Mimi Todhunter on the balcony
of her Room with a View.
"Der Venezianer musste
eine neue Art von Geschöpf werden,
wie man denn auch Venedig
nur mit sich selbst vergleichen kann."
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
Italienische Reise, 1829)
"I love to set a beautiful table."
Mimi Todhunter in the piano nobile of Palazzo Duodo
at Canal Grande.
Famous Salonnière: Mimi Todhunter, New Zealand born, has lived for the last 20 years in Venice. She has rekindled the grand tradition of the elegant Salon through her wide ranging social network. Her motto is "At Home in Venice". Those who have the pleasure to participate, will enjoy meeting distinguished personalities from Venice and around the world from the fields of art, science and culture. Both her very charmants dinner parties and nearby excursions provide an exclusive personal perspective into the cultural life of La Serenissima.
(Fotos: Katja Mutschelknaus/Mimi Todhunter)
Große Salontradition: Die gebürtige Neuseeländerin Mimi Todhunter lebt seit über zwanzig Jahren in der Stadt an der Lagune. Bestens vernetzt im Kunst- und Kulturleben Venedigs, Italiens, aber auch international, pflegt sie die Tradition des eleganten Salons. Unter dem Motto "At Home in Venice" bringt sie internationale Persönlichkeiten aus Kunst, Kultur und Wissenschaft bei charmanten Dinnerpartys in ihrem Palazzo am Canal Grande sowie auf Exkursionen mit Venedigs Kunst- und Kulturschaffenden zusammen - und ermöglicht so ganz persönliche, exklusive Einblicke in das kulturelle Leben der Serenissima.
FoodTorian: Mimi, it is a great pleasure to meet you. What a wonderful start - this courtyard is
Mimi Todhunter: Yes, it's a charming courtyard, indeed. I especially love the herringbone brick work for the pavement. It is still the very same
from the time when these two palazzi were originally built.
FT: The courtyard is bounded by two palazzi. Do you know their history?
MT: The palazzo on the left was built in the late 16th century. It is called
Palazzo Tron. It is very famous, because the Austrian Emperor Joseph II. loved to stay there 1775 on the occasion of a most festive, legendary imperial ball. At this time, Palazzo
Tron had the biggest ballroom in Venice. The other palazzo is called Palazzo Duodo. Claudio Monteverdi, the famous Italian composer, evidently lived here until 1643. Palazzo
Duodo was built in the 15th century. For more than twenty years now it has been the Venetian home of my family, on the piano nobile.
A glimpse into the historic courtyard
of Palazzo Tron and Palazzo Duodo.
FT: You were born in New Zealand. Now, you live in Venice. How did this come about?
MT: My husband John's family have been in the wool business for three generations. John owned a mill weaving fabric in Schio, northwest of Vicenca. In 2002 eventually we came to live in Venice. But we have lived in Italy before, in Tuscany, during the first years of our marriage. That's why I know Italy quite well. It is full of magic places and Venice is one of them.
FT: The tradition of trade and craftsmanship of objects that make live beautiful belong to the Venetian DNA.
MT: Most palazzi on Canal Grande were built by traders. At the mezzanine floor they would usually have their offices and - most important - a water entrance. There all the trading goods were being unloaded. And except of the servants everybody else would normally always come through this water door. The way a Venetian gets around is by boat. That hasn't changed in centuries.
The water entrance of Palazzo Duodo.
In the 17th century used by
composer Claudio Monteverdi ...
... these very same steps now,
are used by Mimi Todhunter and her guests.
Mimi's Butler welcoming guests
at Palazzo Duodo.
FT: You decided upon Palazzo Duodo ...
MT: ... for several reasons. Venice is full of stories. From the window of the drawing room, the view across the Canal Grande is of the Palazzo
Vendramin Calergi. A very fine example of the early Renaissance. This palazzo, today the Casino, is also well-known because in 1883 Richard Wagner passed away inside. When we
decided to settle in Venice in 2002, I looked around at some places and then said to myself: We don't know anybody here, so at least we need to be in the center of life. I think it was meant to
happen, finding Palazzo Duodo. From that time I've been here ever since. From the balcony we can see the world go by. We don't even have a television here. And we wouldn't even want to
have one! My television is out there - right on the Canal Grande. The Canal Grande is also full of stories, like a huge cinemascope screen.
The view from Mimi's balcony:
Palazzo Vendramin Calergi.
FT: It must require significant work to maintain such a famous palazzo?
MT: Little by little, over the years, there had been altered a lot. The original terrazzo veneziano for example is very fragile. We had
them repaired just a couple of years ago at great expense. When we came here, the palazzo was not in a very good state. It took us about a year to renovate the place.
FT: Does the dream of living in Venice require much effort?
MT: It requires some patience. But I am experienced in such matters. I've been very lucky as I have lived in quite a lot of places, some of the
most wonderful cities of the world. I have lived in Sydney, I've lived in London, I've lived in Paris for five years. And in Tuscany. When I came to Venice in 2002 I already knew that it usually
takes quite some time to feel at home in a new neighborhood. It takes time to open up and, little by little, to find some friends.
FT: Every city has its unique cultural customs and social codes. How did you unlock these secrets?
MT: I always make the most of where I live. I always try to find the best of whatever is there. When we first came here, my husband and I didn't
know anybody in Venice. And when I finally had the time to meet people and to make friends, I started to invite people. Just randomly when I met them. It was a slow process.
...The Interview will continue after the
Mimi Todhunter loves to share
her Venetian experiences.
"I always make the most of
where I live. I try to find
the best of whatever is there."
Welcome to Mimi Todhunter's home.
View of the piano nobile gallery.
Mimi Todhunter's drawing room.
A fine example of Mimi's buffet.
Mimi's Menu offerings follow the seasons.
"The easiest way to make friends
is to invite people to your house."
All set for a wonderful evening
at Palazzo Duodo.
FT: You did not know a soul when you arrived in Venice. Yet, you quickly found your place. Today, you are very well connected in Venetian society. You introduce guests from around the
world to the art and cultural high points of Venetian life.
MT: One of the easiest way to make friends is to invite people to your house. Inviting people to your home always is the best way to get to know people.
FT: Venice is an international city. How did you connect to the well established Venetian Houses?
MT: Venice has changed very recently. There is a lot more international people coming to live here. But Venetians are very good at receiving. They are very good at going to have dinner with you.
FT: What unwritten codes or customs should a Venetian hostess observe?
MT: I wouldn't say that there are any hidden rules. Except ... I remember some English friends of mine who had a palazzo here and would invite people for drinks ... after a couple of hours they were wondering why their Venetian guests didn't leave! For mostly, when you get invited here for drinks it usually means that you get at least a plate of risotto, if not a four-course-meal.
FT: Drinks are just a start here?
MT: Yes! That's why I personally tend to usually ask people for dinner.
"In Venice, drinks are just a start,
followed by a 4-course-dinner."
FT: You wanted to find friends. So you tried what works all over the world. You invited a variety of people to partake of your dinner table.
MT: It's the people who make you feel at home. With all these wonderful friends I made in Venice, to me living here really is a bit of a dream. I feel extremely lucky to live here and I am extremely thankful for it every day.
The full moon, as it can only
be seen from Canal Grande.
"I gave a lot of dinners,
until I had a bunch of friends."
Coming soon: Fine Dining in Venice -
Interview with Mimi Todhunter, Part II.