Veneto - Places to visit - Venice (Venezia)
The old historical centre of the city is situated four kilometres from the mainland, on 118 islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Its singular appearance and wealth of art treasures make it unique. read more
It is criss-crossed by more than 150 canals and 400 bridges, and is divided into 6 districts known as `sestieri' (San Marco, Castello Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro). Characteristic buildings look onto hundreds of small squares (campi and campielli) linked by narrow streets called calli.
The municipal territory also includes the mainland areas of Mestre and Porto Marghera connected to the lagoon city by road and rail bridges. The lagoon centres of Burano, Murano, Lido, Cavallino, Malamocco, San Michele and Torcello are also administrated by Venice.
Early historical information on Venice dates back to the fifth and sixth centuries when, to escape the Barbarian invasions, refugees from the Venetian countryside took shelter in the Lagoon.
At first, they were ruled by Maritime Tribunes then by the Doges (the first was Paolo Lucio Anafesto, in 697), gradually eluding Byzantine influence, partly as a result of the initiative of the inhabitants, who transformed it into an important trading centre for shipping in the Mediterranean and towards the Orient.
Its importance increased during the Crusades, when it extended its rule over the Aegean islands, Peleponesia, Crete and part of Constantinople. Rivalry with Genoa and the other Italian maritime republics served only to increase its strength which reached its apogee in the fifteenth century.
In the same period, Venice increased its territories on the Venetian mainland, occupying Treviso, Padua, Vicenza and later Verona, Feltre, Belluno and Bassano (1404-1405), until in 1454, its boundaries stretched to the Adda river to the west, and into Friuli to the east.
The fall of Constantinople, however, and the discovery of America, marked the beginning of commercial and political decline for the Republic of Venice, culminating in the loss of independence ratified by the Treaty of Campoformio (1797), which gave Venice to Austria.
After the Napoleonic period (1805-14) and the heroic events of the Risorgimento (1848 uprising against the Austrians under the leadership of Daniele Manin) it was finally reunited with the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following the Third War of Independence.
It is a very difficult task to synthesize in a few lines the countless attractions that make Venice one of the most world famous tourist cities. One can only mention the monuments, churches or places which must absolutely not be ignored.
First and foremost, Piazza San Marco, the traditional postcard scene of Venice with its famous cafs and surrounded by beautiful Renaiss ance buildings, with the Basilica of the same name, of Byzantine inspiration, (11th-15th century) overlooking the whole square.
Near by is Palazzo Ducale (14th-15th century), a typical example of Gothic-Venetian architecture, housing works by famous artists. By taking a boat on the Grand Canal, one will admire the many noble Gothic-Venetian buildings overlooking the waters: C Foscari, Palazzo Giustinian, Palazzo Cornr (C Grande), Palazzo Grimani, Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, the very famous C d'Oro and many others.
The churches include Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (13th-14th century) housing works by Titian and Giambellino, S. Zanipolo (13th-14th century), S. Maria dei Miracoli (Renaissance), S. Maria della Salute (17th century) with paintings by Titian and Tintoretto, S. Giorgio Maggiore (17th century) on the island of the same name.
The campi (the small squares) are of great environmental and artistic interest, always surrounded by buildings or churches worthy of a visit. Among others are Campo S. Mois, S. Bartolomeo, S. Cassiano, S. Maria Mater Domini, S. Polo, S. Zulian, Saints Giovanni and Paolo (monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni).
Lastly, one must not fail to take a trip in a gondola under the famous Ponte di Rialto and the even more famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).
Economical activity in Venice is based particularly on tourism and the service sector. Glass-blowing is an important tradition at Murano and lacemaking at Burano. Industry is based on the mainland at Mestre and Porto Marghera, attracting an increasing number of inhabitants from the Lagoon, which is progressively depopulating.
Porto Marghera has chemical, petrochemical, engineering, metallurgical, textile and shipyard industries as well as a large thermoelectric power station and a busy port.
Pollution caused by industry has unfortunately had ruinous effects on the ecological equilibrium of the lagoon and on the artistic wealth of Venice, which already has to cope with progressive sinking of the land and the `high water' phenomenon.
Events: Biennial, theatre season at the La Fenice and Goldoni theatres, Venice Carnival, Historical Regatta (September), Regatta of the Four Marine Republics (every four years), Campiello Award, Festa della Salute (21st November), Festa della Sensa, with the Vogalonga.
Famous People: Canaletto (artist, 1697-1768), Vittore Carpaccio (artist, 1465 circa-1526), G. Battista Tiepolo (artist, 1696-1770), Tintoretto (artist, 1518-1594), Marco Polo (explorer 1254-1324), Carlo Goldoni (playwright, 1707-1793), Daniele Manin (patriot, 1804-1857), Antonio Vivaldi (musician, 1678-1742), Giovanni Bellini called `il Giambellino (1430-1516), Giangiacomo Casanova (adventurer, 1725-1798), Cesco Baseggio (actor, 1897-1971).
Cultural Institutions: there are numerous museums including: Archeological Museum (Greek and Roman sculptures), Gallerie dell'Accademia (art gallery with paintings of the 14th-18th century Venetian school), Museo del Settecento Veneziano, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Palazzo Venier dei Leoni), Pinacoteca Querini-Stampalia, Museo Storico Navale, Museo Correr, House of Goldoni, University, Palazzo Grassi Culture Centre, Ligabue Research and Study Centre, Cini Foundation, San Servolo Foundation, Querini Stampalia Foundation, Accademia di Belle Arti, Istituto Statale d'Arte. At Murano - Glassblowing Museum, at Burano - lacemaking schools and workshops.
In the Province: Chioggia (environmental and artistic interest), Iesolo (seaside tourism), Caorle (seaside tourism), Portogruaro (Museo Nazionale Concordiese), Quarto d'Altino (Museo d'Altino).