Zompini and the jobs practiced in the streets (second part)

A scaleter, a cava Rii, a mondonovo camera operator ... We continue with the streets of Venice that were filled everyday with men and women who worked outdoors in the most various trades

In this article we continue our journey through the streets: JOBS PRACTICED IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY IN THE STREETS OF VENICE (second part)

This article is a continuation of: THE JOBS PRACTICED IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY IN THE STREETS OF VENICE (first part)


Artisan life in Venice was organized in guilds, which were even regulated by law since the 13th century, and the members of these guilds were even grouped in schools (the famous Venetian Scuolas).

Alongside the recognized unions, another labor system gravitated, sometimes seasonal, very diverse, which is the one that appears in Gaetano Zompini's engravings, and in Giovanni Grevembroch's watercolors.

The carboneri : the chickadee

"Even if they see us black, we are privileged. We are the only ones who carry coal on the streets. And in this profession, there is never a lack of work"

The chickadee unloaded coal from the freighters that arrived at the Riva del Carbon (Grand Canal) and transported it through the city, in large baskets, called corbe.


Riva del Carbon nowadays

They say they were "privileged" because they had an exclusive license for this work, which was issued by the Signoria (a Venetian governing body), and because they were exempt from being recruited into the military since they unloaded coal for free in the Arsenale (the military center of the city) and in the Casa de la Moneda (where coins where minted)


Osei che canta: bird pedlar


"When March arrives, my job is to bring songbirds to Venice and fill the houses with music"

The pedlar carries a curved pole called a bigolo, from which two baskets with the songbird cages hang. In the background a woman drawing water from the typical wells of a Venetian square (Campo in Venice).

The Scaleter: the doughnuts vendor


"I have the privilege of selling bussolai (ladder-shaped doughnuts) and have stores in any province"

The term Scaleter, also called buzoladi derives from a type of doughnut, which was called scaleta, because the crust reproduced the rungs of a ladder.

It was forbidden for them to carry more than one box of doughnuts and shout in the streets and squares. They could attract customers yelling only in Rialto and San Marco.

Today you can find the bussolai in Venice, although they are typical of Burano, where there are also in the shape of an S.




EL CAVA RII: the canals' digger

"We drain water, we stop it; from the canals we excavate the mud with the shovel, and with the boat we take it to the mainland "

The bottom of the city's canals has always been filled with mud and debris, so it has been necessary, over the centuries, to maintain them, digging their bottom.

The canals were periodically closed, emptied of water, dug with shovels and emptied with wheelbarrows, but only the small ones, because the larger ones were dredged, already since the 14th century in Venice with excavation machinery.

Fa balla i Cani: The street entertainer with his dancing dogs


"I make these dogs dance and make them do the games for which I have trained, because the Venetians are curious about these things"

Zompini shows us one of the many circus artists, who toured Venice, during Carnival, entertaining the population, in exchange for some money.

Trained animals used to be small in size: squirrels, canaries, porcupines, mice, monkeys, dogs, and marmots.


El Zarattan: the charlatan


"A man makes the puppets dance and, meanwhile, I sell my balm to the fools"

The public attends a puppet show, used by the charlatan (zaratan) to attract some fool to buy his miraculous " balm". The charlatan proudly displays the concession made by the Venetian authorities, as true proof of the healing properties of his medicine.



The charlatan, painting by Pietro Longhi (1757)

Mondo Novo: the mondonovo camera operator

"I show you the new world with its distances and perspectives inside, a penny per person; and I let you try it"

This experience allowed «to see the world through a hole". The theme of the images of these shows was basically of real places: cities, palaces, gardens, churches, monuments. Historical events, war scenes or natural catastrophes were also represented.

While contemplating the images, the spectator listened to the comments and information of the showman, that is why Mundo Nuovo was a "talking newspaper" that allowed to reach a mostly illiterate public.

And the 60 offices of the streets of Zompini separated into two videos:




There were not only these street vendors who roamed the streets. People who carried out a legally recognized activity in Venice were grouped in guilds that we will know in another article
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