Venice (Italian Venezia), city and seaport in north-east Italy, in Veneto Region, capital of Venice Province. Venice is situated on 120 islands formed by 177 canals in the lagoon between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers, at the northern extremity of the Adriatic Sea. Because of its historic role as a naval power and commercial centre, the city is known as the “Queen of the Adriatic”. A rail and road causeway connects Venice with the mainland. Long sand bars, or barrier beaches, on the outer side of the lagoon serve as protection against the sea. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. The Grand Canal, about 3 km (2 mi) long, winds through Venice from north-west to south-east, dividing the city into two nearly equal portions. The Giudecca Canal, about 400 m (1,310 ft) wide, separates Giudecca Island, on the extreme south, from Venice proper. No motor vehicles are permitted on the narrow, winding lanes and streets that penetrate the old city, and the bridges are for pedestrians only. For centuries the most common method of transport was by gondola, a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a single oar. Today, the gondolas are used mainly by tourists; motor launches carry almost all the freight and passenger traffic in Venice.
Modern Venice has faced many challenges, including loss of population to other areas and physical damage from flooding, subsidence, air and water pollution, and age. After devastating floods in 1966, an international effort to preserve historic Venice was coordinated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and many structures were renovated and preserved. Flooding has occurred throughout the history of the city; it is caused when high tides combine with storm winds, and has been combatted with experiments using mechanical barriers. The sinkage of buildings and other structures, caused by the drainage of underground aquifers, has been addressed by limits on groundwater usage and the construction of an aqueduct from the Alps nearby.
Venetian Canal, Italy
Venice is one of Italy’s most popular tourist attractions as well as a major port on the Adriatic Sea. Built on more than 100 islands, the city is known for its canals, which substitute for streets in many areas. Venetians use gondolas, long, narrow, flat-bottomed boats propelled by standing navigators using a single oar, to travel along the canals.
The basis of the Venetian economy is tourism; along with the beauty of the architecture and canals and the many art and cultural attractions, there are numerous film festivals and other events throughout the year that attract visitors. The city is also famous for its glassware, mirrors, and beads, most of which are manufactured on the nearby island of Murano. Venetian lace, made chiefly on the island of Burano, is also popular. On the mainland, in Mestre and Marghera, are shipbuilding facilities and many industrial plants, including steelworks, foundries, and chemical factories. Since World War II, many Venetians have moved to these areas seeking jobs and housing. The Marghera port, which handles most of the area's seagoing traffic, is reached by a channel that is an extension of the Giudecca Canal.
Points of Interest
Venice is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city buildings and decorations, from Byzantine to Renaissance styles, show great artistic achievement. The works of the Venetian school are represented throughout Venetian palaces, public buildings, and churches.
The centre and most frequented part of the city is St Mark's Square. At the eastern end are St Mark's Cathedral and the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), the two most important and imposing structures in Venice. The cathedral—begun about 828, restored after a fire in 976, and rebuilt between 1047 and about 1071—is an outstanding example of Byzantine architecture. The palace—begun about 814, destroyed four times by fire, and each time rebuilt on a more magnificent scale—is a remarkable building in Italian Gothic with some early Renaissance elements. The northern side of the piazza is occupied by the Procuratie Vecchie (1496) and the southern side by the Procuratie Nuove (1584), both in Italian Renaissance style. During the time of the Venetian republic these buildings were the residences of the nine procurators, or magistrates, from among whom the doge, or chief magistrate, was usually selected.
Along the two palaces and their extension, the Atrio or Fabbrica Nuova (1810), extend arcades with cafés and shops. Near the Doge's Palace stand two famous granite columns erected in 1180, one bearing the winged lion of St Mark and the other St Theodore of Studium on a crocodile. The most conspicuous feature of the city is the campanile, or bell tower, of St Mark, which is about 91 m (300 ft) high; it was built between 874 and 1150 and rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902.
At the back of the Doge's Palace is the famous Bridge of Sighs, which connects the palace with public prisons and was the route by which prisoners were taken to and from the judgment hall. The most famous of the three bridges spanning the Grand Canal is the Rialto (1588), lined with a double row of shops. The Grand Canal, the principal traffic artery of Venice, is lined with old palaces of the Venetian aristocracy, among which are many structures of great historical and architectural value. Farther north, near the lagoon, is the 15th-century church of San Giovanni in Bragora, a domed and columned edifice in Italian Gothic style and formerly the funeral church of the doges. In its vicinity is the greatest monument in Venice, the 15th-century equestrian statue of the Venetian general Bartolomeo Colleoni, the work of the Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio. Nearby is the site of the Arsenal, a former centre of shipbuilding, and public gardens. Islands extend to the east in the direction of the Lido, an island reef outside the lagoon that is famous as a bathing beach and holiday resort. Great museums, such as the Ca' d'Oro (located in a Gothic palace on the Grand Canal), and historic churches are found throughout the city. The Libreria Vecchia (Old Library) contains about 13,000 manuscripts and more than 800,000 books, some of immense value. The University of Venice was founded in 1868.
The area around Venice was inhabited in ancient times by the Veneti. According to tradition, the city was founded in AD 452, when the inhabitants of Aquileia, Padua, and other northern Italian cities took refuge on the islands of the lagoon from the Teutonic tribes that invaded Italy during the 5th century. They established their own government, which was headed by tribunes for each of the 12 principal islands. Although nominally part of the Eastern Roman Empire, Venice was virtually autonomous. In 697 the Venetians organized Venice as a republic under an elected doge. Internal dissent disturbed the course of government during the following century, but the threat of foreign invasion united the Venetians. Attacks by Saracens in 836 and by the Hungarians in 900 were successfully repulsed. In 991 Venice signed a commercial treaty with the Saracens, initiating the Venetian policy of trading with the Muslims rather than fighting them. The Crusades and the resulting development of trade with Asia led to the establishment of Venice as the greatest commercial centre for trade with the East. The republic profited greatly from the partition of the Byzantine Empire in 1204 and became politically the strongest European power in the Mediterranean. The growth of a wealthy aristocracy gave rise to an attempt by the nobles to acquire political dominance, and, although nominally a republic, Venice became a rigid oligarchy by the end of the 13th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries Venice was involved in a series of wars with Genoa, its chief commercial rival. In the war of 1378-1381, Genoa was compelled to acknowledge Venetian supremacy. Wars of conquest enabled Venice to acquire neighbouring territories, and by the late 15th century the city-state was the leading maritime power in the Christian world.
The beginning of Turkish invasions in the middle of the 15th century marked the decline of Venetian supremacy. Thereafter, faced with attacks by foreign invaders and other Italian states, its power waned, and the discovery of a sea route to the Indies around the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama in 1497-1498 accelerated the decline. In 1508 the Holy Roman Empire, the Pope, France, and Spain combined against Venice in the League of Cambrai and divided the Venetian possessions among themselves, and although Venice reacquired its Italian dominions through astute diplomacy in 1516, it never regained its political power.
In 1797 the Venetian Republic was conquered and ended by Napoleon Bonaparte, who turned the territory over to Austria. In 1805 Austria ...
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