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Decorative Floors of Venice

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By Tudy Sammartini. Photographs by Gabriele Crozzoli.Merrell, 2000. £35

In England we look down for fear of tripping over a paving stone or stepping in dog mess, writes Ruth Slavid ; this book teaches us that in Venice we should look down to admire the floors. It seems extraordinary that somewhere as well-documented and over-visited could have undiscovered glories. But if you never thought before about the splendour of that city's floors, you are in good company. No less an authority than John Julius Norwich writes in the foreword: 'However well we may think we know Venice, there will always be new discoveries to surprise and enchant us. Of such discoveries, this book is a treasure house.'

Among them are the intricate multicoloured floors of St Mark's and Santi Maria e Donato, eulogised by Ruskin; the patterned pavement outside La Redentore, reflecting Palladio's ordering of the spaces inside; the courtyards where the paving around a well both landscapes the area and marks out the dimensions of the holding tank; the opulent floors, richer than any carpet, inside private houses. Today, there are Carlo Scarpa's magnificent floors in the former Olivetti shop at Piazza San Marco (pictured) and at the Querini-Stampalia, adapting traditional techniques in a contemporary language.

We can enjoy the poetry of the technical terminology, the coccio pesto and opus tessellatum; appreciate the opulence when every colour has a different source in Italy or around the world. But most of all, we can revel in wonderful photographs (each accompanied by learned notes), and visit Venice with newly opened eyes.

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