Why Do Buildings in Venice Look Old and Neglected to Travelers?

Visitors to Venice are Shocked at the Bedraggled Look of the City

Why Do Buildings in Venice Look so Neglected? Buildings in Venice, Italy look old and neglected by choice. For Italians, these old buildings reflect a sense of time in the form of visual stories. They silently speak of the wars, the strife, the peace, and the happy times.

I have heard this question repeatedly since I began writing about Italy. Repeatedly, I have pondered this very question as I walked through Venice day after day, as recently as 2017. But after speaking with and working with so many Italians in Venice, Florence, and Rome since then, I have come to a new understanding about why the buildings looked so neglected, bedraggled, and just plain old.

It is because they are. Old, I mean. Something that they possess as part of their nature is a sense of ‘oldness.’ We in the US, do not much possess this trait, because we are only 200+ years old. Italians have a strong sense of the ‘oldness’ of their cities, their culture, their family lines, etc. Because they are, for the most part, well over 2,000 years old. This is a HUGE feature in their sense of pride, their own self-image. Time.


Their thinking is that you can add a coat of paint, and although it may make things look ‘newer,’ it would definitely destroy the ‘stories’ of their long history. A depth of time is cherished deep in their psyche, and renewing buildings would kill that. Again, this is something not easily understood in very new cultures like ours in the US.

For Venetians, the beauty and the value is in the visual history of their buildings, not in a can of paint. Anyone can buy a can of paint. But where’s the story in that?

Additionally, it was considered ‘safe thinking’ to hide your wealth to the outside world during several periods in their past. Unlike many of us in the US, where we are proud of our successes, that thinking hasn’t changed much in Venice.

“Graffiti” is an Italian word, originally used for beautifying the exterior of a building.


Graffiti is an Italian word. In Florence, it was the word they used when they decorated the outside of buildings with beautiful designs. It was something that only the wealthy could afford, and the outcomes were quite decorous. The 20th century has turned that word into a negative meaning, as our youth has ‘decorated’ many of our buildings with obscenities, and often negative street ‘art’. (This is not a comment about all street art, as many wonderful artists began their successful careers in the street art business.)

Only the wealthy folks in Italy could afford to decorate their homes with Graffiti.

As an Author of Travel Books, it is important for me to attempt to put my head into the mindset of the people that live in the destinations where I write. If you like this explanation and would like to read more about Venice, Florence, and Rome, please visit my website and give my books a try.

Patty Civalleri’s Italy Travel Books also on Amazon:

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Florence archway
Art | Art History, BLOG, History, Italy, Travel

What Was the Italian Renaissance?

Simply stated, the Renaissance was a series of events that triggered the end of the Dark Ages, aka, the Middle Ages. Loosely speaking, think of the Dark Ages as people who’s thoughts and deeds were limited to the rules of the church and/or their local rulers. They couldn’t speak their minds openly, or anything else.

A Florentine family of well-educated wealthy bankers known as the Medici family, were huge fans of the concept of Free Thinking (a la Dante Alighieri). Also, they were enamored with the Greeks and the Roman Empire from 1,000 years earlier. The Greeks and Romans had tons of art, architecture, literature, mathematics, science, etc. After the fall of the Romans, during the nearly 1,000-year-long Dark Ages, much of this had been squelched.

Along Comes the Money

Being Art aficionados, the Medici paid a bunch of artists to learn to paint and sculpt like the ancient Greeks and Romans did. That began a rush of artists and architects, and writers that all wanted to create from their own minds, rather than only what the church approved.

This formed a groundswell of popularity around Europe, and the art became the ‘voice’ of expression that people hadn’t known for 1,000 years.

This, in a nutshell, took about 200-ish years to unfold. A guy named Giorgio Vasari coined the term “Renaissance,” which is French for “Rebirth.”

P.S. Many of those artists, architects, and writers became so famous that their names and works have remained famous for over 500 years. They were Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Raphael, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Galileo, Botticelli, and oh, so many more wonderful people.

P.P.S. I know this is brief and leaves out tons of info, but please consider the forum. If you would like to learn more about the Renaissance, please read my book “FLORENCE Gems & Giants” available on 

Enjoy, Patty


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Patty Civalleri, Author
Archaeology, Art | Art History, BLOG, Italy, Writing

The Secret to Writing


People often ask me how I manage to get any writing done with this crazy lifestyle of mine. It’s easy. I just sit down and write. I don’t think about it, I don’t put pressure on it. I just sit down and write. 

Many folks have told me they would LOVE to write a book, but they don’t know how to get started, or how to fit it in. But I guess I see it backward: I am constantly trying to figure out how to fit my crazy life into my writing time. Odd, I know.

I wasn’t born a writer, or perhaps I was. My 92-year-old Dad was a writer and still is. My 28-year-old son is a writing fiend. So I suppose that writing was supposed to come naturally to me as well. 

I was born with nothing

But I am one of those people that nothing came naturally to, so I overcompensated by over-learning everything until each thing became natural. Like playing classical piano, or singing, or cooking, or sailing, or photography, or graphic design, or computer technology, or science, or photoshop, or biology, or archaeology, or history, or or or…

Crazy is what crazy does

I have incorporated most all of these things (and many more) into my normal life’s flow. For example, I have served on the Director’s Council of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA for 17 years, I have built over 250 websites for just as many clients, I have taught Photoshop, I have photographed the darkest corners of our ancient world for nearly two decades, and I am the Commodore of a boating club. Periodically, I perform random acts of Public Relations for myself and others. I have a family, a dog, and three elderly senior loved ones that need consistent love and attention. I published a book last year that needs daily marketing or it dies. I love to travel, so I do. I was away from my home a total of five months during 2017. So yeah, I have a bit of a crazy lifestyle.

Fall in Love

With all of this going on, what keeps me motivated to write? That’s easy. I love the subject. Last year, I published a book about a city that I had unexpectedly fallen in love with: Florence, Italy. This year, I fell in love with the city of Venice. Trips to Italy and research for these books has made me fall in love with Renaissance Art History. These topics and images roll around in my head 24 hours a day. I dream about them, I hear their whispers, I see their images reflected in my morning coffee, I simply can’t stop thinking about them. Clearly, I am in love. And when you are in love, nothing can stand in your way.

This must be the secret to writing: let yourself fall hopelessly and madly in love with your topic, and it will write itself. The words will flow with consistent grace from your keyboard; the ideas will flourish in your mind’s eye and it will all happen with an ease and a style that will invoke envy in all who peer into your office. Well, maybe that, plus some serious research and some much-needed elbow grease!

Just fall in love.
Happy writing, Patty

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