This afternoon, I had an Italian lesson with my new friend, Carla, who gave me, gratis, new insights to this beautiful city, Venice. She told me more of its history—another layer to peel back and unearth a design from, an imprint from humanity, make another swirling ring on my finger.
The pre-Venetians settled the outer islands Lido, Chioggia, Pellestrina, eventually driven further into the lagoon for reasons of safety (people could easily attack the outer lands) and fishing/nourishment—the inner waters were more easy/safer to navigate rather than the ever-changing ocean. Soil accumulated, volunteer plant species began to hold it in place, and with additional human stabilization, islands were built, dwellings were built, people made a home where there was once nothing but water.
Strangely, the very means with which Venice came into being, no longer exists. The rivers that flowed into the lagoon, carrying land-forming silt have been redirected around the lagoon, diverted for this very reason (Venice will not sit in a meadow!). And now, the lagoon has been channelized, water flows quickly in places, carrying away the soils of Venice, eroding the foundation of the city. Perhaps, with the creation of Le Mose, great dams that may someday control the rising ocean’s impact on the city, the erosion will cease/become diminished. And the lagoon will be a…cesspool…for the lagoon must breathe with the tides. Will the lifestyles of the Venetians change?
Carla told me about a place on Lido called Alberoni where there was once a great forest of poplars (piopi). That there were trees planted on the edge of Lido that faces the ocean, and sailors marked their voyage home by the trees’ vision on the horizon, aiming ships to the spaces between islands.
That the most important church was San Niccolo on Lido, where the Duke of Venice would go to greet sailors coming back from war and bless sailors leaving for it (or other ventures).
That there is still a ceremony in which the mayor of Venice throws a ring in the ocean, marrying the feminine Venice with El Mare (gender opposite of French La Mer).
The lagoon and the sea are tied, bonded, reliant on each other.
And what of the design I work on, how do I honor and conceive of this space with its rich and unfathomable history? The lagoon a turbid aqua, something I have seen people throw their trash into, that the sewage of the city is channelled into, and yet still holds such mystery and promise.
There are no easy answers, only more questions, more poetry: a poem to answer a story.