I have recently discovered that Nick Zuliani really exists! For me, he is one of my main characters appearing in two novels and several short stories. He began as follows. My enthusiasm for Venice led me to want to create a character who lived in the medieval city, and who, like Marco Polo, travelled to the Far East. There he would meet Kubilai Khan and became a solver of murders. I made him a bit of a "wheeler-dealer", who got involved in all sorts of illegitimate business deals, and in the end was accused of murder himself. This drove him from Venice, and he ended up in Xanadu, the summer palace of the Great Khan.
His name was made up from using the Italian first name Niccolo, which as he had an English mother, got shortened to Nick. His surname was created in the following way. There is a church in Venice called San Giuliano, which in Venetian dialect is called San Zulian. At the time of writing the first novel, I was (and remain) a great admirer of Michael Dibdin's modern Venetian detective - Aurelio Zen. So with a nod to that, I named my character Zuliani. With such a random approach, I could not have imagined that I had landed on a real name! But recently, a fan in Italy (curiously with the same surname as myself) reported that a friend of her's was called Nick Zuliani.
I hope he forgives me for stealing his name. My Nick Zuliani is a loveable rogue, and will appear again in the ninth Medieval Murderers anthology due in 2013.