Context of Venice

Venice ( VEN-iss; Italian: Venezia [veˈnɛttsja] (listen); Venetian: Venesia [veˈnɛsja], outdatedly Venexia [veˈnɛzja]) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto re...Read more

Venice ( VEN-iss; Italian: Venezia [veˈnɛttsja] (listen); Venetian: Venesia [veˈnɛsja], outdatedly Venexia [veˈnɛzja]) is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by expanses of open water and by canals; portions of the city are linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers (more exactly between the Brenta and the Sile). In 2020, around 258,685 people resided in greater Venice or the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 51,000 live in the historical island city of Venice (centro storico) and the rest on the mainland (terraferma). Together with the cities of Padua and Treviso, Venice is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.

The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for almost a millennium, from 810 to 1797. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as an important centre of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial centre, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. For centuries Venice possessed numerous territories along the Adriatic Sea and within the Italian peninsula, leaving a significant impact on the architecture and culture that can still be seen today. The sovereignty of Venice came to an end in 1797, at the hands of Napoleon. Subsequently, in 1866, the city became part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Venice has been known as "La Dominante", "La Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". The lagoon and the historic parts of the city within the lagoon were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, covering an area of 70,176.4 hectares (173,410 acres). In view of the fact that Venice and its lagoon are under constant threat in terms of their ecology and the safeguarding of the cultural heritage, Venice's UNESCO listing has been under constant examination by UNESCO. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork. Venice is known for several important artistic movements—especially during the Renaissance period—and has played an important role in the history of instrumental and operatic music; it is the birthplace of Baroque composers Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi.

In the 21st century, Venice remains a very popular tourist destination, a major cultural centre, and has been ranked many times the most beautiful city in the world. The city faces challenges including an excessive number of tourists in the centro storico as well as problems caused by pollution, tide peaks and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings. It has been described by The Times as one of Europe's most romantic cities and by The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man".

More about Venice

Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 254850
  • Area 415
  • Origins Chronicon Pictum, Italians, Aquileia, Venice, city, refugees, boat, sea, medieval, chronicle, book, illumination, illustration, history The foundation of Venice as depicted in the Chronicon Pictum....Read more
    Origins Chronicon Pictum, Italians, Aquileia, Venice, city, refugees, boat, sea, medieval, chronicle, book, illumination, illustration, history The foundation of Venice as depicted in the Chronicon Pictum. According to the text, King Attila of the Huns besieged Aquileia, the inhabitants of the city first fled to a sea island and then founded Venice on the island of Rialto.
    Timeline of Venice
    Historical affiliations

     Western Roman Empire, 421–476
     Kingdom of Odoacer, 476–493
     Ostrogothic Kingdom, 493–553
     Eastern Roman Empire, 553–584
     Byzantine Empire (Exarchate of Ravenna), 584–697
      Republic of Venice, 697–1797
      Habsburg monarchy, 1797–1805
      Kingdom of Italy, 1805–1814
      Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, 1815–1848
      Republic of San Marco, 1848–1849
      Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, 1849–1866
      Kingdom of Italy, 1866–1943
      Italian Social Republic, 1943–1945
      Italy, 1946–present

    Although no surviving historical records deal directly with the founding of Venice,[1] tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice consisted of refugees—from nearby Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino, and Concordia (modern Portogruaro), as well as from the undefended countryside—who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasions.[2] This is further supported by the documentation on the so-called "apostolic families", the twelve founding families of Venice who elected the first doge, who in most cases trace their lineage back to Roman families.[3][4] Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen, on the islands in the original marshy lagoons, who were referred to as incolae lacunae ("lagoon dwellers"). The traditional founding is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto (Rivoalto, "High Shore")—said to have taken place at the stroke of noon on 25 March 421 (the Feast of the Annunciation).[5][6][7]

    Beginning as early as AD 166–168, the Quadi and Marcomanni destroyed the main Roman town in the area, present-day Oderzo. This part of Roman Italy was again overrun in the early 5th century by the Visigoths and, some 50 years later, by the Huns led by Attila. The last and most enduring immigration into the north of the Italian peninsula, that of the Lombards in 568, left the Eastern Roman Empire only a small strip of coastline in the current Veneto, including Venice. The Roman/Byzantine territory was organized as the Exarchate of Ravenna, administered from that ancient port and overseen by a viceroy (the Exarch) appointed by the Emperor in Constantinople. Ravenna and Venice were connected only by sea routes, and with the Venetians' isolation came increasing autonomy. New ports were built, including those at Malamocco and Torcello in the Venetian lagoon. The tribuni maiores formed the earliest central standing governing committee of the islands in the lagoon, dating from c. 568.[8]

     St Mark's Basilica houses the relics of St Mark the Evangelist. The Doge's Palace, the former residence of the Doge of Venice

    The traditional first doge of Venice, Paolo Lucio Anafesto (Anafestus Paulicius), was elected in 697, as written in the oldest chronicle by John, deacon of Venice c. 1008. Some modern historians claim Paolo Lucio Anafesto was actually the Exarch Paul, and Paul's successor, Marcello Tegalliano, was Paul's magister militum (or "general"), literally "master of soldiers". In 726 the soldiers and citizens of the exarchate rose in a rebellion over the iconoclastic controversy, at the urging of Pope Gregory II. The exarch, held responsible for the acts of his master, Byzantine Emperor Leo III, was murdered, and many officials were put to flight in the chaos. At about this time, the people of the lagoon elected their own independent leader for the first time, although the relationship of this to the uprisings is not clear. Ursus was the first of 117 "doges" (doge) is the Venetian dialectal equivalent of the Latin dux ("leader"); the corresponding word in English is duke, in standard Italian duca. (See also "duce".) Whatever his original views, Ursus supported Emperor Leo III's successful military expedition to recover Ravenna, sending both men and ships. In recognition of this, Venice was "granted numerous privileges and concessions" and Ursus, who had personally taken the field, was confirmed by Leo as dux.[9] and given the added title of hypatus (from the Greek for "consul").[10]

    In 751, the Lombard King Aistulf conquered most of the Exarchate of Ravenna, leaving Venice a lonely and increasingly autonomous Byzantine outpost. During this period, the seat of the local Byzantine governor (the "duke/dux", later "doge"), was at Malamocco. Settlement on the islands in the lagoon probably increased with the Lombard conquest of other Byzantine territories, as refugees sought asylum in the area. In 775/6, the episcopal seat of Olivolo (San Pietro di Castello) was created. During the reign of duke Agnello Particiaco (811–827) the ducal seat moved from Malamocco to the more protected Rialto, within present-day Venice. The monastery of St. Zachary and the first ducal palace and basilica of St. Mark, as well as a walled defense (civitatis murus) between Olivolo and Rialto, were subsequently built here.

    Charlemagne sought to subdue the city to his rule. He ordered the pope to expel the Venetians from the Pentapolis along the Adriatic coast;[11] Charlemagne's own son Pepin of Italy, king of the Lombards, under the authority of his father, embarked on a siege of Venice itself. This, however, proved a costly failure. The siege lasted six months, with Pepin's army ravaged by the diseases of the local swamps and eventually forced to withdraw in 810. A few months later, Pepin himself died, apparently as a result of a disease contracted there. In the aftermath, an agreement between Charlemagne and the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus in 814 recognized Venice as Byzantine territory, and granted the city trading rights along the Adriatic coast.

    In 828 the new city's prestige increased with the acquisition, from Alexandria, of relics claimed to be of St Mark the Evangelist; these were placed in the new basilica. Winged lions—visible throughout Venice—are the emblem of St Mark. The patriarchal seat was also moved to Rialto. As the community continued to develop, and as Byzantine power waned, its own autonomy grew, leading to eventual independence.[12]

    Expansion  The Republic of Venice and its colonial empire Stato da Màr

    From the 9th to the 12th centuries, Venice developed into a powerful maritime empire (an Italian thalassocracy known also as repubblica marinara). In addition to Venice there were seven others: the most important ones were Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi; and the lesser known were Ragusa, Ancona, Gaeta and Noli. Its own strategic position at the head of the Adriatic made Venetian naval and commercial power almost invulnerable.[13] With the elimination of pirates along the Dalmatian coast, the city became a flourishing trade centre between Western Europe and the rest of the world, especially with the Byzantine Empire and Asia, where its navy protected sea routes against piracy.[14]

     Piazza San Marco in Venice, with St Mark's Campanile

    The Republic of Venice seized a number of places on the eastern shores of the Adriatic before 1200, mostly for commercial reasons, because pirates based there were a menace to trade. The doge already possessed the titles of Duke of Dalmatia and Duke of Istria. Later mainland possessions, which extended across Lake Garda as far west as the Adda River, were known as the Terraferma; they were acquired partly as a buffer against belligerent neighbours, partly to guarantee Alpine trade routes, and partly to ensure the supply of mainland wheat (on which the city depended). In building its maritime commercial empire, Venice dominated the trade in salt,[15] acquired control of most of the islands in the Aegean, including Crete, and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, and became a major power-broker in the Near East. By the standards of the time, Venice's stewardship of its mainland territories was relatively enlightened and the citizens of such towns as Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona rallied to the defence of Venetian sovereignty when it was threatened by invaders.

    Venice remained closely associated with Constantinople, being twice granted trading privileges in the Eastern Roman Empire, through the so-called golden bulls or "chrysobulls", in return for aiding the Eastern Empire to resist Norman and Turkish incursions. In the first chrysobull, Venice acknowledged its homage to the empire; but not in the second, reflecting the decline of Byzantium and the rise of Venice's power.[16]

    Venice became an imperial power following the Fourth Crusade, which, having veered off course, culminated in 1204 by capturing and sacking Constantinople and establishing the Latin Empire. As a result of this conquest, considerable Byzantine plunder was brought back to Venice. This plunder included the gilt bronze horses from the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which were originally placed above the entrance to the cathedral of Venice, St Mark's Basilica (The originals have been replaced with replicas, and are now stored within the basilica.) After the fall of Constantinople, the former Eastern Roman Empire was partitioned among the Latin crusaders and the Venetians. Venice subsequently carved out a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean known as the Duchy of the Archipelago, and captured Crete.[17]

     View of San Giorgio Maggiore Island from St Mark's Campanile

    The seizure of Constantinople proved as decisive a factor in ending the Byzantine Empire as the loss of the Anatolian themes, after Manzikert. Although the Byzantines recovered control of the ravaged city a half-century later, the Byzantine Empire was terminally weakened, and existed as a ghost of its old self, until Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror took the city in 1453.

    Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Venice had always traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East. By the late 13th century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe. At the peak of its power and wealth, it had 36,000 sailors operating 3,300 ships, dominating Mediterranean commerce. Venice's leading families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and to support the work of the greatest and most talented artists. The city was governed by the Great Council, which was made up of members of the noble families of Venice. The Great Council appointed all public officials, and elected a Senate of 200 to 300 individuals. Since this group was too large for efficient administration, a Council of Ten (also called the Ducal Council, or the Signoria), controlled much of the administration of the city. One member of the great council was elected "doge", or duke, to be the chief executive; he would usually hold the title until his death, although several Doges were forced, by pressure from their oligarchical peers, to resign and retire into monastic seclusion, when they were felt to have been discredited by political failure.

     Monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni (1400–1475), captain-general of the Republic of Venice from 1455 to 1475

    The Venetian governmental structure was similar in some ways to the republican system of ancient Rome, with an elected chief executive (the doge), a senator-like assembly of nobles, and the general citizenry with limited political power, who originally had the power to grant or withhold their approval of each newly elected doge. Church and various private property was tied to military service, although there was no knight tenure within the city itself. The Cavalieri di San Marco was the only order of chivalry ever instituted in Venice, and no citizen could accept or join a foreign order without the government's consent. Venice remained a republic throughout its independent period, and politics and the military were kept separate, except when on occasion the Doge personally headed the military. War was regarded as a continuation of commerce by other means. Therefore, the city's early employment of large numbers of mercenaries for service elsewhere, and later its reliance on foreign mercenaries when the ruling class was preoccupied with commerce.

     The Fra Mauro Map of the world. The map was made around 1450 and depicts Asia, Africa and Europe. View of San Marco basin in 1697

    Although the people of Venice generally remained orthodox Roman Catholics, the state of Venice was notable for its freedom from religious fanaticism, and executed nobody for religious heresy during the Counter-Reformation. This apparent lack of zeal contributed to Venice's frequent conflicts with the papacy. In this context, the writings of the Anglican divine William Bedell are particularly illuminating. Venice was threatened with the interdict on a number of occasions and twice suffered its imposition. The second, most noted, occasion was in 1606, by order of Pope Paul V.[18]

    The newly invented German printing press spread rapidly throughout Europe in the 15th century, and Venice was quick to adopt it. By 1482, Venice was the printing capital of the world; the leading printer was Aldus Manutius, who invented paperback books that could be carried in a saddlebag.[19] His Aldine Editions included translations of nearly all the known Greek manuscripts of the era.[20]


    Venice's long decline started in the 15th century. Venice confronted the Ottoman Empire in the Siege of Thessalonica (1422–1430) and sent ships to help defend Constantinople against the besieging Turks in 1453. After the Fall of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II declared the first of a series of Ottoman-Venetian wars that cost Venice much of its eastern Mediterranean possessions. Vasco da Gama's 1497–1499 voyage opened a sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope and destroyed Venice's monopoly. Venice's oared vessels were at a disadvantage when it came to traversing oceans, therefore Venice was left behind in the race for colonies.[21]

    The Black Death devastated Venice in 1348 and struck again between 1575 and 1577.[22] In three years, the plague killed some 50,000 people.[23] In 1630, the Italian plague of 1629–31 killed a third of Venice's 150,000 citizens.[24]

    Venice began to lose the position as a centre of international trade during the later part of the Renaissance as Portugal became Europe's principal intermediary in the trade with the East, striking at the very foundation of Venice's great wealth. France and Spain fought for hegemony over Italy in the Italian Wars, marginalising its political influence. However, Venice remained a major exporter of agricultural products and until the mid-18th century, a significant manufacturing centre.[21]

    Modern age
    1870s panoramic view of Venice

    The Republic of Venice lost its independence when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Venice on 12 May 1797 during the War of the First Coalition. Napoleon was seen as something of a liberator by the city's Jewish population. He removed the gates of the Ghetto and ended the restrictions on when and where Jews could live and travel in the city.

    Venice became Austrian territory when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio on 12 October 1797. The Austrians took control of the city on 18 January 1798. Venice was taken from Austria by the Treaty of Pressburg in 1805 and became part of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy. It was returned to Austria following Napoleon's defeat in 1814, when it became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia. In 1848 a revolt briefly re-established the Venetian republic under Daniele Manin, but this was crushed in 1849. In 1866, after the Third Italian War of Independence, Venice, along with the rest of the Veneto, became part of the newly created Kingdom of Italy.

    From the middle of the 18th century, Trieste and papal Ancona, both of which became free ports, competed with Venice more and more economically. Habsburg Trieste in particular boomed and increasingly served trade via the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, between Asia and Central Europe, while Venice very quickly lost its competitive edge and commercial strength.[25]

    During the Second World War, the historic city was largely free from attack, the only aggressive effort of note being Operation Bowler, a successful Royal Air Force precision strike on the German naval operations in the city in March 1945. The targets were destroyed with virtually no architectural damage inflicted on the city itself.[26] However, the industrial areas in Mestre and Marghera and the railway lines to Padua, Trieste, and Trento were repeatedly bombed.[27] On 29 April 1945, a force of British and New Zealand troops of the British Eighth Army, under Lieutenant General Freyberg, liberated Venice, which had been a hotbed of anti-Mussolini Italian partisan activity.[28][29]

    The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola, Canaletto (c. 1738, J. Paul Getty Museum) 

    The Grand Canal in Venice from Palazzo Flangini to Campo San Marcuola, Canaletto (c. 1738, J. Paul Getty Museum)

    Francesco Guardi, The Grand Canal (c. 1760, Art Institute of Chicago) 

    Francesco Guardi, The Grand Canal (c. 1760, Art Institute of Chicago)

    Morning Impression along a Canal in Venice, Veneto, Italy, by Rafail Levitsky (1896) 

    Morning Impression along a Canal in Venice, Veneto, Italy, by Rafail Levitsky (1896)

    Gondola Punta and Basilica Salute (2015) 

    Gondola Punta and Basilica Salute (2015)

    Venice view from the Bridge Priuli a Santa Sofia, to the Bridge de le Vele (2015) 

    Venice view from the Bridge Priuli a Santa Sofia, to the Bridge de le Vele (2015)

    Grand Canal from Rialto to Ca'Foscari (2016) 

    Grand Canal from Rialto to Ca'Foscari (2016)

    View from the Bridge of Sighs (2017) 

    View from the Bridge of Sighs (2017)

    ^ "Imperciocchè nascendi i principati", begins Apostolo Zeno, Compendio della storia Veneta di Apostolo Zeno continuata fino alla caduta della repubblica 1847:9. ^ Bosio, Le origini di Venezia ^ Barbaro, Marco. L'Origine e discendenza delle famiglie patrizie. ^ Cappellari Vivaro, Girolamo Alessandro (1740). Il Campidoglio veneto. ^ Zeno, Compendio 1847:10. ^ Trudy Ring; Robert M. Salkin; Sharon La Boda (1 January 1996). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 745. ISBN 978-1-884964-02-2. Retrieved 24 March 2011. ^ Burckhardt, Jacob (1990). The civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. London, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-044534-X. OCLC 23255316. ^ Traditional date as given in William J. Langer, ed. An Encyclopedia of World History. ^ John Julius Norwich. (1982). A History of Venice, p. 13. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ^ Alethea Wiel (1995)[1898]. A History of Venice, pp. 26–27. New York: Barnes & Noble (reprint orig. 1898 London). ^ Langer ^ Madden, Thomas F. (2012). Venice: A New History. Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9781101601136. ^ Hammer, Michael B. (2017). The Dot On the I In History: Of Gentiles and Jews—a Hebrew Odyssey Scrolling the Internet. Morrisville: Lulu Publishing Services. p. 239. ISBN 978-1483427010. ^ Burns, Robert I (1980). "Piracy as an Islamic-Christian Interface in the Thirteenth Century". Viator. 11: 165. doi:10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301504. ^ Richard Cowen, The importance of salt Archived 7 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine ^ Herrin, Judith (2008). Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. Penguin Adult. ISBN 9780141031026. ^ Madden, Thomas F. (2006). Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801885396. ^ "Pope Paul V", Catholic Encyclopedia, retrieved 9 May 2023 ^ Magazine, Smithsonian; Nadeau, Barbie Latza. "The Man Who Changed Reading Forever". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 28 February 2022. ^ James Burke, Connections (Little, Brown and Co., 1978/1995), ISBN 978-0-316-11672-5, p.105 ^ a b "Repubblica di Venezia: storia, cronologia e caratteristiche della Serenissima |". (in Italian). Retrieved 7 July 2023. ^ Bernstein, William J. (2009). A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World. Grove Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0802144164. ^ State of Texas, Texas Department of State Health Services. "History of Plague". Archived from the original on 11 April 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2009. ^ Lindemann, Mary (1999). Medicine and society in early modern Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0521423546. ^ Heinrich Kretschmayr "Geschichte von Venedig", third volume, (2017), pp 450. ^ "Group Captain George Westlake". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 January 2006. Archived from the original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 13 June 2013. ^ Patrick G. Skelly, Pocasset MA (6 May 2005). "US Army Air Force Operations Mediterranean Theater". Archived from the original on 23 August 2010. Retrieved 27 July 2010. ^ Jones, Michael (2015). After Hitler: The Last Days of the Second World War in Europe. John Murray Press. ISBN 9781848544970. ^ Patrick G. Skelly, Pocasset MA (21 July 1945). "New Zealand troops relieve Venice". Archived from the original on 21 September 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
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Stay safe
    Stay safe

    Venice is considered a safe city. You have to take the habitual travellers' precautions however. Keep your valuable items (like wallet and passport) close to you because there are pickpockets, especially in more crowded parts of the city. In case of need, you can dial free of charge on any phone 112 (no area code needed) to contact Carabinieri or 113 (no area code needed) to contact the Police.

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