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Ca’ Roman: how we are still much alike the Romans

By Simon Van Espen, honour student at KU Leuven, Belgium and participant in the Innovation Lab ()

Have you ever wondered what people in different times would think like?

Well, I have, and it makes a brilliant way for an interesting title to convince you to read this blogpost. During the Venice lab, we visited Ca’Roman (“House of the Romans”): an island, shaped by nature, but provided by people. In 100 years’ time, it was made and still is being shaped by the sediments, caught by the dike protecting the Venetian lagoon.

Whilst our tour guide Luca was talking about endangered birds, who lose their breeding intentions because of all the people on the beach, he stated his dilemma using following words: “Nature needs the beach, but people also need it”                                                                  These words struck me, because, even natural reservation guides, still think there is no way to live together with nature. Especially because the fact that there are dozens of beaches around Chioggia and Ca’ Roman, people do not nééd the beach. There are plenty of beaches around, but only one for that bird. Then Why?

Why is it always “or” “or”?

Why don’t we never think that people and nature can live in harmony?

That is where we are like Romans; Roman society was built on others knowledge and ingenuity: they used Etruskian construction techniques, “borrowed” the Greek mythology and religion, and transported Sicilian and Egyptian wheat. They owned these ideas like they made their cities, a robust structure, that is still standing in our minds today:

“we own nature”

“nature is providing us

“we have the right to shape nature to our good”


Nature is our co-houser, sometimes our biggest enemy, but mostly our dearest friend. And you do not change your friend. Because very often, they are there for you when you need them. Very often, they know you better, than yourself. It is our task to realise that.

Especially in Venice, the laguna is the best example of how everything is connected.

The city was once built because of the perfect location: close to the mainland, but not connected, close to the sea, but if you wanted to invade, you had to know the maze the laguna is. Because the laguna is bigger than the city. Once, it was supposed to disappear, but because of the advantages, people dug out channels, to deviate Alp sediments, to make the laguna stay. And nowadays, it is sinking. How the turn tables Right?

Well, the tables wíll turn, but we can make them turn the right way. Visiting the lagoon has taught me one thing: we are not living ÓF nature, we are living WITH nature.

It will be a task

It will be difficult

But it is gonna be an amazing journey, full of eye opening experiences. And that is what we travel for, right? Well, See it as a lifetime holiday.

Just without the fireplanes passing right above your head.


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