Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Venice
Venice, capital of the Veneto region and the province of Venezia, lies at the very head of the Adriatic, 4km / 2 1/2 miles from the mainland (rail and roadcauseway) in the Laguna Veneta, a salt-water lagoon 55km / 34 miles long and up to 12km / 7 1/2 miles wide which is separated from the Adriatic by a series of narrow splits of land (lidi). There are more than 30 larger and smaller islands in the lagoon.
The town is built on 118 small islands and traversed by something like 100 canals (canale, rio) which are spanned by almost 400 bridges, mostly stone-built. Its 15,000 houses, built on piles, form a close-packed huddle of narrow streets and lanes (calle, salizzada, etc.), often no more than 1.5m / 5ft wide, filled with bustling activity. There is only one piazza; smaller squares are called campo or campiello. The quays or embankments are called riva of fondamenta.
In the inner city boats play an important part in public transportation.
In the past Venice's industry was confined to craft products (particularly glass and lace), boatbuilding, etc., but there has been a considerable development of large-scale industry since the First World War in the suburban district of Maestre. The port is one of Italy's largest, with an annual turnover of some 24 million tons. The industrial port is Porto di Maghera, Mestre; the Bacino della Stazione Marittima, south-west of the Piazzale Roma, also handles freight traffic.
In ancient times the Venice area was occupied by an Illyrian tribe, the Veneti, who formed a defensive alliance with Rome in the 3rd c. BC and rapidly became Romanised. In AD 451, the inhabitants of the coastal region fled to the safety of the islands in the lagoon, and in 697 they joined to form a naval confederation under a doge (from Latin dux, "leader"). In 811 Rivus Altus (Rialto) - i.e. present-day Venice - became the seat of government. In 829 the remains of the Evangelist Mark were brought to Venice from Alexandria, and thereafter Mark became the patron saint of the Venetian republic, which took his name and used his lion as its emblem. The young state prospered as the main channel and entrepôt for trade between Western Europe and the East, occupied the east coast of the Adriatic, conquered Constantinople in 1204 and established itself on the coasts of Greece and Asia Minor. The so-called "Hundred Years' War" with Genoa was decided by the Venetian naval victory off Chioggia in 1380, and in the 15th century the republic reached the peak of its power, controlling the whole of the eastern Mediterranean and extending its conquests on the Italian mainland as far as Verona, Bergamo and Brescia ("terra ferma"). In the 15th and 16th centuries Venice achieved its finest cultural flowering. Towards the end of the 15th century, however, the advance of the Turks and the discovery of America and the new sea routes to India brought the beginnings of decline. In the 16th century the Venetian possessions on the mainland of Italy involved the republic in the conflicts between Austria and Spain on the one hand and France on the other, and the struggle against the Turks ended in 1718 with the loss of all Venice's possessions in the East. In 1797 the French put an end to the city's independence, and under the treaty of Campoformia in that year it was assigned provisionally to Austria. In 1815 it formally became part of Austria, and remained so until it joined the new Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
Venice occupies a special place in the history of art through its relations with the Greek Empire of the East. St Mark's Church is Byzantine in style, as are its earliest mosaics. Gothic, which reached Venice only in the 14th century, took on a different aspect here from the rest of Italy, displaying a lively fantasy and a wealth of decoration and color. The Early Renaissance style came in the second half of the 15th century, producing buildings which cannot compare with those of Tuscany in harmony of proportions, since the facades seek above all to achieve a picturesque effect. Some of the Venetian churches, in particular Santi Giovanni e Paolo and the Frari church, are notable for their numerous fine tomb monuments. The leading architects of the period were Mauro Coducci, Antonio Rizzo and Pietro Lombardi, who were also sculptors, together with the Florentine Jacopa Sansovino, who brought the High Renaissance to Venice, and Andrea Palladio, whose influence was felt even by such vigorous exponents of the Baroque style as Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552-1616) and Baldassare Longhena (1604-82). The sculptors working in Venice included Alessandro Leopardi (d. 1522) and, slightly later, Alessandro Vittoria (1525-1608). Among 15th century painters were Vivarini and Jacopo Bellini (Mantegna's father-in-law), both from Murano, and Carlo Crivelli, a native of Venice. Jacopo's son Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430-1516), with his skill in composition and his love of colour, was the precursor of the great period of Venetian painting. Among his contemporaries were his elder brother Gentile Bellini (c. 1429-1507), Vittorio Carpaccio (c. 1455 to after 1523) and Cima da Congliano (c. 1459-1518). His greatest pupils were Girogione (c. 1477-1510, born in Castelfranco), Palma il Vecchio from Bergamo (c. 1480-1528) and the greatest of them all, Titian (Tiziano Vecellio, c. 1490-1576, born in Pieve di Cadore), who lavished his skill and vigorous imagination equally on representations of the Renaissance delight in life and on highly charged religious scenes, and enjoyed high favor as a portrait painter with the Italian princes as well as with Charles V and Philip II of Spain. The contemporaries of these three great masters included such artists as Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, Bonifazio dei Pitati, Pordenone and Paris Bordone. The tradition was carried on by a younger generation which included Paolo Veronese (Caliari, 1528-88, born in Verona), the Bassano family and Palma il Giovane. A fresh lead was given by Jacopo Tintoretto (Robusti, 1518-94), whose works, combining vigorous light and color with the expression of profound spiritual emotion, mark the high point of Venetian Baroque painting. In the 18th century the two Canalettos (Antonio Canal and his pupil Bernardo Bellotto) and the talented Francesco Guardi (1712-93) excelled in the painting of townscapes, Pietro Longhi (1702-85) in the depiction of contemporary manners. The last great Venetian painter, heir to a brilliant tradition of 300 years, was the decorative painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770), notable for the glowing color and spatial effect of his wall and ceiling paintings.
Venice seems to have high season year-round although Spring and Fall are the busiest times as well as around Christmas and Carnevale in February. As a popular tourist hub, Venice is perfect for hours of sightseeing among the many alleyways, endless mazes of backstreets and deserted squares. There are continuous activities and celebrations throughout the year as well as numerous historical buildings and landmarks to visit. The artistic side of Venice is highlighted through the vast array of bronze work, tapestries and paintings in the galleries and on the structures.
St Marks Square