Venetian maxims: Chi no ga testa ga gambe

The Venetians are famous in the rest of Italy for their maxims. Carlo Goldoni, the famous eighteenth-century playwright, peppered his works with them to add a real air of authenticity to his characters. My cousin once gave me a book called Massime Goldoniane which I spend hours dipping in and out of.

Many of these maxims, which people still use a lot, give a flavour of Venetian life, and tell you a lot about living in the city. One such example is, chi no ga testa ga gambe. The literal translation is ‘those who don’t have heads, have legs’ and the idea is that if you are forgetful you will have strong legs because you keep having to go back for things.

In Venice, you have to walk. A lot. Most apartment buildings are so old that they don’t have lifts which means that if you live on one of the coveted top floors, you have at least four flights of stairs to cover every time you enter or leave. Then there are the bridges. In most of Venice, you are never more than a couple of hundred yards from a bridge, which means that to go anywhere you will have to cross at least one. In fact, Venetians tell you how far places are by saying how many bridges you have to cross to get there.

Venetian bridges are not easy to cross either. Most of them rise at least five or six feet into the air to allow gondolas and other boats to pass easily underneath. So, if you live in Venice, you either learn not to forget things or you develop strong legs. As I said, chi no ga testa ga gambe!

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