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Venice

For alternate meanings see: Venice (disambiguation).

Venice (Venezia) is a city in the northeast of Italy at the head of the Adriatic Sea and is the capital of the region of Veneto.

The city was founded as a result of the influx of refugees into the marshes of the Po estuary following the invasion of Northern Italy by the Lombards in 568. At first an outpost of Byzantine civilization, as the community developed an anti-Eastern character emerged, leading to the growth of autonomy and eventual independence. Venice was a city state (an Italian thalassocracy or Repubblica Marinara - the other three were Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi). The chief executives were from an early date called Doge (duke), and held their elective office for life. At the height of its power, Venice controlled much of the coastal territory along the Adriatic, most of the islands in the Aegean, including Crete, and was a major power-broker in the Near East. On April 27, 1509 Pope Julius II placed Venice under interdict[?].


See an amazingly high detail, interactive aerial series at this website (http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/collections/digitalcoll/venice/venice_aerials) (Larger Version)

Venetian ambassadors sent regularly secret reports about the politics and rumours of European courts, that nowadays provide unique insight to historians.

After 1070 years its independence was lost when Napoleon Bonaparte on May 12, 1797 conquered Venice during the First Coalition. The French conqueror brought to an end the most fascinating century of its history: it was during the "Settecento" that Venice became perhaps the most elegant and refined town in Europe, influencing art, architecture, and literature. However Napoleon was seen as something of a liberator by the city's Jewish population, as he removed the gates of the Ghetto and ended the restrictions on when and where Jews could live and travel in the city.

At the conclusion of the Napoleonic era, Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when on October 12 1797 Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798.

Venice is famous for its canals. It is built on an archipelago of more than 100 islands in a shallow lagoon. In the old center, the canals serve the function of roads, and every form of transport is on water or on foot. In the 19th century a causeway to the mainland brought a railroad station to Venice, and a automobile causeway and parking lot was added in the 20th century. Beyond these land entrances at the northern edge of the city, transportation within the city remains, as it was in centuries past, entirely on water or on foot. Beyond the historic archetecture and tourism, Venice is unique in remaining a sizable functioning city in the 21st century entirely without motorcars or trucks.

The classical Venetian boat is the gondola[?], although it is now mostly used for tourists, or for weddings, funerals, or other ceremonies, due to its cost; most Venetians now travel by motorised waterbuses ("vaporetti") which ply regular routes along the major canals and between the city's islands. The city also has many private boats. The only unmotorized gondolas still in common use by average Venetians are the traghettos, foot passenger ferrys crossing the Grand Canal at certain points without bridges.


The Grand Canal, Venice
painted 1835 by J.M.W. Turner
Larger version

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced poles, or pilings, which penetrate alternating layers of clay and sand. Most of these pilings are intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on the pilings, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The buildings are often threatened by flood tides pushing in from the Adriatic between autumn and early spring.

During the 20th century, when many artesian wells[?] were sunk into the periphery of the lagoon to draw water for local industry, Venice began to sink noticeably. It was realised that extraction of the aquifer was the cause. This sinking process has slowed markedly since artesian wells were banned in the 1960s. However, the city still is threatened by more frequent low-level floods (so-called Acqua alta, "high water") that creep to a height of several centimetres over its quays, regularly following certain tides. In many old houses the ground floor is unoccupied due to the periodic floods, but people continue to live and work in the upper stories.

Some recent studies have led us to hope that the city is no longer sinking, but this is not yet certain; therefore, a state of alert has not been revoked. In May 2003 the Italian Prime Minister inaugurated the "Moses" project, which will lay a series of 79 inflatable pontoons across the sea bed at the three entrances to the lagoon; when tides are predicted to rise above 110 centimetres, the pontoons will be filled with air and block the incoming water from the Adriatic sea. This challenging engineering work is due to be complete by 2011.

Venice is served by the newly rebuilt Marco Polo Airport, Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, named in honor of its famous citizen. The airport is on the mainland and was cunningly rebuilt away from the coast so that visitors now need to get a bus to the pier from which boats to Venice can be caught. You can catch an expensive watertaxi, or the Aliliguna waterbus.

Many works in art recall Venice: most famous is perhaps William Shakespeare's Othello or indeed The Merchant of Venice. Venice is also famous world-wide for its unique Carnival.

Table of contents

Places of note:

Famous Venetians

English words of Venetian origin ciao[?], ghetto, arsenal, Montenegro.

"Venezuela" meant "small Venice".

See also:

External links



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