LOVE-MAKING AND MARRYING; BAPTISMS AND BURIALS
Written by William Dean Howells and originally published in 1866
The Venetians have had a practical and strictly business-like way of arranging marriages from the earliest times. The shrewdest provision has always been made for the dower and for the good of the State; private and public interest being consulted, the small matters of affections have been left to the chances of association; and it does not seem that Venetian society has ever dealt severely with husbands or wives whom incompatibilities forced to seek consolation outside of matrimony. Herodotus relates that the Illyrian Veneti sold their daughters at auction to the highest bidder; and the fair being thus comfortably placed in life, the hard-favored were given to whomsoever would take them, with such dower as might be considered a reasonable compensation. The auction was discontinued in Christian times, but marriage contracts still partook of the form of a public and half-mercantile transaction. At a comparatively late period Venetian fathers went with their daughters to a great annual matrimonial fair at San Pietro di Castello Olivolo, and the youth of the lagoons repaired thither to choose wives from the number of the maidens. These were all dressed in white, with hair loose about the neck, and each bore her dower in a little box, slung over her shoulder by a ribbon. It is to be supposed that there was commonly a previous understanding between each damsel and some youth in the crowd: as soon as all had paired off, the bishop gave them a sermon and his benediction, and the young men gathered up their brides and boxes, and went away wedded. It was on one of these occasions, in the year 944, that the Triestine pirates stole the Brides of Venice with their dowers, and gave occasion to the Festa delle Marie, already described, and to Rogers’s poem, which every body pretends to have read.
This going to San Pietro’s, selecting a wife and marrying her on the spot, out of hand, could only have been the contrivance of a straightforward, practical race. Among the common people betrothals were managed with even greater ease and dispatch, till a very late day in history; and in the record of a certain trial which took place in 1443 there is an account of one of these brief and unceremonious courtships. Donna Catarussa, who gives evidence, and whom I take to have been a worthless, idle gossip, was one day sitting at her door, when Piero di Trento passed, selling brooms, and said to her, “Madonna, find me some nice girl.” To which Donna Catarussa replied, “Ugly fool! do you take me for a go-between?” “No,” said Piero, “not that; I mean a girl to be my wife.” And as Donna Catarussa thought at once of a suitable match, she said, “In faith of God, I know one for you. Come again to-morrow.” So they both met next day, and the woman chosen by Donna Catarussa being asked, “Wouldst thou like to have Piero for thy husband, as God commands and holy Church?” she answered, “Yes.” And Peter being asked the like question, answered, “Why, yes, certainly.” And they went off and had the wedding feast. A number of these betrothals takes place in the last scene of Goldoni’s “Baruffe Chiozzotte,” where the belligerent women and their lovers take hands in the public streets, and saluting each other as man and wife, are affianced, and get married as quickly as possible:—
“Checa (to Tofolo). Take my hand.
The betrothals of the Venetian nobles were celebrated with as much pomp and ceremony as could possibly distinguish them from those of the people, and there was much more polite indifference to the inclinations of the parties immediately concerned. The contract was often concluded before the betrothed had seen each other, by means of a third person, when the amount of the dower was fixed. The bridegroom elect having verbally agreed with the parents of the bride, repaired at an early day to the court-yard of the Ducal Palace, where the match was published, and where he shook hands with his kinsmen and friends. On the day fixed for signing the contract the bride’s father invited to his house the bridegroom and all his friends, and hither came the high officers of state to compliment the future husband. He, with the father of his betrothed, met the guests at the door of the palace, and conducted them to the grand saloon, which no woman was allowed (si figuri!) at this time to enter. When the company was seated, the bride, clad in white, was led from her rooms and presented. She wore a crown of pearls and brilliants on her head, and her hair, mixed with long threads of gold, fell loose about her shoulders, as you may see it in Carpaccio’s pictures of the Espousals of St. Ursula. Her ear-rings were pendants of three pearls set in gold; her neck and throat were bare but for a collar of lace and gems, from which slid a fine jeweled chain into her bosom. Over her breast she wore a stomacher of cloth of gold, to which were attached her sleeves, open from the elbow to the hand. The formal words of espousal being pronounced, the bride paced slowly round the hall to the music of fifes and trumpets, and made a gentle inclination to each of the guests; and then returned to her chamber, from which she issued again on the arrival of any tardy friend, and repeated the ceremony. After all this, she descended to the courtyard, where she was received by gentlewomen, her friends, and placed on a raised seat (which was covered with rich stuffs) in an open gondola, and thus, followed by a fleet of attendant gondolas, went to visit all the convents in which there were kinspeople of herself or her betrothed. The excessive publicity of these ceremonies was supposed to strengthen the validity of the marriage contract. At an early day after the espousals the betrothed, preceded by musicians and followed by relatives and friends, went at dawn to be married in the church,—the bridegroom wearing a toga, and the bride a dress of white silk or crimson velvet, with jewels in her hair, and pearls embroidered on her robes. Visits of congratulation followed, and on the same day a public feast was given in honor of the wedding, to which at least three hundred persons were always invited, and at which the number, quality, and cost of the dishes were carefully regulated by the Republic’s laws. On this occasion, one or more persons were chosen as governors of the feast, and after the tables were removed, a mock-heroic character appeared, and recounted with absurd exaggeration the deeds of the ancestors of the bride and groom. The next morning ristorativi of sweetmeats and confectionery were presented to the happy couple, by whom the presents were returned in kind.
A splendor so exceptional, even in the most splendid age of the most splendid city, as that which marked the nuptial feasts of the unhappy Jacopo Foscari, could not be left unnoticed in this place. He espoused Lucrezia, daughter of Lionardo Contarini, a noble as rich and magnificent as Jacopo’s own father, the Doge; and, on the 29th of January 1441, the noble Eustachio Balbi being chosen lord of the feasts, the bridegroom, the bride’s brother and eighteen other patrician youths, assembled in the Palazzo Balbi, whence they went on horseback to conduct Lucrezia to the Ducal Palace. They were all sumptuously dressed in crimson velvet and silver brocade of Alexandria, and rode chargers superbly caparisoned. Other noble friends attended them; musicians went before; a troop of soldiers brought up the rear. They thus proceeded to the court-yard of the Ducal Palace, and then, returning, traversed the Piazza, and threading the devious little streets to the Campo San Samuele, there crossed the Grand Canal upon a bridge of boats, to San Barnaba opposite, where the Contarini lived. On their arrival at this place the bride, supported by two Procuratori di San Marco, and attended by sixty ladies, descended to the church and heard mass, after which an oration was delivered in Campo San Barnaba before the Doge, the ambassadors, and a multitude of nobles and people, in praise of the spouses and their families. The bride then returned to her father’s house, and jousts took place in the campos of Santa Maria Formosa and San Polo (the largest in the city), and in the Piazza San Marco. The Doge gave a great banquet, and at its close one hundred and fifty ladies proceeded to the bride’s palace in the Bucintoro, where one hundred other ladies joined them, together with Lucrezia, who, seated between Francesco Sforza (then General-in-chief of the Republic’s armies) and the Florentine ambassador, was conducted, amid the shouts of the people and the sound of trumpets, to the Ducal Palace. The Doge received her at the riva of the Piazzetta, and, with Sforza and Balbi led her to the foot of the palace stairs, where the Dogaressa, with sixty ladies, welcomed her. A state supper ended this day’s rejoicings, and on the following day a tournament took place in the Piazza, for a prize of cloth of gold, which was offered by Sforza. Forty knights contested the prize and supped afterward with the Doge. On the next day there were processions of boats with music on the Grand Canal; on the fourth and last day there were other jousts for prizes offered by the jewelers and Florentine merchants; and every night there were dancing and feasting in the Ducal Palace. The Doge was himself the giver of the last tournament, and with this the festivities came to an end.
I have read an account by an old-fashioned English traveler of a Venetian marriage which he saw, sixty or seventy years ago, at the church of San Giorgio Maggiore: “After a crowd of nobles,” he says, “in their usual black robes, had been some time in attendance, the gondolas appearing, exhibited a fine show, though all of them were painted of a sable hue, in consequence of a sumptuary law, which is very necessary in this place, to prevent an expense which many who could not bear it would incur; nevertheless the barcarioli, or boatmen, were dressed in handsome liveries; the gondolas followed one another in a line, each carrying two ladies, who were likewise dressed in black. As they landed they arranged themselves in order, forming a line from the gate to the great altar. At length the bride, arrayed in white as the symbol of innocence, led by the bridesman, ascended the stairs of the landing-place. There she received the compliments of the bridegroom, in his black toga, who walked at her right hand to the altar, where they and all the company kneeled. I was often afraid the poor young creature would have sunk upon the ground before she arrived, for she trembled with great agitation, while she made her low courtesies from side to side: however, the ceremony was no sooner performed than she seemed to recover her spirits, and looked matrimony in the face with a determined smile. Indeed, in all appearance she had nothing to fear from her husband, whose age and aspect were not at all formidable; accordingly she tripped back to the gondola with great activity and resolution, and the procession ended as it began. Though there was something attractive in this aquatic parade, the black hue of the boats and the company presented to a stranger, like me, the idea of a funeral rather than a wedding. My expectation was raised too high by the previous description of the Italians, who are much given to hyperbole, who gave me to understand that this procession would far exceed any thing I had ever seen. When I reflect upon this rhodomontade,” disdainfully adds Mr. Drummond, “I cannot help comparing, in my memory, the paltry procession of the Venetian marriage with a very august occurrence of which I was eyewitness in Sweden,” and which being the reception of their Swedish Majesties by the British fleet, I am sure the reader will not ask me to quote. With change of government, changes of civilization following the revolutions, and the decay of wealth among the Venetian nobles, almost all their splendid customs have passed away, and the habit of making wedding presents of sweetmeats and confectionery is perhaps the only relic which has descended from the picturesque past to the present time. These gifts are still exchanged not only by nobles, but by all commoners according to their means, and are sometimes a source of very profuse outlay. It is the habit to send the candies in the elegant and costly paper caskets which the confectioners sell, and the sum of a thousand florins scarcely suffices to pass the courtesy round a moderately large circle of friends.
With the nobility and with the richest commoners marriage is still greatly a matter of contract, and is arranged without much reference to the principals, though it is now scarcely probable in any case that they have not seen each other. But with all other classes, except the poorest, who cannot and do not seclude the youth of either sex from each other, and with whom, consequently, romantic contrivance and subterfuge would be superfluous, love is made to-day in Venice as in the capa y espada comedies of the Spaniards, and the business is carried on with all the cumbrous machinery of confidants, billets-doux, and stolen interviews.
Let us take our nominal friends, Marco and Todaro, and attend them in their solemn promenade under the arcades of the Procuratie, or upon the Molo, whither they go every evening to taste the air and to look at the ladies, while the Austrians and the other foreigners listen to the military music in the Piazza. They are both young, our friends; they have both glossy silk hats; they have both light canes and an innocent swagger. Inconceivably mild are these youth, and in their talk indescribably small and commonplace.
They look at the ladies, and suddenly Todaro feels the consuming ardors of love.
Todaro (to Marco). Here, dear! Behold this beautiful blonde here! Beautiful as an angel! But what loveliness!
Marco. But where?
Todaro. It is enough. Let us go. I follow her.
Such is the force of the passion in southern hearts. They follow that beautiful blonde, who, marching demurely in front of the gray-moustached papa and the fat mamma, after the fashion in Venice, is electrically conscious of pursuit. They follow her during the whole evening, and, at a distance, softly follow her home, where the burning Todaro photographs the number of the house upon the sensitized tablets of his soul.
This is the first great step in love: he has seen his adored one, and he knows that he loves her with an inextinguishable ardor. The next advance is to be decided between himself and the faithful Marco, and is to be debated over many cups of black coffee, not to name glasses of sugar-and-water and the like exciting beverages. The friends may now find out the caffè which the Biondina frequents with her parents, and to which Todaro may go every evening and feast his eyes upon her loveliness, never making his regard known by any word, till some night, when he has followed her home, he steals speech with her as he stands in the street under her balcony,—and looks sufficiently sheepish as people detect him on their late return from the theatre1. Or, if the friends do not take this course in their courtship (for they are both engaged in the wooing), they decide that Todaro, after walking back and forth a sufficient number of times in the street where the Biondina lives, shall write her a tender letter, to demand if she be disposed to correspond his love. This billet must always be conveyed to her by her serving-maid, who must be bribed by Marco for the purpose. At every juncture Marco must be consulted, and acquainted with every step of progress; and no doubt the Biondina has some lively Moretta for her friend, to whom she confides her part of the love-affair in all its intricacy.
It may likewise happen that Todaro shall go to see the Biondina in church, whither, but for her presence, he would hardly go, and that there, though he may not have speech with her, he shall still fan the ardors of her curiosity and pity by persistent sighs. It must be confessed that if the Biondina is not pleased with his looks, his devotion must assume the character of an intolerable bore to her; and that to see him everywhere at her heels—to behold him leaning against the pillar near which she kneels at church, the head of his stick in his mouth, and his attitude carefully taken with a view to captivation—to be always in deadly fear lest she shall meet him in promenade, or, turning round at the caffè encounter his pleading gaze—that all this must drive the Biondina to a state bordering upon blasphemy and finger-nails. Ma, come si fa? Ci vuol pazienza! This is the sole course open to ingenuous youth in Venice, where confessed and unashamed acquaintance between young people is extremely difficult; and so this blind pursuit must go on, till the Biondina’s inclinations are at last laboriously ascertained.
Suppose the Biondina consents to be loved? Then Todaro has just and proper inquiries to make concerning her dower, and if her fortune is as pleasing as herself, he has only to demand her in marriage of her father, and after that to make her acquaintance.
One day a Venetian friend of mine, who spoke a little English, came to me with a joyous air and said:
“I am in lofe.”
The recipient of repeated confidences of this kind from the same person, I listened with tempered effusion.
“It is a blonde again?”
“Yes, you have right; blonde again.”
“Oh, but beautiful. I lofe her—come si dice!—immensamente.”
“And where did you see her? Where did you make her acquaintance?”
“I have not make the acquaintance. I see her pass with his fazer every night on Rialto Bridge We did not spoke yet—only with the eyes. The lady is not of Venice. She has four thousand florins. It is not much—no. But!”
Is not this love at first sight almost idyllic? Is it not also a sublime prudence to know the lady’s fortune better than herself, before herself? These passionate, headlong Italians look well to the main chance before they leap into matrimony, and you may be sure Todaro knows, in black and white, what the Biondina has to her fortune before he weds her. After that may come the marriage, and the sonnet written by the next of friendship, and printed to hang up in all the shop-windows, celebrating the auspicious event. If he be rich, or can write nobile after his Christian name, perhaps some abbate, elegantly addicted to verses and alive to grateful consequences, may publish a poem, elegantly printed by the matchless printers at Rovigo, and send it to all the bridegroom’s friends. It is not the only event which the facile Venetian Muse shall sing for him. If his child is brought happily through the measles by Dottor Cavasangue, the Nine shall celebrate the fact. If he takes any public honor or scholastic degree, it is equal occasion for verses; and when he dies the mortuary rhyme shall follow him. Indeed, almost every occurrence—a boy’s success at school, an advocate’s triumphal passage of the perils of examination at Padua, a priest’s first mass, a nun’s novitiate, a birth, an amputation—is the subject of tuneful effusion, and no less the occasion of a visit from the facchini of the neighboring campo, who assemble with blare of trumpets and tumult of voices around the victim’s door, and proclaim his skill or good fortune, and break into vivas that never end till he bribes their enthusiasm into silence. The naïve commonplaceness of feeling in all matrimonial transactions, in spite of the gloss which the operatic methods of courtship threw about them, was a source of endless amusement, as it stole out in different ways. “You know my friend Marco?” asked an acquaintance one day. “Well, we are looking out a wife for him. He doesn’t want to marry, but his father insists; and he has begged us to find somebody. There are three of us on the look-out. But he hates women, and is very hard to suit. Ben! Ci vuol pazienza!”
It rarely happens now that the religious part of the marriage ceremony is not performed in church, though it may be performed at the house of the bride. In this case, it usually takes place in the evening, and the spouses attend five o’clock mass next morning. But if the marriage takes place at church, it must be between five and eleven in the morning, and the blessing is commonly pronounced about six o’clock. Civil marriage is still unknown among the Venetians. It is entirely the affair of the Church, in which the bans are published beforehand, and which exacts from the candidates a preliminary visit to their parish priest, for examination in their catechism, and for instruction in religion when they are defective in knowledge of the kind. There is no longer any civil publication of the betrothals, and the hand-shaking in the court of the Ducal Palace has long been disused. I cannot help thinking that the ceremony must have been a great affliction, and that, in the Republican times at Venice, a bridegroom must have fared nearly as hard as a President elect in our times at home.
There was a curious display on occasion of births among the nobility in former times. The room of the young mother was decorated with a profusion of paintings, sculpture, and jewelry; and, while yet in bed, she received the congratulations of her friends, and regaled them with sweetmeats served in vases of gold and silver.
The child of noble parents had always at least two godfathers, and sometimes as many as a hundred and fifty; but in order that the relationship of godfather (which is the same according to the canonical law as a tie of consanguinity) should not prevent desirable matrimony between nobles, no patrician was allowed to be godfather to another’s child. Consequently the compare was usually a client of the noble parent, and was not expected to make any present to the godchild, whose father, on the day following the baptism, sent him a piece of marchpane, in acknowledgment of their relationship. No women were present at the baptism except those who had charge of the babe. After the fall of the Republic the French custom of baptism in the parents’ house was introduced, as well as the custom, on the godfather’s part, of giving a present,—usually of sugarplums and silver toys. But I think that most baptisms still take place in church, if I may judge from the numbers of tight little glass cases I have noticed,—half bed and half coffin,—containing little eight-day-old Venetians, closely swathed in mummy-like bandages, and borne to and from the churches by mysterious old women. The ceremony of baptism itself does not apparently differ from that in other Catholic countries, and is performed, like all religious services in Italy, without a ray of religious feeling or solemnity of any kind.
For many centuries funeral services in Venice have been conducted by the Scuole del Sacramento, instituted for that purpose. To one of these societies the friends of the defunct pay a certain sum, and the association engages to inter the dead, and bear all the expenses of the ceremony, the dignity of which is regulated by the priest of the parish in which the deceased lived. The rite is now most generally undertaken by the Scuola di San Rocco. The funeral train is of ten or twenty facchini, wearing tunics of white, with caps and capes of red, and bearing the society’s long, gilded candlesticks of wood with lighted tapers. Priests follow them chanting prayers, and then comes the bier,—with a gilt crown lying on the coffin, if the dead be a babe, to indicate the triumph of innocence. Formerly, hired mourners attended, and a candle, weighing a pound, was given to any one who chose to carry it in the procession.
Anciently there was great show of mourning in Venice for the dead, when, according to Mutinelli, the friends and kinsmen of the deceased, having seen his body deposited in the church, “fell to weeping and howling, tore their hair and rent their clothes, and withdrew forever from that church, thenceforth become for them a place of abomination.” Decenter customs prevailed in after-times, and there was a pathetic dignity in the ceremony of condolence among patricians: the mourners, on the day following the interment, repaired to the porticos of Rialto and the court of the Ducal Palace, and their friends came, one after one, and expressed their sympathy by a mute pressure of the hand.
Death, however, is hushed up as much as possible in modern Venice. The corpse is hurried from the house of mourning to the parish church, where the friends, after the funeral service, take leave of it. Then it is placed in a boat and carried to the burial-ground, where it is quickly interred. I was fortunate, therefore, in witnessing a cheerful funeral at which I one day casually assisted at San Michele. There was a church on this island as early as the tenth century, and in the thirteenth century it fell into the possession of the Comandulensen Friars. They built a monastery on it, which became famous as a seat of learning, and gave much erudite scholarship to the world. In later times Pope Gregory XVI. carried his profound learning from San Michele to the Vatican. The present church is in the Renaissance style, but not very offensively so, and has some indifferent paintings. The arcades and the courts around which it is built contain funeral monuments as unutterably ugly and tasteless as any thing of the kind I ever saw at home; but the dead, for the most part, lie in graves marked merely by little iron crosses in the narrow and roofless space walled in from the lagoon, which laps sluggishly at the foot of the masonry with the impulses of the tide. The old monastery was abolished in 1810, and there is now a convent of Reformed Benedictines on the island, who perform the last service for the dead.
On the day of which I speak, I was taking a friend to see the objects of interest at San Michele, which I had seen before, and the funeral procession touched at the riva of the church just as we arrived. The procession was of one gondola only, and the pallbearers were four pleasant ruffians in scarlet robes of cotton, hooded, and girdled at the waist. They were accompanied by a priest of a broad and jolly countenance, two grinning boys, and finally the corpse itself, severely habited in an under-dress of black box, but wearing an outer garment of red velvet, bordered and tasseled gayly. The pleasant ruffians (who all wore smoking-caps with some other name) placed this holiday corpse upon a bier, and after a lively dispute with our gondolier, in which the compliments of the day were passed in the usual terms of Venetian chaff, lifted the bier on shore and set it down. The priest followed with the two boys, whom he rebuked for levity, simultaneously tripping over the Latin of a prayer, with his eyes fixed on our harmless little party as if we were a funeral, and the dead in the black box an indifferent spectator Then he popped down upon his knees, and made us a lively little supplication, while a blind beggar scuffled for a lost soldo about his feet, and the gondoliers quarreled volubly. After which, he threw off his surplice with the air of one who should say his day’s work was done, and preceded the coffin into the church.
We had hardly deposited the bier upon the floor in the centre of the nave, when two pale young friars appeared, throwing off their hooded cloaks of coarse brown, as they passed to the sacristy, and reappearing in their rope-girdled gowns. One of them bore a lighted taper in his right hand and a book in his left; the other had also a taper, but a pot of holy water instead of the book.
They are very handsome young men, these monks, with heavy, sad eyes, and graceful, slender figures, which their monastic life will presently overload with gross humanity full of coarse appetites. They go and stand beside the bier, giving a curious touch of solemnity to a scene composed of the four pleasant ruffians in the loaferish postures which they have learned as facchini waiting for jobs; of the two boys with inattentive grins, and of the priest with wandering eyes, kneeling behind them.
A weak, thin-voiced organ pipes huskily from its damp loft: the monk hurries rapidly over the Latin text of the service, while
“His breath to heaven like vapor goes”
on the chilly, humid air; and the other monk makes the responses, giving and taking the sprinkler, which his chief shakes vaguely in the direction of the coffin. They both bow their heads—shaven down to the temples, to simulate His crown of thorns. Silence. The organ is still, the priest has vanished; the tapers are blown out; the pall-bearers lay hold of the bier, and raise it to their shoulders; the boys slouch into procession behind them; the monks glide softly and dispiritedly away. The soul is prepared for eternal life, and the body for the grave.
The ruffians are expansively gay on reaching the open air again. They laugh, they call “Ciò!2” continually, and banter each other as they trot to the grave.
The boys follow them, gamboling among the little iron crosses, and trying if here and there one of them may not be overthrown.
We two strangers follow the boys.
But here the pall-bearers become puzzled: on the right is an open trench, on the left is an open trench.
“Presence of the Devil! To which grave does this dead belong?” They discuss, they dispute, they quarrel.
From the side of the wall, as if he rose from the sea, appears the grave digger, with his shovel on his shoulder—slouching toward us.
“Ah heigh! Ciò, the grave-digger! Where does this dead belong?”
“Body of Bacchus, what potatoes! Here, in this trench to the right.”
They set down the bier there, gladly. They strip away the coffin’s gay upper garment; they leave but the under-dress of black box, painted to that favor with pitch. They shove it into the grave-digger’s arms, where he stands in the trench, in the soft earth, rich with bones. He lets it slide swiftly to the ground—thump! Ecco fatto!
The two boys pick up the empty bier, and dance merrily away with it to the riva-gate, feigning a little play after the manner of children,—“Oh, what a beautiful dead!”
The eldest of the pleasant ruffians is all the pleasanter for sciampagnin, and can hardly be persuaded to go out at the right gate.
We strangers stay behind a little, to consult with mother spectator—Venetian, this. “Who is the dead man, signore?”
“It is a woman, poor little thing! Dead in child-bed. The baby is in there with her.”
It has been a cheerful funeral, and yet we are not in great spirits as we go back to the city.
For my part, I do not think the cry of sea-gulls on a gloomy day is a joyous sound; and the sight of those theatrical angels, with their shameless, unfinished backs, flying off the top of the rococo façade of the church of the Jesuits, has always been a spectacle to fill me with despondency and foreboding.
- The love-making scenes in Goldoni’s comedy of Il Bugiarda are photographically faithful to present usage in Venice.
- Literally, That in Italian, and meaning in Venetian, You! Heigh! To talk in Ciò ciappa is to assume insolent familiarity or unbounded good fellowship with the person addressed. A Venetian says Ciò a thousand times in a day, and hails every one but his superior in that way. I think it is hardly the Italian pronoun, but rather a contraction of Veccio (vecchio), Old fellow! It is common with all classes of the people: parents use it in speaking to their children, and brothers and sisters call one mother Ciò. It is a salutation between friends, who cry out, Ciò! as they pass in the street. Acquaintances, men who meet after separation, rush together with “Ah Ciò!” Then they kiss on the right cheek “Ciò!” on the left, “Ciò!” on the lips, “Ciò! Bon di Ciò!”