JoAnn Locktov on Venice

Articles on Venice
by JoAnn Locktov

Beyond publishing her Dream of Venice series of books through her imprint Bella Figura Publications, JoAnn Locktov is a dynamic resource on the subject of Venice. Her views on Venice, both political and cultural, have been featured in podcasts, blog posts and articles, a sampling of which have been gathered here. These are only snippets of the full articles or interviews so be sure to click through to read about JoAnn’s breadth of knowledge on Venice.

Venice on her 1600th birthday

“We native Venetians and long-term residents number just over 50,000. We are dying out. Soon, we will disappear. The city prefers to be inhabited by someone else: not so much by other categories of human beings but by another way of being in the world.” – Tiziano Scarpa

Dream of Venice in Black and White
Image by Cristina Marson, 2017, La pescatrice di sogni

March 25, 2021, dawned quietly in Venice. The city was still in full lockdown, a Zona Rossa. The Piazza was empty, the calli were eerily still. It was a subdued day to celebrate the birth of Venice. According to 16th century Venetian historian Marin Sanudo, the city was founded in 421 AD. In a city brought to a halt by the pandemic, the joyful clamor of bells ringing out across the city commemorating 1,600 years of existence was a welcome respite from the dreaded silence.

The following day, there was a birthday surprise. The Italian government issued a decree banning cruise ships from the Lagoon and requiring them to dock at Porto Marghera until a permanent solution outside the Lagoon could be found. Comitato No Grandi Navi, a citizen’s group that had been fighting the cruise ships for almost a decade, claimed victory. No more ships passing in front of San Marco. No more ships menacing the city as they’re towed through the Giudecca Canal. No more ships flailing in storms, potentially damaging smaller vessels and the fondamenta. No more noise, erosion, and pollution billowing from these noxious floating hotels. [Read the complete article on Common Edge]

#NoGrandiNavi. An open letter

In her article published on Ytali, JoAnn Locktov writes about cruise ship tourism in Venice: The cruise ships account for less than 10% of annual tourists but they claim 100% of our attention. Their presence is so deeply antithetical to everything Venice represents, that we have to wonder if the obliteration of Venice is not the by-product of poor governance but the actual goal.

Image by Jutta Krenzer

They said it couldn’t happen. The cruise ships were too big to fail. Escorted by tugs at the bow and stern, traveling at 6 knots, the ships were “safe” to traverse the San Marco basin and the Giudecca canal. And then it did happen, on June 2, when a cruise ship lost control and rammed into the quay. They said that a third tugboat would solve the problem; two at the bow and one at the stern. This extra tug would prevent any more mishaps. However this also was a fantasy. On July 7, a cruise ship took off in a storm with three tugboats guiding it, veered off course and narrowly missed the fondamenta in front of the Giardini. [Read the complete article on Ytali here and click here for the Italian version: #nograndinavi: lettera aperta di una “foresta” che ama Venezia]

Dream of Venice in Black and White: A Q&A with Publisher JoAnn Locktov

How do you show your love for a city that’s already being loved to death? In her interview on Passion Passport, JoAnn talks about the problem she faced when she decided to launch a publishing imprint for books about Venice several years ago. With 30 million tourists flocking to the fragile, floating city each year, Venice has emerged as a case study about the dangers of overtourism. Watching as the diminishing quality of life pushed more and more permanent residents out of town, JoAnn realized that people needed to be reminded that Venice is not just an attraction, but a living, breathing, contemporary city.

That’s exactly what Bella Figura Publications aims to do. Refusing to present Venice as a fleeting bucket-list destination, the imprint’s mesmerizing “Dream of Venice” books capture the spirit of the city through the words and photographs of individuals who truly love it. The final installment of the trilogy, “Dream of Venice in Black and White,” features monochrome images from 56 different photographers, as well as an introduction from Venetian author Tiziano Scarpa, which outlines the effect that mass tourism has had on his life. [Read the complete interview on Passion Passport]

Venice Really Hates Being the World’s Tourist Destination

An interview for VICE titled Venice really hates being the world’s tourist destination proves her awareness: “JoAnn Locktov, who has edited several books about Venice, says ‘part of the paralysis in Venice seems to be because the problems have reached crisis proportions. The epic mismanagement of the city has continued for decades, and residents have now reached a tipping point of anger, despair and frustration. For every issue the city faces there are a myriad of solutions that each come with their own set of expert opinion and political persuasion. The solutions are neither clear nor easy, though benign neglect is the worst solution.'”

Venice, My Muse: An Interview with JoAnn Locktov

Interviewer Kathleen Ann Gonzalez opens her Q&A with JoAnn Locktov with this note for Seductive Venice readers: “Here is the third installment of the new interview series, ‘Venice, My Muse.’ Today we’ll hear from JoAnn Locktov, editor of the Dream of Venice series. JoAnn established Bella Figura Publications in 2014, as an imprint dedicated to publishing books on contemporary Venice. Prior to publishing, JoAnn wrote two books on contemporary mosaics. Her work as an international publicist in design and architecture has brought her to Italy annually for last decade. I also want to thank JoAnn for helping me develop this interview idea.

KAG: How has Venice seduced you?
JL: She has taught me to understand the great beauty of audacity.

KAG: What do you never fail to do in Venice?
JL: Cry.

KAG: Walk or take a boat?
JL: Both!

Venice as Muse for JoAnn Locktov

KAG: Which church or campo best epitomizes you? Please explain.

JL: The deconsecrated Church of San Lorenzo. It is massive and decrepit, with 9th century mosaics hidden under mounds of sand, and boxes of bones that may or may not belong to Marco Polo. It occupies a liminal space, too large to resuscitate, too noble to demolish. I feel connected to this building because it exists in Venice without a purpose, except to hold the legacy of memory. [Read more of this fascinating back-and-forth on the Seductive Venice site]

I, Hack Intellectual Thank the Mayor of Venice on Ytali

When I asked him [Luigi Brugnaro, the mayor of Venice] on Twitter about the issue of mass tourism in Venice, he shot back: “non lascerò che alcuni “intellettuali da strapazzo” continuino a denigrare #Venezia dicendo di amarla.” Or in plain English, ” I will not let some “hack intellectuals” continue to denigrate Venice while saying he loves her.”

Cruise Ships destroy Venice

It is now a badge of honor to be considered an intellectual hack by the mayor of Venice. We hacks see the devastation that the cruise ships and rampant tourism are causing. We see the inflated rents and illegal short-term rentals. We see the struggles of artisans, residents, and Venetian shopkeepers. We see the crowded calle and the disrespect. We see that the stones, which have existed for over 1,500 years are crumbling. Literally. This is not a metaphor for the loss of cultural integrity (hastened by the mayor’s misinformed proposition to sell the art work of Klimt and Chagall). The stones really are crumbling. Our steps, all 30 million of us that visit each year, are wearing down a city that can no longer sustain our love.

We are the foresti, the outsiders. Some of us come to Venice to replenish our souls, to experience her beauty, her food, and her art. We don’t buy cheap souvenirs and we don’t picnic on monuments. We search out artisans wherever we can find them. And we’ve become brokenhearted.

We‘re witnessing the demise of Venetian civilization. As the cruise ships exponentially grow in size and number, the residential population falls. [Full Article]

ArtTrav Considers JoAnn Locktov’s Take on Venice Architecture:
A Dream with Substance

What is it that makes Venice unique? Clearly it’s the canals, but there’s something else alongside that. The architecture of the whole city, its unique buildings, the eclectic decorative style… Scratch an architect and he’ll be able to tell you more. Which is exactly what JoAnn Locktov has done with the latest book she has edited. In Dream of Venice Architecture, a cadre of architects and architectural writers explore the uncharacteristic elements that make Venice unique in the world. In the interview that follows, Native Venetian and licensed guide Luisella Romeo talks with editor Locktov about her project to create books about Venice, to help Venice.

Luisella Romeo: Do you think travellers are aware of the fact that Venice needs support?

JoAnn Locktov: For quite some time it has been apparent that Venice is struggling with critical issues. If you care deeply about a place on earth, it is our natural inclination to see this place survive and thrive. And also to protect it from damage and destruction.

Read the rest of JoAnn’s answer and other informative questions on the ArtTrav site.

Having Lunch on Francesco Time for Italy Explained

The delicious offerings at La Cantina in Venice. Photo by Nan McElroy, used with permission, all rights reserved.

It helps to be hungry.

Anticipation is heightened when your stomach is empty. Today I had an errand on the Strada Nuova, which also happens to be where La Cantina is located. I could only take several steps past the front door; the place was swarming with customers. Many seemed to be simply swilling wine. Were they waiting for their lunch or were they were ignorant of the gastronomic possibilities?

My heart sank; there was not an empty table to be seen. The lovely waitress caught my eye.

“For you,” she said, “We have a place.” [Full Article]

A Guided Tour of Contemporary Venice for Architects + Artisans

Carlo Scarpa’s Olivetti Negozio. Photo credit Manuel Chiesa.

When you think of architecture in Venice, your mind invariably goes to the grand structures of historical importance. These include the buildings of Palladio and Sansovino, and the Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance edifices that have favored Venice with allure and significance.

Cristina Gregorin perceives Venice differently. She asks that you consider a contemporary Venice, a place where modern art, craft and architecture have been meticulously integrated and yet are often overlooked by the more than 20 million visitors who descend annually.

Gregorin is a tour guide by profession.  In 1991 she passed an exceptionally rigorous exam (considered the most grueling in Italy) to become a licensed guide. With her encyclopedic knowledge of historical Venice she might have been content with an immersion in the same art and architecture that conferred upon it the status of UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Instead, she has invested in the uncommon practice of dignifying contemporary Venice. [Full Article]

Celebrating a Creative Modern Venice for Architects + Artisans

Santiago Calatrava bridge in Venice.

It was Mariano Fortuny sitting with his band of intellectuals in the late 19th century who dreamed up the concept of Biennale. The purpose was to gather and exhibit the most important contemporary art of his time. The tradition of Biennale, which began in 1895, continues to this day — its international art and architecture exhibits take place in successive years. The installations are exhibited for several months, and then sculptures, canvases, and presentations depart.

Cristina Gregorin believes it is critical for Venice to have a continued presence in the arenas of contemporary art and architecture. Exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi, Punta della Dogana, the Fondazione Bevilaqua La Masa, Querini Stampalia, Palazzo Fortuny, the Guggenheim Collection, and Ca’ Pesaro celebrate the art of our time, sometimes contentious, sometimes political, but increasingly relevant. [Full Article]

The Sisters Sent’s Wearable Glass Jewelry

Sisters Sents Glass Jewelry by JoAnn Locktov

When Venice was an island of wooden structures in the thirteenth century, glassmakers were confined to the neighboring island of Murano. Because of the threat of fire, it was too dangerous to allow them to remain in Venice. The foundries moved in 1291, all the better to isolate the craft and the artisans that revolutionized the alchemy of silica and heat.

Susanna and Marina Sent grew up on Murano. Their personal glassmaking lineage reaches back three generations. They came to glassmaking after forays in architecture and jewelry design. Their combined sensibilities form a remarkable synergy of technical skill and modern aesthetics.

Getting to Murano from Venice is a scenic ride on a vaporetto. Briefly, you pass the cemetery island of San Michele and then you arrive at Murano. Disembark at Colanna, the first stop, and you see the Marina e Susanna Sent building rising upon the Fondamenta Serenella, an anomaly of Murano. With its bright, white minimalist form, it heralds the work of artisans who lend a contemporary spirit to this thousand year old tradition. [Full Article]

A Modern Day Impiraressa for Italy Explained

Marisa Convento is a modern impiraress
Marisa Convento is a modern impiraressa. Photo by Evelyn Leveghi for Italian Stories, used with permission, all rights reserved.


Now say the word slowly.


It rolls off your tongue with images of imperial empresses. In truth, it is the Venetian word for bead-stringer.

Not everything made on Murano was for the immediate pleasure of the aristocracy. The glass blowers also produced the humble bead. The minute perfections of glass needed to be strung before they were packed in crates that were shipped around the world.

This was women’s work. As the men were busy building ships that would conquer east and west, the women sat outside in the fading light and gave linear form to glass no bigger than a seed. [Full Article]

Fortuny: A Name Synonymous with Venice

JoAnn Locktov on Fortuny

Born in Spain, raised in Paris, Mariano Fortuny moved to Venice in 1889, a young man of eighteen. There, he elevated the minor arti decorative to the status of fine art. A “furious Wagnerian,” Fortuny was mesmerized by the emergent technology of the late 19th century. He added to it by inventing his own theatrical lighting and photographic paper. He designed and built stage sets, created fabrics and fashion. Fortuny sought inspiration from Carpaccio and Bellini, in order to infuse his Venetian life with Renaissance splendor.

Lino Lando has been fascinated with Fortuny all his life. He spent years studying his paintings, lighting and textiles at the Fortuny family Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei. Lando began production of the silk lamps via his company Venetia Studium in 1984 and in 1987 obtained the Fortuny® trademark. The lamps are produced in Venice by hand to an exacting standard, despite the challenges of acqua alta being such that shipments and deliveries are often unavoidably detained. [Full Article]

The Unbearable Lightness of Scarpa for The Curated Object

Red and black lacquered glass vase & bowl by Scarpa

To understand the glass that architect Carlo Scarpa created for Venini one must travel back in time—before 1906, the year of his birth in Venice, before Napoleon and the Austrians had their way with the floating city, and even before Casanova escaped from prison and rowed a gondola to freedom.

The fires in the glass furnaces on Murano have been stoked for eight centuries. It is natural that the Venetian craftsmen with their artistic lineage that dates from the 13th century would have a deep affinity for glass. Apprehensive about potential fires and the unlawful sharing of professional secrets, all glassmaking moved to Murano by 1271. The discoveries were astounding; gold leaf graffito, crystal, lattimo milk glass, filigree, incalmo, mirrors. millefiore, reading glasses – all put into production on Murano with attendant patents by the middle of the 16th century.

Armed with his degree in architectural drawing and a fascination with this material that evokes water and light–the quintessential elements of Venice–the 20 year-old Scarpa embarked on a journey that would continue this ancient Venetian tradition.

It was the glass manufacturer M. V. M. Cappellin who first invited the young architect to Murano to restore the gothic Palazzo Da Mula in 1926. Did Cappellin suspect that glass would dominate the architect’s life for the next 20 years? Cappellin did not prosper and declared bankruptcy in 1931. The next year Scarpa became the artistic director of Venini. He submerged himself in the spirit of glass making. Not content designing during daylight hours he would spend the night at the foundry to study how the glass was born; its characteristics in infancy. He worked in concert with the maestri, experimenting, investigating, and demolishing boundaries to realize new techniques, patterns, color combinations, and textures. [Full Article]

In Venice, Culture Under Construction for Architects + Artisans

Former Church of San Lorenzo

The former Church of San Lorenzo in Venice – it was deconsecrated more than a century ago – sits abandoned on the eastern edge of its namesake campo. Large fissures run through its brick walls like swollen arteries. The floor is a patchwork of broken tile and gaping holes open to the catacombs below. Mounds of dirt are piled unceremoniously on 9th century mosaics. Decorative ironwork lies stacked in a jumble, its gold patina blackened, too heavy to lift. In the choir, where hidden nuns once sang, is a box of unidentified human bones. The romantic in us would like to believe they are the bones of Marco Polo, but apparently those lie elsewhere. The air would be musty if the interior were not so cavernous. It produces its own frigid microclimate.

It is a troubled building.  The 9th century wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1106, rebuilt, bombed and repaired. Its artworks were stolen, deconsecrated and abandoned. For most of the last century it was closed, its restoration proceeding in fits and starts, while its unfinished exterior seemed permanently clad in scaffolding. Enter Mexico, Biennale participant since 2003, with an unusual conviction. It made economic sense for the nation’s continued Art and Architecture Biennale participation to invest in a permanent structure for their exhibits. The Commune of Venice offered them the former Church of San Lorenzo, the magnificent white elephant of Venice.

Undaunted by the magnitude of unfinished and perpetual restoration, the Biennale commissioner for Mexico, Gastón Ramírez Feltrín, was energized by the challenge. [Full Article]

The Measure of a Man, Carlo Scarpa by Robert McCarter Reviewed

Carlo Scarpa with Arturo Biasutto
A photograph of Carlo Scarpa with Arturo Biasutto in the Venini factory.

In Robert McCarter’s Carlo Scarpa monograph Austrian architect Peter Noever tells an illuminating tale. In 1974 he and Scarpa visited the Adolf Loos-designed American Bar in Vienna. The moment they entered Scarpa started appraising the space. He ordered champagne for the ladies……

who were present and a measuring tape for himself. Scarpa then proceeded to measure everything down to the exact millimeter. When finished he proclaimed the space to be of “singular spiritual and emotional quality.”

This is exactly how I imagine McCarter studying the work of the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa—measuring tape in hand. In this substantial volume, McCarter leads us by the hand through Scarpa’s achievements. He gives us a survey that is both vast, and in the spirit of Scarpa, meticulously detailed. [Full Article]

A Mentor Who Created Poetry with His Pencil for Global Trends

Cleto Munari, Carlo Scarpa and Ettore Sottsass
Cleto Munari, left, was 42 years old in 1972 when he met his 66 year-old mentor, collaborator, and friend, Carlo Scarpa, center, both seen here with Ettore Sottsass, right.

“You have some good ideas but also a great feeling of proportion and an innate sense of beauty. And these are things that are within us and cannot be learned from books.”  These are the words Carlo Scarpa spoke to Cleto Munari that ignited an undiscovered passion in the latter to become a designer.

An article on The Curated Object by JoAnn Locktov explores the relationship between the two men. The unlikely pair met in 1972. “Cleto Munari remembers the meeting well. It took place in Vicenza, the Palladian city north of Venice, Italy, where both he and Carlo Scarpa worked. In Scarpa the architect, Munari found friend, teacher and collaborator,” Locktov writes.

Scarpa, the long-time architect and well-known Italian, took Munari, who had no formal design education, under his wing, teaching him about architecture, history, art, and design. Scarpa, as the mentor, helped Munari realize a career around creativity and collaboration: Cleto Munari Design Associates. [Full Article]

Dream of Venice with JoAnn Locktov for Savoring Italy

JoAnn Locktov begins a piece on Savoring Italy with this Fran Lebowitz quote: “If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is— Venice is better.” She’s right. Venice was better. More than I ever could have imagined. My first trip 18 years ago left such an indelible impression it changed my life. On that first trip, wandering the calli, turning each corner to be greeted by aquatic reflections and a crumbling patchwork of ochers, I decided I would find a way to integrate my professional life with this incredible floating city. It started with one Venetian company, and a new career. Now I am publishing books that celebrate into the treasure that is La Serenissima. [Full Article]

Interviews of JoAnn Locktov on Venice

James Swan interviews JoAnn Locktov about her views on Venice:

During an interview for Fabulous Fabsters titled “Saving Venice — City of Her Dreams: JoAnn Locktov,” Christine Hanway asked JoAnn: “What does Venice mean to you?” She answered, “Venice is fighting for her survival; she is besieged by tourists, corruption, and environmental negligence. I find it impossible to be idle while I witness her destruction. I want the books to reveal a vital city that is too remarkable to neglect.”

Isabella Mackie interviewed JoAnn Locktov for VICE. In the article, titled, “Venice really hates being the world’s tourist destination,” she quotes JoAnn as saying “part of the paralysis in Venice seems to be because the problems have reached crisis proportions. The epic mismanagement of the city has continued for decades, and residents have now reached a tipping point of anger, despair and frustration. For every issue the city faces there are a myriad of solutions that each come with their own set of expert opinion and political persuasion. The solutions are neither clear nor easy, though benign neglect is the worst solution.”

JoAnn Locktov Decorating Diva

In a {Style Study} book review, the Decorating Diva asked JoAnn: Venice has been the beautiful backdrop for many great films, and has been the protagonist of many books from travel to romance to mysteries. Why do you think this small Italian city holds such power over the human imagination? Her answer is a small snippet of the information in the interview: “I believe that Venice was not actually built from wood pilings but from the human imagination. How else could one even envision a city like Venice if it was not born of the suspension of reality? There is a beauty to Venice that beguiles the brain; it is the combination of shadows, light, stones, and silence. Where else can the improbable reside, except your imagination? Venice is the perfect liminal space, which explains her power to astound.”

During an interview by Nicole Haddad titled “JoAnn Locktov on the enchanting new book, ‘Dream of Venice'” in New York Spaces magazine, she is asked, “What is Venice like during their Acqua Alta (high water) season, which usually takes place during winter time?” She tells Haddad, “Acqua Alta now takes place throughout the year, so it is always a good idea to pack your wellies. The water is high for the length of time it takes the tide to recede, about 4 hours. It is an inconvenience only if you must get somewhere in a hurry, and that somewhere is covered in water. The Piazza is the lowest elevation so during Acqua Alta it will always be flooded. The Venetians are prepared and will set up elevated passarelle, so that you can walk above the puddles. My recommendation to avoid sloshing around is to duck into a delicious museum or eat your way through a glorious multi-course lunch. Neither choice is a terrible affliction. Acqua Alta is a reminder that Venice rose from the sea; the water and the city are indivisible.”

Saxon Henry interviews JoAnn for Italy Chronicles. She asks Ms. Locktov, “Did the process of creating the book change your point of view about Venice in any way? ” JoAnn answers that it did: “I learned from our contributors, from their stories and their poetry about how Venice’s history still races through the city’s canals. From Charles, our photographer, I now look with deeper concentration at texture and patina, also at light and shadow. Venice can often be a cacophony of sounds but after producing the book, I am able to hear the silences, the spaces in between.” Saxon also asked her, “What advice would you have for Americans, or any tourists for that matter, wanting to get to the heart of Venice?” JoAnn answered, “I recommend that you visit in the colder months, avoiding Carnevale in February. Plan on walking, and plan on wet weather. Eat the creatures of the lagoon and drink the wines of the Veneto. Have time to just wander. Getting lost is not so much an ambition for us tourists as it is an unavoidable luxury. Travel out to Torcello to see where it all began. Go to San Giorgio and look back upon Venice and you will be able to feel her majesty. Treat the city with as much respect as you would a cherished, brilliant and courageous nonna, and there is a good chance you will discover her heart.”

During an interview that Silvia Donati conducted for Italy Magazine, JoAnn Locktov notes, “Venice is in grave danger of being sold to the highest bidder,” Locktov points out. “The city is being neither protected or cared for by the current administration. Salvatore Settis in his book, If Venice Dies, astutely calls it the ‘government’s chronic incompetence.’ My fear is that if Venice is only perceived as a nostalgic remembrance, she will lose relevance to our daily lives. If Venice loses relevance, the city will no longer be living, and will become an embalmed parody of her former glory. There will be no one left who cares enough to save her.”

JoAnn Locktov La Venessiana

Iris Loredana asked JoAnn some excellent questions during an interview for La Venessiana, such as “What makes people want to come back to Venice as often as they can?” JoAnn offers this explanation, “I believe Venice is a difficult place to know. Physically, it is a labyrinth of narrow calli and distorted perspectives. Venice is a small, urban, dense environment that constantly confuses. She is antithetical to our conscious understanding of how a city should logically behave. If you are a romantic, Venice contains  layers of poetry, which take a lifetime to decipher. And so insatiable for clarity, we return. We hope for recognition. But we settle for sustained reflection.”

For Architect’s Toy Box, Rita Catinella begins her interview asking JoAnn about her favorite feature of Venetian architecture: “In one of my favorite passages, designer Constantin Boym describes the beauty and decay of Venetian doors. Do you have a favorite feature of Venetian architecture?” JL: I love that Venice is a hand-crafted city. That multitudes of artisans and ingenious builders throughout a millennium of history created one of the most beautiful places on earth, by hand. I love that in the blend of diverse styles, you can witness the origins of the city’s economic, cultural, and political strength. I love the patina, the grace that comes from stones well lived.

In this interview by Nichole Haddad for New York Spaces, she asked, “What do you think we can learn from a city that is over 1,500 years old?” JoAnn Locktov answered, “We can learn how to harmonize architecture with nature, design for seduction, respect craftsmanship, cherish innovation, and embrace contradiction. We can learn that we are stronger when we integrate cultures beyond our own and recognize that survival is an act of faith, wisdom, and imagination. We can learn that there is unfathomable beauty in the patina of age, beyond romanticism.”