Towards the end of the 19th century a Venetian tabby cat by the name of Ninni became an international celebrity. Ninni belonged to Antonio Borgato, erstwhile owner of the Caffe dei Frari, which is situated opposite the Franciscan church, Santa Gloriosa dei Frari.
Borgato skillfully promoted his pet and it soon became the smart thing for travellers to Venice to seek him out. Ninni even had a visitors’ book and among the callers who signed their names were the King and Queen of Italy, Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Alexander III and Giuseppe Verdi. The composer penned a few notes from La Traviata, which had had a disastrous premiere at La Fenice. When Ninni died in February, 1894, numerous Venetians turned up at the Caffe dei Frari to offer their condolences.
I wonder if, when he named his cat, Signor Borgato had in mind another tabby by the name of Nini, which had been the pet of Doge Francesco Morosini (r.1688-94). The doge was so fond of Nini that he took him/her (sources vary as to its gender) everywhere, even into battle.
When the tabby died the doge had it embalmed, with a mouse between its paws, and he/she ended up in the Museo Correr alongside other Morosini memorabilia. What is left of Nini (and it is not much) is now preserved in the Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum).
Blogging about Venice:
its art, history & culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &