A little history about 14th century Venetian taverns and inns

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A variety of taverns and inns in fourteenth century Venice catered to clienteles of differing social stations, offering clues about modes of socialisation. Prior to 1355 some taverns received state privileges to serve the most costly white wines that came from Romania and Candia as well as Ribolla from the Friuli. The upper classes would consume something sweet, paired with a more robust Malvasia wine prior to a meal. (Their assumption was that sweet things prepared the stomach for the courses that followed). Ordinary people, on the other hand, dank barrel wines.

The innkeepers received their own scuola (Guild) at San Matteo in the vicinity of the Rialto in 1355. Each establishment cultivated a specific clientele, not only according to class but also at times according to ethnicity. The Germans, for example, largely stayed at the Aquila Nera, the Lion Bianco, or the San Zorzi establishments; these were exclusively for transalpine peoples. In addition, the Fondace dei Tedeschi, supervised by three Venetian nobles, was a virtual community of German merchants. It had eighty rooms, including offices, store rooms, a kitchen, a refectory that separated the merchants from Ratisbon from those of Nuremberg. There were also Trentini, Bohemians, Poles and Hungarians. The Ottoman Turks, Persians, Greeks, Armenians, Luccans, Albanians, and Florentines also had alberghi and private lodgings recognised by the state. The Jews, however, were a separate case. They were subdivided into nations but were treated like on foreign community because of their religion. They were supervised by an assortment of officials including the Five Savii of Trade. There were a few lodgings for businessmen who were Greek, Moldavian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, and Macedonian. Other places catered to the aristocracy, such as La Campana. Still others were for religious entities like the monasteries of San Lorenzo and San Servolo.

The state auctioned off public inns to renters. By the sixteenth century the Collegio dei Sette Savii supervised the inns and taverns, and taxed comsumption. These state-owned establishments were more at the top of the hospitality pyramid, while locande, alberghi, houses and rooms catered to the lower classes. There were also places that just offered food. The furatole provided soups or fried fish to the poor, and there were stalls that served tripe, sausage, animal heads, pig’s feet, and small fish.

Rialto and San Marco were the two main sites for taverns and inns. Those in the Rialto were all grouped between Ruga Vecchia San Giovanni and Campo delle Beccarie, in narrow alleyways named after the establishment: Scimmia, Campana, Due Spade, Torre, Anzolo, Bo, Donzella, Sole. Campo San Giacomo was the pulsating heart of the market. The hostelries at San Marco were better furnished and better staffed. Rizza and Pellegrin faced the Piazetta dei Leoni. Some inns were reputedly closed to prostitution, including the Bo at San Matteo di Rialto, the Melon, the Sarasin, and the Stella. The Gambero, the Duke spade and the Anzolo watched for prostitutes outside their doors. Whether this was strictly regulated is highly doubtful.

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