Visit the magical city of Venice to combine your fun and relaxing vacation with a plunge into the art and historical beauty of Italy, just a short ride from the golden beaches of Jesolo.
This beautiful island is a small gem set in the lagoon, studded with ancient palaces, exquisite churches and basilicas with impressive bell towers…a unique city worth discovering!
It’s exciting to walk through the narrow “calli” that lead to charming “campielli” (little squares), or to cross some of its 400 bridges and admire the reflection of its majestic buildings on the emerald waters of the canals, or to shop in the little stores that sell antiques, precious silks or Murano glass jewelry.
Venice “neighborhoods” are called Sestrieri, and there’s six of them in total: Cannaregio to the North, Castello to the East, San Marco to the South, Dorsoduro to the South-West, Santa Croce and San Polo in the center.
According to tradition, Venice was founded on March 25th, 425 AC, when the wave of refugees threatened by the growing spread of barbarian invasion first settled in the uninhabited islands of the lagoon.
Contrary to common belief, the first settlements were actually on the island of Torcello, where the magnificent Cathedral built in 639 AC stands as a testimony. The city began to grow slowly with the increasing arrival on the islands of small colonies.
A century later, in 726, Venetians elected their first “Doge of the Serene Republic”, whose government marks the beginning of an era of fame and opulence for the city. These prosperous times saw the construction of the gorgeous Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s palace) and the amazing Basilica, built to house the relics of St. Mark, Patron of the city, that were stolen from Alexandrian in Egypt.
With the fourth Crusade (1202-1204) the Serene Republic eventually established its supremacy over the Balkan Peninsula, which provided the marbles for the sumptuous palazzi, and the Aegean Sea, hence becoming the strongest naval power in the Mediterranean.
This newly acquired status put Venice in increasing competition with the other maritime communes, particularly with Genoa with whom over the years it engaged in a series of trade wars. According to tradition, during a vicious battle in Syria against the Genoese republic the Venetian army substituted the cross on the flag with the winged lion of St. Mark, which remains to this date the symbol of the city of Venice.
Between the XIV and XV centuries, Venice started expanding and gaining control of the mainland, thanks to the aid of mercenary troops led by notable captains like Gattamelata.
The beginning of 1500 sees Venice at the height of its power and wealth, with an extended territory encompassing most of the Veneto region, Friuli, Brescia and Bergamo. The Pope and the Austrian emperor, worried by the growing power of the Republic, joined forces and invaded Cadore, the northernmost part of the region of Veneto. Meanwhile, the Turks launched an attack to the eastern empires, and with the discovery of America the center of trade shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, which in turn led to the slow decline of the Republic’s economic supremacy.
In 1575 Venice experienced a devastating outbreak of plague that raged for 2 years and ravaged the whole of Europe. When the city was eventually delivered from the plague, Palladio was commissioned to design a votive church dedicated to the savior or “Redentore”, where the event is still celebrated every year.
The XVII century brought more battles against the Ottomans and another, more violent outbreak of plague in 1630: every year on November 21st a votive pontoon bridge is constructed across the Grand Canal, connecting the district of St. Mark to the church of Madonna della Salute, where traditionally Venetians light a candle to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for delivering the city from the epidemic.
The 1700 was a century of intellectual turmoil for Venice, when arts flourished thanks to the works of great masters like Vivaldi (music), Carlo Goldoni (literature), Tiepolo and Canaletto (painting). During these prosperous times the Venetian Carnival got into full swing, a celebration of transgression and freedom that could last up to a few months at a time.
Things started to deteriorate with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte when the Major Council of Venice (Maggior Consiglio) was forced to declare the end of the Republic in 1797 and the establishment of a provisional government. Venice had to surrender and give up most of its treasures to France. Throughout the 1800s the city fell under foreign domination, initially under the French and then under the Austrian. Only in 1866, with the third Italian war of Independence, Venice became part of the emerging Kingdom of Italy.