“Our elderly people were not used to talking nonsense”. With this sentence Alessandro Allegri, on the Crusca vocabulary, where he explains the use of the world “vanvera”, Italian for nonsense.

But not only this

There were tools, if they can be called so, which would fix certain disturbs of gastrointestinal matter to noblemen and aristocrats from the past. And such tools were popular even in the refined Venice, where the common mundane lifestyle did not really match the less pleasurable instincts of social nature. Therefore, to solve such issues occurring during abundant banquets in an elegant manner, the noblewomen were used to carrying out a tool named “vanvera”, created to contain the gas instead of being spread in the open air.

The tool was simply placed in front of the orifice and that was it

Below: illustration of another type of vanvera

Of a similar nature, the “Piritera”. This object though, instead of being placed next to the gluteus, was supposed to be inserted right into the anus of its user. The object was apparently mainly used in the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, for example by the Bourbon house; the purpose of the Piritera was to turn the blasts of the gas into harmonious birds twitter.

Another similar tool yet with a different function was the “Alcove Piritera”, some sort of tube with a fennel supposed to be placed between the bedding of the spouses. Through this tool, it was possible to expel to the outside the gas that otherwise would have contaminated the room with unpleasant smells.

Below: illustration of an Alcove Piritera

The use of such instruments can appear in our eyes not very practical and the historical certainty of their existence is anything but confirmed. However respected sources such at the Crusca Vocabulary or the journal “il Corriere” report the veracity of all of them.

Either way the term “vanvera”, as it’s explained right in the very book of the Crusca, does not come from the tool. On the contrary it would be the tool that was named after the word just to summon that idea of “speaking to the air”, with the obvious association to the leather sack.

Source: “Accademia della Crusca”, article by Paolo di Stefano on Corriere.it

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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