The Venice Quilt.
There is a pattern to this Quilt, assembled and nurtured for over 1500 years. Most observers wonder if there is a pattern, how it can be seen, traced, and comfortably used.
The Venice pattern was formed through the creative absorption and transformation of classical values, periodically cleansed, refined of corruption and impurities to regain its rightful course – refined by the Lagoon, the Sea, distant lands and cultures, and by Venetian innovation. Those creative values drew from Venice’s mainland Roman heritage, infused with Byzantine order, far before Florence became a cultural and political force. Venice is something that the Florentine Renaissance could simply never understand, could not stand to leave alone.
More than a few alterations have occurred over the centuries as pieces were added to the quilt, island by island, stitched together by bridges. A few rents have also occurred in the fabric, like the Rio Novo and the Strada Nova. Some parvenues stitched in chunks of their own design and desire, and continue to do so, like the Giardini Publicca, Ferrovia Santa Lucia and Piazzale Roma, or straightened a seam perhaps best left alone, like the already infamous “fourth bridge”. Perhaps a few have, intentionally or not, beneficially finished a ragged patch in the completion of Piazza San Marco, or repaired a tattered or missing binding on the Fondamenta Nove and the Zattere. You, and history, have the liberty to judge those things. There is no competition against other urban quilts. Venice is unique, one of a kind.
Quilt! In Venice? Of, course! The pattern of sun-dappled wavelets found again and again as the inspiration for built Venice in its tessarae floors, masegne calli, campi, sacri, even the Palazzo walls – reflecting the very light of Venice from the Sea.
The Venice Quilt is illuminated by the sun and the moon.
In any media or application of patterns, “course correcting” is necessary, whether assembled in cloth, plowed into a fallow field, or built into a community. That endless challenge as exhibited throughout Venetian history reminds me of the lesson of “tacking” at sea to accommodate tides, winds, obstacles and foes.
There is no straight path from “Point A” to “Point B” at sea, in the mountains, in your city, or in Venice. Any passage through the labyrinth of Venetian calli requires exquisite tacking skills on the sun-danced wavelets of masegni and tessarae. Over time, with practice, your course will vary due to lessons learned, changing seasons, sightings of landmarks, or the ever-moving flotillas of tour groups and school children.
Navigating Venice is like sailing in the Lagoon.
On land, in Venice, that tacking benefits from using campanili as bricoli, ponti as runs before the wind –dritto, siempre dritto!,campi as leeward bays – not calm but perhaps becalming, to ease the constant, necessary course adjustments en route to any destination. They also enrich the journey immeasurably, allowing you to revise any plotted course opportunistically to imbibe things newly observed or finally recalled.
A non-narrative approach to Venice – the one place that inspires in each moment, in every turn with a pattern so complex yet so comfortable. Paradoxically, a non-repeating pattern. Venice is unlike any other Quilt you will ever find.
Wrap it around and lose yourself in its warmth!