Venice is famous for so many things: the canals, its once massive maritime empire, Piazza San Marco, the bronze horses stolen from Byzantium, the Harry’s Bar, Murano glass, its overpriced restaurants…. but did you know it also has its own traditional type of flooring?
Pavimento alla Veneziana, or sometimes also known as terrazzo, started in the 16th century. In its most primitive state, small bits of broken marble (there’s quite a lot of marble in this area) were scattered upon the floor and then bound with a resinous material to form a durable and resistant surface.
For our house renovation, we chose wooden (dark oak) floors for the bedrooms but decided to put down Veneziana in the living areas.
In the 1950s-1990s, bold terracotta colours were particularly popular but that’s gone out of style now in favour of a very minimalist plain white.
The wonderful thing about Veneziana flooring is that it’s made to order. Each one is completely unique and you can choose the exact composition of the stones. In our case, we went for an off-white base with red gems from China, dark green stones from Portugal, and a little bit of mother of pearl (but that’s the most expensive) and some caramel coloured stones to break it up.
All the stones arrived in their raw state and are laid on-site, all by hand.
First, they create a base layer (in our case, white) upon which they’ll randomly scatter the decorative stones (for us: mainly red, green and mother of pearl.) It’s all down to the skill and experience of the workmen to make sure that there’s not an area with too much of any particular colour.
When they’ve finished laying the stones, they set the whole thing with another hefty layer of lime and you have no idea what the finished floor will look like!
The flooring is left to set for about a month, when the workmen come back again to start shaving off the top coat. Before you think, “oh, it’s practically finished” – no, our guys will go over each square centimetre of flooring 7 times before they call it a day.
Essentially, with the machine below, they remove the top coat and shave off the almost half of the stones so you have a totally smooth, shiny surface.
We’ve now got to the stage (six weeks after they first laid the stones) where the decorative stone layer is now visible but there’s still one last polishing treatment needed.