After visiting Venice, I have become completely fascinated with many different aspects of the Venetian culture, but especially the campo. Campi, the plural of campo, is translated to open field in English. A campo is its own little community. Before bridges were built between them, they were completely separate from one another. An entire community would be built around its campo because the campo itself served as something of a village square or town center. Each campo exists in its own little world. They are community gathering spaces that we are beginning to lack in our modern day city planning. Geertz writes in his essay on Balinese cockfighting that, “A cockfight is what, searching for a name for something not vertebrate enough to be called a group and not structure less enough to be called a crowd, Erving Goffman has called a ‘focused gathering’—a set of persons engrossed in a common flow of activity and relating to one another in terms of that flow.” A campo houses a focused gathering of persons all engaged in similar activities, whether that be grabbing a bite for dinner or going to church. This space is the heart and soul of a neighborhood. These buildings tend to hold small businesses or restaurants on the bottom floors and private residences on the top floors. They relate to each other through the flow of constant activity and community gatherings. Based upon where a family lives, that family will have their own campo that they identify with according to proximity most likely.
A campo can range from being relatively small enough to only fit a modest church and a few other buildings, to large enough that children play soccer in the campo and there are over six restaurants and hotels to choose from within it. These campi are the hub of neighborhood activity. They hold the what used to be ever-valuable wells, which back before there was a sewer system were frequented multiple times a day per family. Every family needed water, so, in turn, every family needed to visit the wells. This served as a social outing and practical visit wrapped up in one. Just like the Bible writes about the well being a gathering place for residents, the Venetian campo wells served the very same purpose. This period of time allowed the people of a campo to gossip about the local happenings and catch up on each other’s lives.
“If an outsider cock is fighting any cock from your village, you will tend to support the local one.” Members of a campo were fiercely loyal to their home. The members of a certain campo wanted to one up the other campi and show off how lavish and luxurious their own campo could be. “What makes Balinese cockfighting deep is thus not money in itself, but what, the more of it that is involved the more so, money causes to happen: the migration of the Balinese status hierarchy into the body of the cockfight. Psychologically an Aesopian representation of the ideal/demonic, rather narcissistic, male self, sociologically it is an equally Aesopian representation of the complex fields of tension set up by the controlled, muted, ceremonial, but for all that deeply felt, interaction of those selves in the context of everyday life.” Now, let me break that quote down into a more manageable and digestible cluster of words that is more relevant to the topic of campo. “The migration of the Balinese status hierarchy into the body of the cockfight” directly correlates in the case of the campo to how lavish the actual campo itself is. For those constructing the buildings and putting the money into the construction of the campo, bigger was always better. They wanted the biggest churches, the biggest buildings, and the biggest amounts of open space. If someone built a church in a campo nearby, that would prompt another area to build a bigger and better church themselves. This directly highlighted the hierarchy of Venice in accordance to money and power. The wealthiest and most powerful Venetians were able to build the biggest churches, therefore flaunting their wealth and exercising their power further.
Campi not only serve as the heart of a neighborhood, but also a hierarchical visual aid of sorts. The status of a Venetian was directly linked to the quality of their campo, especially the church within the campo. These campi serve as places of communal gathering and communication exchange. They bring together people for business exchanges, farmers markets, and dates to name a few activities. At first glance, a campo just seems like a paved, open space with buildings closing it in, but they house so much more than just that. Campi will always be integral in Venetian culture and community involvement.