Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

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I had to read this book for an extracurricular project during my A-levels just before my trip to Venice and loved it so I thought I’d revisit it for this project as it has some interesting perspectives on exploring the city.

Marco Polo tells Kublai Khan of his travels across the world to various cities, categorising them under groups such as ‘cities and the sky’, ‘Cities and Names’, ‘Continuous cities’ and others. Slowly it becomes apparent to the Khan that Polo is in fact only talking about one city in all of these cities, his hometown, Venice.

Calvino paints such vivid pictures of fantastical, ridiculous, impossible cities with his words that you can see them in your mind and it’s a very inspiring book to read. You are transported to these cities that remind me of the hanging gardens of Babylon in the way that they are described as almost too beautiful to be real. Ironically, this is what I thought when I went to Venice and having read this book beforehand gives such an understanding to the beauty of the city and so much more than just pretty buildings and rivers in between.

It’s reopened my mind with how to look at the city, helping me to look at it with a more open-minded view and see it as a living, breathing, multifaceted being.

I want to reference this book alot in the work I do for Visual Exploration because of its varied perspectives on cities and what a city can be by looking at its different characteristics.

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