One of my favourite parts of writing is research, because I never know where it’s going to take me. In the last two months, I’ve gone from reading up on the choke settings on a V8 engine to watching the volleyball scene from Top Gun—that was really and truly in the name of research—and reading about prostitution in Renaissance Florence.
Fun facts I’ve discovered when researching Venice for my current work in progress:
- In the fifteenth century, city authorities in Florence became so alarmed by the predilections shared by so many of their young men that they built municipal brothels for female prostitutes specifically to lure young men away from homosexual acts.
- In the fourteenth century, a young Turkish acrobat is said to have walked along a rope from a boat moored in front of San Marco piazza all the way to the belfry of the church belltower. This feat was commemorated in later years by others who emulated his feat, their ascents and descents often, though not always, assisted by ropes and winches. One year, a man managed this feat seated on a horse. I still can’t get my head around (a) how, and (b) what the poor horse thought of it.
- Because of carnivals and other festivals, it was possible to go about Venice in disguise for more than six months of each year.
- Venice was so jealous of its trade secrets that its glass blowers were forbidden from talking to outsiders (so just how is my English hero going to get his glass sex toy made?).
- Lord Byron took on William Fletcher as a valet after seeing him ploughing a field (because obviously that was a really good way of determining his likely valeting skills). Fletcher’s later duties included rubbing Byron down after exercise.
I’d love to hear what interesting facts others have come across, either in research or when reading.