In the Veneto Region, in the waters of the Adriatic, is one of the most romantic and evocative places in the world, a priceless treasure: the Venetian Lagoon. At the heart of this legendary Province is the Serenissima Republic, with its characteristic bridges spanning the canals navigated by gondolas, its monuments, piazzas, narrow lanes and silent waters. Venice is actually a group of fascinating small islands, where art and history combine with old trades and the beauty of the sea. Sandy beaches washed by the Adriatic Sea characterize the main resorts that offer vacationers every kind of comfort. The fascinating inland is composed of many paths traversing the green scenery, along with peaceful rivers that pass through small towns rich in history and fabulous villas. A BRIEF HISTORY Where it started According to tradition, Venice was founded in 421 AD on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day (St. Mark is now the patron saint of Venice) when to escape the Barbarian invasions, refugees from the Veneto took shelter in the Lagoon. At that time the most important village in the lagoon was Torcello, where a cathedral was built in 639. THE DOGES In Venice government by the Doges was first formally established by Paolo Lucio Anafesto in 697, but the construction of Palazzo del Doge (Doges’ Palace) in what is today St. Mark’s Square did not begin until the year 814. The Basilica of St. Mark’swas built in 834, but this first basilica was burnt down. VENICE EXPANDS Mainly thanks to the energy of its mercantile inhabitants, Venice became an important tradingcentre for shipping in the Mediterranean and the East. In 1000 its fleet defeated the pirates of the Adriatic sea, greatly facilitating trade. The Crusades constituted a business opportunity for the Venetians and they extended their rule over the Aegean islands, Peleponesia, Crete and part of Constantinople. Much wealth and many works of art were taken to Venice as booty, especially from Constantinople, such as the four bronze horses of St. Mark’s (the original bronzes can now be seen in St. Mark’s museum, whilst the four horses on the Basilica’s facade are copies). MARCO POLO The journey of the Venetian merchant Marco Polo from Venice to China is one of the most fascinating true stories of Middle Ages (1271-95). His adventures and his meeting with Genghis Khan are recounted in the book ‘Il Milione’. La Serenissima: Venice reaches its zenith In 1348, Venice’s population was halved by the plague, but in spite of this, it 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 as far as the Adda river to the west, and into Friuli to the east. Venice soon became the most powerful of the Mediterranean’s four sea-powers (the other ones were the republics of Amalfi, Genoa and La Spezia) and in 1489 it conquered the island of Cyprus. Decline and Fall However, the fall of Constantinople to the Turks and the discovery of America marked the beginning of commercial and political decline for la Repubblica Serenissima di Venezia. After a long period of gradual decay Venice was eventually defeated by Napoleon in 1797, who by the Treaty of Campoformio gave it to Austria (Hapsburgs). A part of Italy: After the Napoleonic period (1805-14) and the Risorgimento (a failed 1848 uprising against the Austrians) the army of Giuseppe Garibaldi began the unification of Italy in 1860 , and in 1866 Venice became part of the new nation after the 3rd War of Independence. Interesting facts: Giacomo Casanova is not a legend: he was born in 1725 in Venice. The myth of the irresistible seducer and lover was given birth in his book ‘Memorie di Giacomo Casanova’. Teatro La Fenice, which was destroyed by fire in 1996 and has now re-opened after rebuilding, was founded in 1790 and was a favourite of Verdi. "Rigoletto", "La Traviata" and "Simon Boccanegra" all had their premierès there. The Campanile, the square bell tower in St. Mark’s Square, collapsed in 1902, but it was completely rebuilt in 1912. Disasters: During the 2nd World War (1940-45), Venice was not bombed but a flood in 1966 caused serious damage: the water level reached 2 metres. In many places in Venice you can see signs marking the height the water reached.