The Borgoloco in Venice

Borgoloco is one of the many place names found in Venice that causes continuous conjecture, endless searches in glossaries, attempts to define through translation sites, and absolute mis-representations based upon post-modern business and visitor uses that further obscure something quite important for those interested in the history and community development of Venice.

Someone will have a better “translation”, but “borgoloco” appears to come from

  • Borgo for village or hamlet; and,
  • loco for native place.

Still, that seems redundant.

Some current writers opine that it must be “place of lodging”, with the only justification that I can find being that there may at one time have been – and certainly are today – places of lodging there.  There is another viewpoint, however.  Throughout much of Italy, Borgo appears as part of the name of many towns and villages.  Borgo San Lorenzo in the Mugello, the upper valley of the Sieve River north of Firenze comes to mind, the ancient market town in the upper valley with an even older church that we visited one night long ago.  In Tuscany, at least, a village that never had businesses or a market is not a borgo.

The name “borgoloco” was applied to few places in Venice.  I have only found two extant applications, with adjacent calle or bridges related to them:

  • Borgoloco:  An entire (but small) island in Sestiere Castello just northwest of Campo Santa Maria Formosa, accessed from there across Ponte Borgoloco onto Calle di Borgoloco.  That street intersects the island’s largest open space, Borgo Pompeo Molmenti, re-named in honor of a famous Venetian historian and literary figure who apparently was born in a house adjacent to it and died in 1928.
Borgo Pompeo Molmenti                   (c)2011 R.D.Bosch

Borgo Pompeo Molmenti (c)2011 R.D.Bosch

Here is a riddle for Venetian students and wanderers:

What was the official name for that space before it was renamed to honor Pompeo Molmenti?

  • Borgoloco San Lorenzo: A calle in Castello on Isola San Severo, running across the island from Rio Di San Severo to Rio San Lorenzo where it crosses a bridge directly into Campo San Lorenzo on the adjacent island to the east.

Pompeo Molmenti’s home Isola Borgoloco is one of the smallest remaining inhabited islands in the main part of Venice, never absorbed into an adjacent community by intention or by creation of a Rio Terra – the filling in of a canal or rio.

Sestiere di Castello - Isola Borgoloco Near Far West (Left) Edge - by "Warofdreams", CCL
Sestiere di Castello – Isola Borgoloco Near Far West (Left) Edge – by “Warofdreams”, CCL

It is the home to a few famous palazzi that reflect in their names the reason that Venetian history is often so hard to follow:

Palazzo Soranzo-Van Axel: Soranzo built this on a predecessor Palazzo Gradenigo, and his house was later owned in succession by members of the Venier, Sanudo, Van Axel and Baruzzi families.  By the way, it is reputed to have the oldest surviving wooden door in Venice.  We were privileged to see the fine corte and stair, along with an upper floor, during the 2009 Biennale di Arte when the extraordinary Mexico Pavilion was housed therein.

Palazzo Castelli: Previously owned by members of the Corner and then Pisani families;

Palazzo Zacco.

The bridges, other than Ponte del Borgoloco, also help perpetuate the fog of history, with Ponte delle Erbe formerly called Ponte Pisani, for example.  The street Borgoloco Santa Maria Formosa, by the bridge Ponte di Ca’ Zusto, leads to the Isola, into Calle di Borgoloco, with a branch of it sometimes called Calle del Dose after Doge Nicolo Martello who was born near it…

Hopefully in a Palazzo named Martello (then).


About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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