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Venice 2012

SHERLOCK & SHYLOCK: The Sleuths of Venice

Venice, October 12th - October 14th, 2012

Uno Studio in Holmes reaches an important milestone in its history. In Venice we celebrated our 25th birthday. 25 years since that now so distant 1987, when on the centenary of the first publication of A Study in Scarlet, Italy finally had its own Holmesian society. It was an anniversary that had to be celebrated in full: not many societies achieve such a goal. The big international conference that we organized was a worthy response to this need. The opportunity to meet with many Holmesians friends from abroad (who for years have asked us to organize a conference in Venice... the charm of the city of San Marco is unique and inimitable) was another important reason: last but not least, it was also the continuation of the work begun with French and Spanish friends in Barcelona two years ago with the No Fog Countries Meeting, of which this conference is the second edition.
The response of our members and guests has been incredible: about 90 participants at the meeting have placed quite a few organizational problems, that in a big tourist city like Venice can become insurmountable. The great work of Enrico Solito and Ivo Lombardo, well supported by our President Roberto Vianello, allowed to solve them brilliantly, so that we can say without fear of contradiction that the conference was a success.
Friday, October 12
The first participants to arrive gathered at three o'clock in the vicinity of the station, for the walk through the historic streets of Venice, led by Ivo Lombardo, who has played the role of tourist giude, explaining the history of the places visited and showing details of the "mysterious" and intriguing hidden Venice. The following appointment was for the Concert for two violins and one Holmes, in a beautiful room of the Venice Casino. The two young performers, Sara Pastine and Federico Mechelli, presented a selection of "Holmesian" pieces that received the applause of the large audience present (some had to follow the concert standing !). As an introduction and "appetizer" of what we tasted the next day, Enrico Solito and Roberto Vianello did a presentation of the book "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Italian Journey", based on the albums of the Sveum collection, with photos of the honeymoon of the Literary Agent in Italy in 1907 with his second wife Jean Leckie.
We then moved to the hunting of the restaurant, or better, the restaurants where the society dinner of Uno Studio in Holmes was to be held. The high number of participants had in fact forced us to split between the "Nono Risorto" and "Il Muro", two locations where we could get a taste of seafood in Venetian style. This has unfortunately limited the opportunity to gather and chat all together, but finding a place in Venice on a Friday night willing to accept a reservation for 90 persons proved to be almost impossible...
Saturday, October 13
On Saturday morning we opened the proceedings with conferences held at the Scoletta Calegheri, an old building located in Campo San Tomà, that the Municipality of Venice kindly put at our disposal. The main theme of the day was the reconstruction of the trips made by ACD in Italy, by means of the photo album of the Richard Sveum collection. The authors of the painstaking work of reconstruction of the routes and the identification of the places photographed have presented the fruits of their research. Philip Weller started describing the general plan of the work, based on the material on which we have worked, and identifying the stages of ACD's honeymoon in 1907 and his subsequent trip in 1913. Ivo Lombardo has meticulously reconstructed the Venetian stage, from the living room at the Danieli to the the discovery of the point where a photo of the album was taken, in a place away from the usual tourist itineraries, located near the Venice hospital. Stefano Guerra spoke about ACD's stay in Rome, reconstructing his tourist path going from the monument to Garibaldi to the Vatican, then to Castel Sant'Angelo and the old Roman Forum. The question of why ACD appeared in one of the photos in morning dress has been left aside, as a tantalizing question for the next day.
Then Philip Weller took it up again, to describe the Neapolitan stay of Doyle at his brother in law's and ACD's sister islet of Gaiola, where the Literary Agent was frequently a guest. Enrico Solito finally talked briefly about the possibility that some postcards of Florence present in the album could mean that the couple made a stop in the Tuscan city, maybe a very brief one during the voyage of 1907 (an unlikely hypothesis) or perhaps a longer stay in 1913.
After the lunch break , the treasure hunt organized for the afternoon saw numerous defections, mainly because of an annoying drizzle that has hindered those who wished to dedicate the afternoon to search for the solution of historic Venetian puzzles. Nevertheless, at least two brave teams defied the rain and got to the bottom of the quest finding the lost manuscript of Marco Polo!
The members of USIH arranged to meet at 18:00 at the pizzeria "Al Faro", where the annual assembly was held. This year the election of the President was scheduled, as we were at the end of the two-year term of Roberto Vianello. The assembly proposed and voted for Michele Lopez, who will be the new president of Uno Studio in Holmes, starting next January the 6th, as usual. Another important decision taken by the assembl0y was to appoint Alessandra Calanchi as Director of the Committee responsible for USIH relationships with universities and cultural institutions in a broad sense. Roberto Vianello, who hoped to rise to the quiet Olympus of Past Presidents, found himself named as the new Secretary to replace Stefano Guerra, who resigned for reasons connected with his work. Stefano Guerra remains editor of The Strand Magazine, our society magazine. Marco Grassi has brought a pleasant surprise: a beautiful tie (which you can see in the photos) designed by him, in an original and elegant reworking of our logo (with a more open tribute to the couple Brett - Burke) of which he made a gift to the past presidents.
The follwing event was a visit at the Associazione Arzanà, a cultural association dedicated to the restoration and enhancement of the historical tradition of Venetian boats. The members of the association, led by the brilliant Umberto Rosin, illustrated beautifully the working techniques of the squeo, the workshop and shipyard where they still work with ancient traditional tools and techniques; then they led us on a fascinating tour of Venice by night on the historical boats of the association. The magic of the night and the silence of the Venetian canals were the setting of an unforgettable experience. Then, when during the tour the good Umberto told us that he, too, is a fan of Sherlock Holmes, of course we had to make him an honorary member of USIH!
Sunday, October 14
On Sunday morning we resumed work at La Scoletta, with Stefano Guerra who told an experience of serendipity: finding no trace in the Roman newspapers' archives of a reason for the morning dress sported by ACD in some photos he however discovered that the Literary Agent assisted in those days to the performance of William Gillette's play Sherlock Holmes, which until now we believed had never been translated and performed in Italy before our translation in 2010. Stefano found out that in 1907 the play was performed and obtained a great success in the Roman theaters.
Michele Lopez read his report about the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dante, with an analysis of the attitude of these two great men towards fame. Roberto Vianello has suggested a Venetian Baker Street with the "Calle del Forner" (a literal translation of "Baker Street" in Venetian dialect) and presented a comparison between the famous house in London and the typical Venetian house. Fabrizio Pettinelli was unfortunately absent due to illness so his report on the relationships between Holmes and the account of a Tibetan journey made by a famous Italian explorer, Ippolito Desideri, was presented by Enrico Solito. Finally we closed the conference with Alessandro Corsellini, member of the Italian Pipe Club, who has often been an appreciated speaker at our meetings. Corsellini spoke of the relationship between Holmes and smoking as means of meditation and mind concentration.
Having thus completed the planned work we had an unscheduled attraction. Peter Blau, the famous auctioneer of Holmesian souvenirs at the meetings of the Baker Street Irregulars in New York every January, has agreed to lend us his histrionic ability for an improvised raffle, of which the object was a now rare copy of the first edition of the Italian Holmesian encyclopaedia written by Enrico Solito and Stefano Guerra, The seventeen steps. A second edition has since been published and we are looking forward to a third... This trophy sparked a bidding war that after a series of raises was won by one of our overseas guests: Richard Olken from Boston was the lucky winner.
We posed together for a group photo and then we reluctantly left the beautiful city of canals, in no particular order and many of us in a hurry because of a train strike (definitely organized by a certain M., who, as we all well know, had a next-of-kin who worked in a railway company...)
We have a very long list of people to thank: Giovanni Pelizzato from the Toletta library, who oversaw the organization of the concert at the Casino, the Municipality of Venice, Murano and Burano and its President Erminio Viera, Giovanni Andrea Martini, deputy to libraries, and Franca Zandinella; Antonia Ambrosio (at the Scoletta), Umberto Rosin and all the members of the association Arzanà, and our members who worked hard for the organization, first of all Ivo Lombardo and Enrico Solito, our President Robert Vianello; Stella Mattioli, Marco Grassi and Paolo Canto who have given their contribution to all those small tasks essential in such an event; our Holmesians guests who came from different parts of the world (this was an event from "Four Separate Continents " ... Europe, America, Asia and Oceania) with whom we have shared this unforgettable experience.
Long Live Uno Studio in Holmes !