Venice was founded on 25 March in the year 413 when the Venetians set the first stone on the Rialto. At the time it was a much different Venice as it was little more than a humble collection of refugee villages scattered across the muddy islets comprising the delta.
History shows that the formation of the canals started with the de-silting of waterways in the delta to allow vessels to pass. Each canal evolved to its present state over centuries as the carnival city of Venice grew up around them.
In 697 an early democracy was started with the election of the city-state’s first Doge to a lifetime term. In 828 the Venetians cleverly smuggled the bones of St. Mark, coveted religious relics, out of Egypt bringing them back to Venice. With the relics came power and religious stature. The city prospered in the centuries that followed as East-West trade expanded and the Venetians developed their merchant fleet.
The eastern Byzantine influence, easily recognizable by the student of Italian History, can still be readily observed in the enduring architecture of the city.
The history of Venice was not always fortunate. The 1300’s brought trials and difficulties to the political structure as the Doge’s power and efficacy as a ruler were eroded by an ever growing number of governing councils. To further shroud this century in darkness, the Black Death ravaged the population killing 600 Venetians a day at the peak of the epidemic. Half the population was lost in a single year – 1347.
In 1797 Napoleon invaded the city with little resistance ending the 1,100 year independence of Venice.
In 1815 Venice fell into Austrian hands. The rail link to the mainland was completed shortly after.
Venice escaped damage during WWI and WWII despite the heavy fighting nearby.
Now, this city of more than 100 islets is part of Italy and is one of the most beautiful and romantic destinations in the world. Venice has something to offer everyone from the student of history to the casual tourist.
Explore the pages that follow for a small sampling of the offerings of this fascinating city. But remember, a visit to Venice is much like a tour of any other Italian city – to fully understand and appreciate the local peculiarities and culture, one must prepare by taking the time to study the history of the place.