Italo Calvino “Invisible Cities” inspiration – Cities & Signs: Nicolao

Just a bit of creative writing tonight. In my Biography of Venice class, we are reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It’s a wonderfully written book, with great visual imagery. I recommend it to anyone who is into short stories, because each section is a description of an imaginary city. Each city is a different type–Cities & Signs, Cities & Memory, Cities & Desire, etc.–and they all are different. Obviously, they all revolve around Venice, although it is never clearly stated. One of the options for an assignment is to write our own invisible city. Here goes.


And as we leave southwest from our short, but sweet return home,
we enter the rigid but proud city of Nicolao, where you think you know what this city has accomplished,

where there are lion statues for every victory won, where there are tiles for each person who fought, and where there are poems on stones, poems on basilica walls, poems on portals, poems on homes, even poems on bridge banisters,everywhere you go, for the people lost in each of those victories, who will never be able to return to home Nicolao.

But as you begin to enter the city, and see that each stone of each building, each stone organizing the waterways, has a name, a poem, a memorial, for all those Nicolao has lost, you begin to understand what the city means to tell the world.

Nicolao himself begins to open up to you, as the leader for his people, explaining that all these words represent people, and these people, represent Nicolao.

As you wander in this well kept, but aging city, you realize how orderly it is. It seems plenty comfortable, with simple words to direct you to here or to there, with clear waterways and clear sectional divides–the taller buildings remain in the outskirts for the residents, the shorter buildings remain in the central north, as the designated commercial arena. Storefronts are simplistic, words of ease, of understanding, of only necessity, never of flourish. You are assuming that this city of Nicolao is a city of order, of precision, but not uptight, that is just how the city and the people live.

Alas, you then realize the people, as you roam from northwest corner, to southeast corner, that the people are proud, but they are kind, they are endearing, because they live in this great city of Nicolao. They welcome you to it, they beckon you to examine the city, to understand what it has gone through. You regret you are distracted by the visuals of the city, however simplistic and subtle they are, to note much of the people, but you understand that they make the city–a city of understanding.


Yes, you might have recognized the name I chose for my city. Yes, me other half is named Nicholas. In general, it is one of my favorite names, and the meaning of it is a fantastic inspiration for a city: victory of the people. This is an excellent project for me to take on, emulate but create cities how Italo Calvino does. It could be transformed for many things–cities, persons, stories, lands far away, dreams, ideals, goals, etc.

Please let me know what you think! I really am working on writing more, and I wish I gave myself the push to do more creative writing.



What I was listening to: Moon soundtrack by Clint Mansell


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