Random House, Inc.
THE CITY OF VENICE is a kind of miracle - surrounded by the sea, cut by as many canals as streets, built on fill reinforced with pilings made of huge tree trunks, it defies nature and belief. No city has been more often painted or written about; for centuries it has drawn visitors for its food and cafés, its masked balls and street life, its public squares and buildings, the beauty of its sunsets, the softness of the air, the clarity of its light.
But Venice is dying - literally sinking into the sea - and its beauty has drawn so many tourists that ordinary citizens can no longer afford to live there. Paolo Barbaro grew up in Venice and after a full working life as a civil engineer in cities scattered across the world he went home. There he fell in love all over again with a city that seemed to be slipping away. He describes the illumination of that rediscovery in this extraordinary book - a brilliant evocation and description of a city which has lost none of its power to charm, dazzle, and take one's breath away.
But the passion in Barbaro's plea for the salvation of his native city has a deeper source than nostalgia. If humankind cannot stir itself to save Venice, he asks, what hope is there for other endangered cities, places, and animals?
“Not since Rilke have we read pages about Venice with the power of these.” -- Vittorio Branca
Writer Paolo Barbaro, born and raised in Venice, writes an intimate portrait of the famously intricate, mysterious, and unique city which remains magical, in spite of being devoured by the sea and polluted by industrial waste and endless streams of tourists. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Blackwell North Amer
The city of Venice is a kind of miracle: surrounded by sea, cut by more canals than streets, made up of a hundred and twenty separate islands connected by bridges, built on sand and mud and reinforced by millions of ancient, petrified tree trunks; it defies nature and belief. No city in the world has been more often painted or written about. For centuries it has drawn visitors to its cafes and churches, masked balls and street life, the intricate lacework of its palazzi, the clarity of its light and dazzle of its waters, the shimmer of its green lagoon.
But Venice is dying, a victim of global warming and increasing pollution, literally sinking into the sea under the weight of its tourists while ordinary citizens can barely afford to live there. Paolo Barbaro grew up in the Venice of old, a closed and stratified society in which crafts flourished, gondolas were built in its many bustling boatyards, and boys dove for crabs in the crystalline waters of its canals. After a full working life as a civil engineer in cities scattered across the world, Barbaro went home. There he fell in love all over again with a city that seemed to be slipping away. Yet, "even at its most derelict and degraded," he writes, "this city-that-is-entirely-a-work-of-art is still wholly lived in and livable." Everything has changed and nothing has changed. Disembodied voices still float through the labyrinthine alleyways, the microcalli "for native Venetians only, even today"; the old rhythms and refrains remain. The architecture, the urban landscape, the inescapable presence of the lagoon with its penetrating dampness, the feel and smell of air heavy with sea salt, the unique character of the city and its people all come back to him after a long absence that in truth was not long at all. He describes the illumination of that rediscovery in this extraordinary book - a brilliant evocation of an imperiled city that has lost none of its power to dazzle and disorient, bewilder and seduce, but which may be losing its foothold in our world.