy and at peace.
Paolo loved to get on his sailboat and sail to abandoned islands in the Murano lagoon. Some of these abandoned, desolate islands were
where he worked on his sailboats. He and Juli used to go exploring on these islands and these are photos I took when I went with them once.
Paolo also built Venetian sailboats and is one of the last of the artisans in Venice. While Juli was alive Paolo painted his ships constantly.
Paolo painted or drew on wood, paper, canvas...anything he could get his hands on. I will include some of his artwork as pictures on the
CD that I send to you as part of this auction. I will include photos of Murano on the CD. Murano is built on a series of islands joined by bridges.
It has been the center of glass making since 1291, when the glass furnaces were relocated from the main part of Venice to these islands to
reduce the risk of fire in the main part of Venice.
The view of St. George's island from across the Grand Canal at San Marco.
In the distance across the Canale San Marco from the Palazzo Ducale you can see the Island of San Girogio Maggiore and
the camponile erected in 1793. This camponile was a tribute to the bell tower of Piazza San Marco and is surmounted by a
statue of the soldier St. George. I went to the top of this 190 foot tower when I was there and it offered the most all embracing
panorama of Venice, one of the most beautiful views in Italy. That day it was so overcast I could not get a good photo.
Except for these pictures of Venice in Winter I took every photo in this listing.
These were taken by Juli. I love this picture of the nun shoveling the snow.
Venice is a photographer's dream city. I loved photographing the canals. Here is a shot of San Marco I took at 6 a.m.
Venice at dawn. A big difference in the Bridge of Sighs at 5 a.m. and at noon.
Only the street sweeper was in San Marco at 5 a.m. A lone runner and a linen service before dawn at a fine hotel.
I woke up one morning at 5 a.m. and photographed the city with no one but the worker's about. What a difference at noon.
I love the sun on this small canal and then at 4 p.m. on the Grand Canal. Dressed for Carnevale she looked right at me.
Private homes and gardens seem to float alongside the placid waters of the Grand Canal.
This tranquility earned Venice the reputation as La Serrenissima. For centuries sights light this greeted the
merchants and mariners of Venice and today you feel like you have stepped back into time.
Venice seems to rise from it's own reflections, a shimmering harmony of gold, sand, peach, pink, coral and stone...the last eroding remnant
of a centuries old city.
The magnificent Rialto Bridge, one of the emblems of Venice, was constructed by Antonio Da Ponte
(whose name means "from the bridge") in 1592.
Until 1850, the Canal Grande was just crossed by the magnificent and famous Rialto bridge, no other bridge was on this huge winding lagoon.
In 10 years, Austrians, who governed the city, realized what that many centuries Serenissima had not able to do... two bridges were built.
One facing the Railway Station and the other nearby the Accademia Gallery.
There is now a fourth bridge and a "people mover". I will be returning to Venice for 6 months or more in 2011 so get ready for many more photographs!
Ponte degli Scalzi
ABOVE: Helga Gross and Juli Van Zyverden (see below) pose after a pleasant lunch.
Ponte Guilie. 1st kiss for Paolo and Juli. Juli's favorite restaurant. If you google Juli Van Zyverden you will see
the write up she did on this restaurant. It took me two vaporettos and a lot of getting lost which meant more
photos. I found it by dinnertime and even though I sat in this restaurant eating alone I felt very close to Juli.
The sober and majestic church of Santa Maria della Salute was raised by the Venetian Senate in fulfillment
of a vow when a virulent wave of the plague abated in 1630. The virgin on top of the Cupola's lantern is
dressed as a capitana. The architect, Baldassare Longhena, one of Venice's greatest, designed the church to look like
a crown but did not live to see the glorious realization of his dream. Today it is oftened referred to as simply "Salute".
I took these photos of Salute early one hot Summer morning. And of course the Bridge of Sighs.
Below are the stables at Juli's country home and Neno, her cat she had for 29 years.
Venice's oldest cat?
A tribute to Neno on his 22nd birthday
Neno lived to be 29 years old.
ABOVE: Neno on his favorite 500-year-old windowsill.
No one can say for sure that Neno is Venice's oldest cat, but Juli Van Zyverden, an American who lives in the Cannaregio neighborhood,
believes that her feline companion since 1976 is a good candidate for the title.
Neno celebrated his 22st birthday on Sunday, April 25, 1999--which also happened to be St. Mark's Day, honoring the patron saint of Venice.
To commemorate Neno's birthday last year, I interviewed Juli about the first of her cat's nine lives.
When, where, and how did you get Neno?
I'd been in Venice about a year when I decided this was home, and for me no home is complete without a cat. I was introduced to Neno
whose parents were two Soriani, the traditional tiger-striped Venetian cats. He was just six weeks old, and his eyes were barely open.
He fit in the palm of my hand. It was love at first sight.
How did he get his name?
Neno is a traditional diminutive for "Eugene" or "Eugenio." My husband named him--after one of his uncles, I think.
How does he get along with other cats in the neighborhood, including the wild cats that live all over Venice?
Neno was the biggest of his litter. This isn't just a question of size, but also of leadership.
He grew up in an apartment, but I didn't want him to be a timid cat, so I carried him everywhere with me when he was little.
Then I'd put him down and let him follow me home. This way, he learned his way around the city, and he also got used to the smells
of other cats, dogs, rats, birds, whatever moved on the streets of Venice.
The only cat Neno got along with was his mate, a female Siamese. As for the street cats, not one dares to walk past our door when he's out.
One day, a tomcat wandered into our neighborhood and tried to walk past the door. He sensed Neno from a ways off,
but he really wanted to get to the other end of the street, so he walked as close to the edge of the canal as he could. Neno watched him approach.
The second the tom was in front of our door, Neno rushed him and pushed him into the canal.
I saw the whole scene from my window and rushed down to help the hapless victim, but before I could get downstairs,
the streetwise tom had climbed a pole and was racing down the street dripping wet.
ABOVE: Neno in the sleeping bag where he takes his afternoon naps.
What about other animals?
There was a time when I had a weekend house near Venice. Neno loved it. We were far from any main roads,
so I felt he was safe even if he stayed out all night. I'd get up in the morning and find Neno sitting outside the door with his 'catch'
of mice and moles neatly lined up on the front doorstep.
I also had a horse, a stallion named Cherokee. He was very gentle and loved company.
Cherokee and Neno became friends, and many times I'd find Neno sleeping on Cheroke's warm, wide rump.
Does Neno still go out at his ripe old age?
Neno loves to go out. Though he doesn't wander far from home, he does have his routine.
He scopes out the fondamenta to make sure no other cats around. Then he'll go into the campo
around the corner and stroll over the bridge to the big church square where grass grows between the bricks.
He likes to eat grass to aid his digestion.
When I met Neno, you told me that he liked to sleep on the neighbor's workboat. Can you elaborate?
First, a little background: Neno and his mate, Monkey, went everywhere with me when they were little.
I'd bring them along for long weekends on my husband's sailboat. They loved it--we'd catch fresh fish for them,
and Neno could eat a dozen or more fish in one meal. (In his heyday, he weighed 15 pounds.)
If we anchored in shallow water to go clamming, the cats would jump out of the boat to follow us.
Where the water was deep they'd swim, and they'd wade in the shallow water.
Neno spent the first 10 years of his life as both a pampered apartment cat and a real Venetian boat cat.
When I moved to my new apartment, Neno found that a workboat was tied up in front of the building every evening and all weekend.
Neno has always felt right at home on the boat. He meows to get out of the apartment, then heads straight for the boat.
He jumps on board, sniffs the boat from bow to stern, then finds a sunny spot to stretch out and lets the boat rock him to sleep.
Can you tell us about Neno's relationship with the neighbors?
I mentioned before that Neno likes to have grass to digest.
My neighbors who live on the top floor also own a little patch of garden on the ground floor.
When I'd go to visit them, Neno would follow me and take advantage of the grass in my neighbors' little garden.
After a while, he began sitting in front of my neighbors' door and meowing at passing strangers whenever I let him out.
People would think he was locked out and ring my neighbors' doorbell to say "their" cat wanted in.
My neighbors started letting him into their garden, and sometimes they'd take him up to their apartment
and let him sit on their rooftop balcony
Pretty soon, they began calling me to say they'd been to the market and had some shrimp, and could Neno come up for lunch?
Neno had found a second family! He'd go every Sunday morning and spend the day with them.
My neighbors would tell me how he spent his day: first a little sun on the deck, then some shrimp for lunch,
and then he'd nod off in front of the TV on the sofa. If the neighbor's daughter was studying,
Neno would curl up on a chair next to her--or on top of her books and papers, if too much time went by without a pat.
Then he'd wander into the kitchen and watch supper being prepared. About 9 p.m., he'd be sent home.
Neno continues to have an active social life, and he still enjoys his Sunday outings with the neighbors--
including the daughter, who is now grown up.
ABOVE: Neno wakes up and smells the flowers.
How do you transport Neno around Venice?
I mentioned before that Neno loves boats. I trained him from an early age to follow me or walk on a lead.
The rules of the public boats say dogs must be muzzled and cats must stay in carriers, but sometimes--
when the boat isn't too crowded--I let him out on his lead. He loves to walk around the boat and walk right up to the edge,
where he'll lean out to watch the waves and feel the wind is his face.
Neno also loves people, so he'll go right up to strangers and paw their legs, which means he wants to be petted.
What about his diet? Is he a connoisseur of the local seafood?
I've always cooked for Neno. Fish is plentiful here, so I buy fresh fish and shrimp (Neno's favorite dish) at the market
and make him fish and rice with a little cooked carrot added. He also gets red meat occasionally--
I think it's good to let a cat taste anything I eat. You'd be surprised at what a cat might like.
I found out that Neno likes boiled potatoes, cooked zucchini, and pasta with Parmesan cheese.
Does he still enjoy the water, now that he's getting older?
These days, he most enjoys his annual bath in the kitchen sink.
Since Neno spends most of the spring and summer out on the street,
he gets a yearly bath to rid him of any fleas that he might have picked up.
Neno is still going strong. He sleeps a lot now, but he still enjoys his walks with me in the neighborhood.
He loves his catnip, and though he's long in the tooth, he's still in good health. I hope he has many more years ahead of him!
BELOW: Neno outside, looking in.