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At the back of the Beginning – a photo finds it’s way home

by Lisa Chiodo

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Some twenty five years ago I stood at St. Mark’s Square at the Traghetto Molo and took a photo of the gondoliers. They were seated together chatting and I felt very brave walking up to take a photo of them all. It would be just one of the millions of photos taken in Venice of these men who guide the black, flat-bottomed gondolas up and down the canals.

As a young backpacker traveling through Europe there was no way I could afford to ride through Venice in one of the magical gondolas, and really who wants to ride in a gondola on their own. So I was happy to meet a tiny Italian woman who took me under her wing and walked me to the closest traghetto pier, I got to have a mini gondola ride and took a photo of the gorgeous oarsman.

Who could possibly think that so many years later I would get a message on the blog from a wonderful woman Marie from Italy to Los Angeles and Back who turned out to be married to one of the men in my photo.

Ciao Lisa,

Si! That’s my husband Roberto seated on the right next to his colleague Dino. Gigi Ciampi (now retired) is on the left standing and Matteo has his back to the camera. Each of them are at least second generation gondoliers. If they were taken in 1989 then we had just been married for 2 years! I can’t wait to show him the clearer photo this evening when he gets home, and yes Massimo Memo works in St. Mark’s with Roberto now. He, too comes from a long line of gondoliers. He has 2 brothers who are also gondoliers and his father, now retired, was also a gondolier. Not sure if his grandfather, like my husband’s, was too…I need to ask Roberto.

Thank you for posting the photos. Roberto printed out the one of Massimo and took it to work today to show him.

A presto,


What strikes me is the absolute coincidence of these images finding their way home to Venice so many years later. Never as a young traveler did I think I’d be married to an Italian, blogging about Italy, and finding such a unique friendship. I know one day soon we’ll get to meet, and laugh at just how small a world it really is!

Life’s Postcards

PS ~  “At the back of the Beginning” is a term used often by our little boy….

Some Further Reading on coincidence

Orvieto or Bust ~ Toni DeBella

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bonnie October 9, 2014 at 4:34 am

I absolutely adore “At the back of the beginning”!!!!


2 Lisa Chiodo October 9, 2014 at 7:35 am

Our son Luca comes out with the funniest sayings Bonnie xxx


3 jan September 6, 2012 at 9:21 am

I love all these co-incidences. It is amazing how all these people from all over the world have come together.
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4 Lisa Chiodo January 14, 2014 at 12:58 am

the magic of the internet xx
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5 Yvonne September 5, 2012 at 11:49 am

I arrived at this post via Facebook, where a friend, Jeff Kerwin, had posted a link to your shared love of decrepit buildings. Then, I noticed a link to a post from Venice, and found that you had made contact with Marie, via a photo taken, lo, these many years ago. I have met the very personable Marie and Roberto, so it was nice to have this little hunk of serendipity fall into my life today.

Oh, and I’m from Queensland, by the way. As Toni has written, Il mondo è piccolo, and getting smaller each day!

Now, I’m off to prowl through your archives. Ciao!
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6 Lisa Chiodo January 14, 2014 at 12:59 am

how incredible and we really do only have six degrees of separation after all xx
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7 Toni DeBella March 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Lisa, I was saving this post and just got to reading it. What a wonderful story….almost mystical. Funny thing is I just wrote a post about how small the world has become and then your story emerges!. You know what is really weird? (in a good way), Marie and I found we had a women in common that she met at a writer’s conference that is a friend of mine from San Francisco. Say hi to Marie for me. :) Hugs. toni
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8 Lisa Chiodo March 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm

How funny that we are both on the same track, I can’t believe that about you and Marie it certainly is a small world! I love that you are in it!!!
ciao lisa xx


9 Misha March 3, 2012 at 1:53 am

What an incredible coincidence… or was it serendipity? I love stories like these – they are pure magic. :)
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10 Lisa Chiodo March 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm

So funny isn’t it Misha, I had to laugh at your post about the copycat, another odd coincidence that defies explanation! It certainly makes the world an interesting place…ciao lisa x
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11 Krista March 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I love this story. :-) How amazingly delightful. So glad you were able to learn the story behind your photo. :-)
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12 Lisa Chiodo March 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Now I’m wondering if I will find stories behind some of the other photos I have from my backpacking days Krista!
ciao lisa x
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13 LindyLouMac in Italy March 2, 2012 at 4:36 am

Lisa this is just such an amazing and wonderful coincidence. :)
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14 Lisa Chiodo March 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

amazing and wonderful….what lovely words, ciao lisa xx
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15 Lisa Wood March 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

As I am reading this amazing photo tale I have goose bumps all over – that is one incredible story…who would have thought that this is possible?

Love it!

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16 Lisa Chiodo March 3, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I know Lisa I was astonished and so love the chance coincidence of the entire story and that these men are still gondoliers. How incredible that Marie happened to read my blog all these years later and that I had only recently scanned the images (and was inspired by the wonderful Carla Coulson to post them). If you google the word coincidence there are some totally unbelievable ones to choose from ciao lisa x
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17 Janine March 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

A beautiful story Lisa. It must give you a wonderful sense of being on the right path somehow. I have been wrapped up in thoughts of destiny and sliding doors lately. This post suits my mood perfectly. Jxx
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18 Lisa Chiodo March 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Janine you are so right I did get an amazing kick from hearing this wonderful comment from Marie and knowing that a simple post on my blog caused this beautiful coincidence to come to light. Those sliding doors, we just never know where they will lead us, hope yours give you all you wish for ciao lisa
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19 Francesca Muir March 1, 2012 at 7:55 am

Fabulous story Lisa – talk about 6 degrees of separation! Ciao Francesca xx
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20 Lisa Chiodo March 3, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Yes Francesca you’ve no idea how excited I was when I got this comment from Marie. I was so stunned to read her comments and got straight on the phone to tell Sam. Six degrees indeed…ciao lisa x
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21 Ingrid March 1, 2012 at 1:18 am

It is such a small world!!
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22 Lisa Chiodo March 1, 2012 at 6:19 am

It certainly is Ingrid and getting smaller all the time….x


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