“The Venetians, exiles from ancient and beautiful cities and used to fabricate with ruins of ancient monuments, not least for affection that for admiration, had become familiar with the practice of the oldest insert snippets in their buildings . . . and each fragment in their loved one that they added . . . helped them transform their refuge into their homeland ” John Ruskin
Much of the beauty of Italy lies in its ruins. Even for the first time traveler there is a sentimental pleasure in experiencing the ancient architecture and art found in almost every corner, viale, staircase, field, forest or floor in Italy. In Venice “pavimento alla veneziana“, ornamental Venetian terrazzo floors have roots that lie deep in history, in ancient Greece, where floors made from stream stones were arranged and mixed with lime or clay.
Historical inspiration for art and practicality is nothing new in Italy. The cobblestone pavements and streets of Rome were made by trimming large blocks of stone that had been used to build ancient Roman roads. Italians literally live among the ruins and many chic boutique hotels have been build from the crumbling walls of medieval villages.Wood and stone cottages have been restyled as suites, castle kitchens serve as banquet halls and former dungeons now host business meetings. Recusing ancient villages with wifi in a UNESCO World Heritage Site can rescue the past with an affection for the ruins upon which a new heritage is built.
Cultural repurposing of old or found materials is a valuable way to remember the past, a “sympathetic” way to use historical structures and discarded remnants. An evocative treasure of old materials and colors, sights and sounds that reminds us that there is a historical reference point to who we are and in turn what we do.
Whether we use past ruins a source of materials to enhance our current projects or look at ruins as a nostalgic window to another time and place restoration is a language built of momentoes looking for improvement.
Books about Italian Ruins and Restoration
In Ruins by Christopher Woodward
Italian Hours by Henry James
The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin
Pavimenti a Venezia – The Floors of Venice by Tudy Sammartini, Antonio Crovato and Gabriele Crozzoli