Meeting with Alberto Toso Fei
INCONTRO CON ALBERTO TOSO FEI
"A life and a work dedicated to the Venetian mysteries"
Alberto Toso Fei, 43 years old, descends from an ancient family of glassmasters in Murano, and is an expert on the history and the mysteries of Venice. He is a journalist, and has written a series of books that constitute an anthology of mystery in Venice and the lagoon.
It all started over twenty years ago, when Alberto Toso Fei decided that in some way, he had to “record” the tales of our “grandparents” which might otherwise be lost forever. This return to the oral tradition, with its infinite legends and stories of witches and ghosts, stories that used to be told around the hearth, was the basis for his first book “Venetian Legends and Ghost Stories” (Arsenale 2000 – Elzeviro 2002), which became a remarkable success. Translated into five languages, it inspired the growing phenomenon of “ghost tours”, which are very popular in the city today and refer explicitly to his stories.
Since then he has written three other books, “Veneziænigma” (Elzeviro, 2004. The book won the “Giuseppe Mazzotti” Gambrinus Literary Prize and the “Veneto Banca – La Voce dei Lettori” Readers’ Prize), “Mysteries of the Lagoon and Witch Tales” (Elzeviro 2005, winner of the Special Jury Award for Venetian narrative of the Villa Morosini prize) and “The Secrets of the Grand Canal” (Studio LT2, 2009). They present an unusual and original Venice, a city of myth and history, chronicle and legend, in search of the most secret hidden aspects of one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
Today his books are prominenty displayed in the windows of Venetian bookstores, and are among the bestsellers in the city; they are even used as textbooks in some schools, and recommended as reading for the tour-guide certification test.
The presentations of his books are actually recitals. On each occasion, Alberto Toso Fei recreates the atmosphere of storytelling, evoking the tales as if he were sitting around the hearth, often by candlelight and with a musical accompaniment.
Conversely he also relies on advanced technology: for his latest book, “The Secrets of the Grand Canal”, Toso Fei uses the “Canalview” system (www.canalview.it) to create a virtual three-dimensional journey that simulates navigation down the Grand Canal, as he recounts the stories and the legends surrounding the “most beautiful boulevard in the world”.
These multi-media presentations were held with resounding success in Venice at the Telecom Italia Future Centre, in two evening events in the splendid atmosphere of the Cloister of San Salvador; in Beijing, at the ‘Beijing International Studies University’ (as part of the international convention “Giallo Noir e Mistero”, to which he was invited with Piero Colaprico, Giancarlo De Cataldo, Giorgio Faletti, Marcello Fois, Carlo Lucarelli and other Chinese writers); and in Milan, at the Mondadori Multicenter in Piazza Duomo, introduced by the Director of the Venice International Film Festival Marco Mueller.
A reference for Venice, Alberto Toso Fei was asked to invent a multimedia play-book that presented his stories in the form of a game: the result, commissioned by and developed in close collaboration with Log607, was “The Ruyi-Venice” (Log607 2009 – Marsilio 2009). A sophisticated technological system makes it possible to visit the city, reconstructing the sections of the pages with the use of a mobile phone. The initiative has been very successful, and treasure hunts have been organized for teams of hundreds of people; it was also used by the City of Venice to inaugurate Wireless Venice for all.
In the wake of the Venetian success came “The Ruyi – Rome” (Log607 2008 – Marsilio 2009) and Alberto Toso Fei thus widened the horizons of his exploration of mystery, beyond the boundaries of the Serenissima. In June 2009 the project won the National Prize for the Innovation of Services, in the category of Tourism, awarded by the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano.
His other books include “Shakespeare in Venice” (Elzeviro 2007), a guide-book to forty sites in the Serenissima as seen through the eyes of Othello and Shylock; the book was co-authored with Shaul Bassi, a lecturer in Post-colonial literature at the Università Cà Foscari in Venice.
For Marsilio, the author also created “Carnivalia” (2010), a game and guide to the Carnival of Venice, in which the readers are led to discover the true Spirit of Carnival by an original Casanova, as he shares an ancient secret revealed to him by Cagliostro.
Finally, Alberto Toso Fei is the artistic director of the newly-founded Festival of Mystery called “Veneto: Spettacoli del Mistero”, an event that has involved over one hundred locations in the region which – based on the author’s research published in the book “Il Veneto del Mistero” (2009) – have turned their myths, legends and traditions into “theatre”, attended by tens of thousands of spectators (www.spettacolidimistero.it).