Even though I haven’t had much personal contact with Venetian entrepreneurs, there are two I will never forget.

Claudio is the owner of a small hotel I stayed in on a visit a few years ago. One morning he and I had a long visit about his hotel (a Rick Steves recommendation) and what his life as a native Venetian was like. On the morning I checked out, he was at the front desk. After we’d completed our business, I said, “Claudio, I enjoyed my stay. When I come back I will be sure to stay with you again.”

He bowed slightly and said, “I shall be here, Madam, awaiting your return.”  I giggled all the way to the train station thinking that Claudio would be there to welcome me back.

Then there’s Carlo. In October, 2006, my siblings and I rented an apartment in Venice for a week. When we arrived at the vaporetto stop, we were greeted by our temporary landlord Carlo. He shook hands with each of us and then escorted us back to the 500-year-old building he owns. The first thing I noticed about him was that he didn’t actually walk: he bounced. And he smiled a lot.

The next afternoon he stopped by to make sure that things were running smoothly. “So, Carlo,” I asked, “where did you learn to speak English so well?” The grin got even bigger and he told us how he’d decided to learn English when he was sixteen and began his lessons by  listening to Simon and Garfunkel. A few years later, he went to London and was dismayed to learn that nobody could understand him.

We invited him to sit down and tell us more about this building which he was renovating. What followed was a delightful story about creative entrepreneurship. He told us he’d been a pharmacist, but when the building came into his family rather unexpectedly, he left his pharmacy to devote himself to his new enterprise. His parents occupied an apartment on the ground floor and there was another space he rented to a group of architects. Carlo lived on the top floor while the other four apartments were vacation rentals.

Redoing the building had been a huge undertaking and he seemed to be enjoying it all. I tried to imagine how difficult it would be to rehab an old building in a city where everything had to be brought and removed by  motorboat. It seemed daunting, but Carlo seemed to have taken it all in stride.

When Carlo told us that he was facing a couple of off-season months with few takers, my sister Margaret suggested he advertise on Craigslist, which he hadn’t heard about. To our delight—and his—he promptly got two bookings after posting on that popular site.

If there are more charming landlords and hotel owners than Carlo and Claudio, I have yet to meet them.

Further Explorations

Writers, painters and musicians have found inspiration in this elegant city. From William Shakespeare to Indiana Jones, Venice has proved a fascinating backdrop for storytelling.

Books

  • A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlene di Blesi is the story of an American food writer and restauranteur who falls in love with a Venetian banker and moves to Italy. While the book is treated by critics and readers alike as a romantic tale, I saw something else: how di Blesi’s entrepreneurial spirit infected her new husband who ultimately leaves his dreary job.
  • The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt was not the story the author was planning to write when he landed in Venice, but an intriguing city disaster led to this unusual glimpse into modern Venice society. The audio version is also good.
  • If you love mysteries, American teacher-turned-writer Donna Leon has a series set in her adopted hometown.
  • There are countless works of fiction and nonfiction covering all eras of this enchanting city.  DK’s Eyewitness travel guide to Venice and the Veneto is fun to read, as is The Collected Traveler anthology of Venice, if you’re really curious.

Movies

  • The Merchant of Venice has been made into film several times with the role of Shylock played by Sir Laurence Olivier and Al Pacino, among others.
  • Dangerous Beauty is a personal favorite about an impoverished Venetian woman who becomes a courtesan when she learns that women in that profession have access to libraries. Based on a true story of the life of an early feminist.
  • What exploration of Venice would be complete without Casanova? The 2005 movie with Heath Ledger as the legendary lover is charming and fun.
  • Bread and Tulips is a movie that will be especially appealing to those who have visited Italy.
  • And, of course, there’s the romantic classic, Summertime, with Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi.

It felt like an entrepreneurial cyclone hit this week. Besides all the intriguing resources I’ve collected, there was much rejoicing all around me. The week began with learning that yes, indeed, there will be a revised and updated version of Making a Living Without a Job before the end of the year. Longtime friend and Rhinestone Gypsy Linda Gannon sent an update on her booming business along with a hysterical story about her rock star customer. My sister Margaret started a creative profit center that has generated so much enthusiasm that I can feel it 300 miles away. To top things off, there was much whooping and hollering when my daughter Jennie called to say she got her first client for her doula business. And it’s only the first week of the new year!

Besides all the excitement close to home, I came across so many articles and resources this week that I wanted to pass along, but decided my list needed to be edited or you’d be linking all weekend long. Here are the ones that made the cut.

For years, I’ve been raving about Rick Steves. Not only do I use his travel guides and have watched his PBS programs for years, I also admire the way he has built and run his business. I paid a visit to his Website and found a charming list of his Top Travel Memories for 2008. If you go to his site, you can be lost there for hours.

One of the first things I plan to do on my upcoming trip to the UK is to sample as many Innocent Drinks as possible. I’ve been writing about this wildly creative business ever since I discovered them. Alas, their products aren’t available in the US so I have to be content with reading their weekly mailings. Nobody uses humor and whimsy better than the Innocent Drinks geniuses. Here’s a little sampler from this week’s mailing:

If you’re a bit skint after Christmas and are resorting to drying your teabags on the radiator and milking the cat, then here’s something sure to cheer up both you and your bank manager. Our smoothies are on special offer for the next few weeks in a store near you, meaning you can save a few pennies and walk off that second layer of chocolates. What’s more, since our veg pots are new to Tesco, for the next few weeks you can also save £1 on them too, leaving you free to indulge in one hundred penny sweets, a bag of scampi fries or a ‘sorry’ present for the cat.

Yes, I know, I’ve been babbling about my love affair with Twitter. Even so, I have failed miserably in bringing converts along. As one friend asked, “Why would I want to read about someone having a ham sandwich at the airport?” Fair question. That’s what I thought it would be like, too, so I avoided it for ever so long. Now I’m wiser…and wiser because of Twitter. The folks I’m following post all sorts of fascinating stuff and I find a gem or two every day. Here are three that came my way this past week:

7 Tips for New Twitter Users

from Zen Habits You Can Do Anything in Your Underwear

from Copyblogger How to Stop Being Invisible 

By the way, even if you aren’t writing a blog, I urge you to get acquainted with Copyblogger which has lively articles for anyone interested in communication. 

Jewelry artist and creativity coach Sally Evans shares her insights at Embracing Creativity where she posts articles, suggestions and resources. Check out her Creativity Just for Fun section. Sally’s also offering a terrific e-course called Design Your Inspired Life that’s getting rave reviews from past participants.

Want to take your Muse out to play? Go to Jackson Pollock.org and move your mouse around your screen. Click on your mouse to change colors. Warning: this can be addictive.

Don’t miss Seth Godin’s blog post Time to Start a Newspaper and see where he says the next frontier is.

Finally, there’s still time to join me for my upcoming teleclasses. We’ll be exploring A Beginner’s Guide to the Seminar Business on Monday, January 12 and A Dozen Ways to Build Your Expert Status on Wednesday, January 14. All teleclasses are now being recorded so even if you can’t attend in person, you can still hear the entire class.

A good idea will not become a reality until it has a champion. ~ Colin Powell