Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Venezia, an introduction

there is a novel, called the Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, where the venetian explorer Marco Polo has a long conversation with the emperor Kublai Khan, telling him tales about cities and exploring the imagination. then, you'll find this dialogue:
"Sire {Marco Polo to Kublai Khan}, now I have told you about all the cities I know."
"There is still one of which you never speak"
Marco Polo bowed his head.
"Venezia" the Khan said.
Marco smiled. "What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?"

Venezia is a dream shaped like a fish. another book, written by the venetian Tiziano Scarpa, used this metaphor in the title: Venice is a fish. inside the book, Scarpa wrote one of the lines about Venezia i love the most, at the end of the first chapter:
"You're walking on a vast upside-down forest, strolling above an incredible inverted wood. It's like something dreamed up by a mediocre science-fiction writer, and yet it's true."
Venezia was built on a lagoon.  foundations stand on thousands of wooden piles, hammered on the sand and the mud, made hard by the lack of oxygen underwater:
"These buildings that you see, the marble palazzi, the brick houses, couldn't have been built on water, they would have sunk into the mud. How do you lay solid foundations on slime? The Venetians thrust hundreds of thousands, millions of poles into the lagoon."
it was a dreamers madness, to build a marble city above the water. and now is our turn to take care of this fragile dream. getting to know the city and its vulnerability is the first step to respect it, love it, and to protect it.

i'm working on a new series of posts dedicated to Venezia, i truly hope you will enjoy them and share my {and Marco Polo's} enthusiasm for this place, although there will be no lambretta {and no car, and no bicycles} :)

Venice sestieri map
(please let me know when this watercolor map thing starts to get boring)

Venezia lexicon

if you visited or are visiting Italy you already know that streets are called vie and a square is a piazza. well, in Venice it doesn't work that way. alleys are called calli, and squares campi. there is only one piazza in town: piazza San Marco.

Venezia neighborhoods are called sestieri. there are six of them: Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro, San Marco, Castello, as shown in the map above.

acqua alta means high water. it's a partial flooding of the city, that you'll probably experience if you're visiting in wintertime. urban paths on certain parts of the city are covered in water, and pedestrians are helped by gangways {and by life savers rubber boots}.

vaporetto is a ferry boat, the venetian version of a bus. they are runned bu the company ACTV.

gondola is the traditional dark rowing boat, the main attraction for tourists in Venezia. the iron decoration on the prow has many symbolic meanings. for example, its "S" shape reminds the twist in the Canal Grande {Grand Canal, the biggest canal of Venice. you can easily spot it on the map}, the six teeth on the left stand for the six sestieri, and the one on the right symbolizes the island of Giudecca.

gondolon, the bigger version of the one you see in every honeymoon in Europe photo album, is the only one that still play a role in the public transport, serving as ferry between one side and another of the Grand Canal at certain points. there are only 4 major bridges on the Grand Canal, so it's a big help if you're in a hurry.

bacaro is the venice version of a tavern or osteria, perfect choice to have a ombra {glass of wine} and  cicheti {little snacks, similar to spanish tapas}

The emperor did not turn a hair. "And yet I have never heard you mention that name"
And Polo said: "Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venezia." 
"When I ask you about other cities, I want to hear about them, And about Venezia, when I as about Venezia...""Memory's images, once they are fixed in words, are erased," Polo said. "Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venezia all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little."


  1. Grazie cara!
    Venezia è meravigliosa! c'è seeempre qualcosa da scoprire, da vedere!
    Non vedo l'ora di leggere i prossimi post!

    1. hai ragione, c'è sempre qualche segreto!
      è una città di cui è difficile parlare, ma farò del mio meglio ;)

  2. I don’t know how to say that in english but your posts are so informative. :)
    I learn a lot here

  3. Replies
    1. sempre cuori per Venezia ♥
      ciao alessia :)

  4. Silvia! Sai che sono stata a Venezia i primi giorni dell'anno? E' una città talmente particolare che ogni tentativo di definizione risulta quasi banale. Bella? Incredibile? Poetica? Molto, molto di più... e, almeno per me, troppo difficile da fotografare. Mi ha messo in crisi! Comunque, il tuo post introduttivo é uno spasso! Attendo il resto ;)

    1. su Venezia è già stato detto tutto quello che si poteva dire, e non credo sia mai stato all'altezza! per quanto riguarda le foto, be, secondo me il problema più grande è che OGNI ANGOLO è degno di uno scatto.. da uscire di testa :D
      il resto seguirà piano piano....

  5. la mappa acquerellata è meravigliosa!
    e venezia, beh, è sempre una scoperta. la prossima gita la dedico ad esplorare castello!

    1. ma grazie vale ♥♥♥
      a castello mi ci perdo sempre, è fantastico **

  6. Uau, the colors in that last photo <3

    Venice is very dear to me... i was there 20 years ago, but i so much wish i could return...

    1. i hope you'll do that, when you feel better :)

      i was lucky with the colors in that one, it was such a perfect winter day

  7. Amazing piece of architectural history!
    And i do love your water colours:)

    1. thank you! an yes, it is indeed. architectural, art, political...

  8. oh venice! hope one day we will meet ♥

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