Sharing: The Oldest Map of Venice

Fellow Venice lover (and poet) Rita Bottoms shared this news item. Researcher Dr. Sandra Toffolo discovered the oldest-known map of Venice, dating to between 1345-1350. The drawing comes from a travel journal of Niccolò da Poggibonsi. But here’s an important distinction about this image compared to an earlier map: “According to an article by the University of St. Andrews, the oldest extant map of Venice was made by Fra Paolino, a Franciscan friar from Venice, and dates from around 1330. But the image discovered by Dr. Toffolo is the oldest city view and predates any other depiction of the city besides maps and portolan charts.”


Now, I do realize that this map is from mid-1300, and two or three things have changed in the last seven centuries. But does this drawing look like Venice to you? I really don’t see any resemblance, except that the boats are between the buildings rather than all on a coastline. Are these boats even on a canal? They look like they’re on the same grassy campo (literally a field) as the houses are on. Or maybe the water runs directly under those houses? I guess that Niccolò da Poggibonsi didn’t have Mr. Dalton, my high school art teacher, to teach him about perspective drawing. And those are some pretty enormous boats! Early cruise ships, towering over the roofs. Perhaps we can blame the confused map on the artist’s hometown of Poggibonsi. On a two week stay in Tuscany some years ago, I had to pass through Poggibonsi numerous times. Every bus had to pass through Poggibonsi to get to someplace else. And it was not a destination town. No wonder Niccolò wanted to leave his hometown and see more of the world.


See, everything goes through Poggibonsi

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
This entry was posted in Gondolas, Italian heritage, Venice, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sharing: The Oldest Map of Venice

  1. Ella B says:

    I think you have to be the possessor of a rather good imagination to immediately identify the image as Venice. Are we to assume that the text accompanying the image does that?

    • Good point! The article announcing the find states this: “This particular image, uncovered by Dr. Toffolo in May of 2019 during her research at the Biblioteca, is part of a travel manuscript by Italian pilgrim Niccolò da Poggibonsi, who traveled to Jerusalem from Italy in 1346-1350. The pen drawing accompanies a description of Venice, which he passed through in the course of his pilgrimage.” The link to the full article is in my post, above.

  2. Nancy Schwalen says:

    The drawing has an almost childish quality.

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