It is called “Pareidolia”, and it is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music.
In the case of Venice, for example, the shape that the city assumes seen from above is attributable to a swan with its head bent towards the body. The profile of the splendid creature, icon of universal beauty, is easily associated with Venice also because of the timeless charm of the Italian city, that we also saw covered with snow, the high water, and through its splendid, ancient carnival.
Optical illusion or not, if you ever take a trip to the city of the Grand Canal and the enchanting Piazza San Marco and see it aboard a helicopter, you would confirm the image: it looks like a beautiful swan!
The countless aerial photographs of the Italian city seem to confirm the optical effect: the silhouette of the swan is formed by the Punta della Dogana, which resembles the head, the Grand Canal, which draws the profile of the wing, neck and head, and the built part of the city that fills the imaginary animal’s design. Piazza San Marco, the only square in the Venetian city, could be seen as the void between the feather of the wing that is about to lift and the body below.
By observing the image on Google Maps, the shape of the swan remains easily recognizable, although less evident than the shape highlighted by the aerial photograph on the cover. To see Venice on Google Maps in perspective this is the link.
Looking at the city as a whole, therefore also including the islands of Giudecca and San Giorgio and the area of the Arsenale, Castello and Giardini, and not looking sideways, the pareidolitic illusion disappears almost entirely, leaving only the Punta della Dogana, or Punta da Màr, to remain easily identifiable with the shape of a swan’s head.
The city of Venice, among the richest in history and priceless art and visited by millions of tourists from all over the world every year, has undergone many changes over the centuries in the context of its urban form, starting mainly from the sixteenth century with the construction of new port works and then, in the following centuries, of railway stations in the areas of Tronchetto and Santa Croce, the points of access to the city.
Although the pareidolitic illusion is the result of a pure optical illusion, and it does not add anything to the Serenissima charm, the shape that the city assumes is one of the many little-known curiosities of what according to many is one of the most beautiful city in the world!
Images from web / google research