Bottesini tried to avoid Venice throughout his life, saying that the stench of the canals sickened him. One might ask if the "stench" might have been the lingering effluvium of Domenico Dragonetti, the Queen of the Adriatic's Virtuoso Native Son. In a telling letter to Arditi he wrote:

As I walk those narrow ways in Venice, I always feel a Presence. Like the shrivelled corpse of the Evangelist that lies entombed in the basilica, it haunts my sleep and follows my waking when I am in this city. O, let us be free from Venice.

Bottesini did at one point attempt to examine Dragonetti's Gasparo da Salo Bass in St. Mark's some years after Dragonetti's death. When Church officials refused him (doubtless out of deference to Franco D. Umberto, who maintained a powerful trading presence in the city, he vowed never to return to Venice, a promise he only broke twice.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (