History and culture
The millennial history of a unique city like Venice must absolutely be transmitted to those who visit it and to all the people who intend to fully enjoy it. In this blog article you will find a short summary of the history of Venice over time, and how it can be appreciated nowadays.
Venice has been a city of commerce, and a city of transit for people and merchants from all around the world. Every person who happened to be there contributed with a piece of their own culture to the building of Venice heritage, and over time the city has been filled with both the stories of people who came and went, and of people who stayed. Nowadays we can still breathe this past heritage while walking along Venetian alleyways, getting lost in its beauty, and perhaps adding a piece of our own story to it.
The city of Venice has been the capital of the Serenissima Republic of Venice for over 1100 years and for this reason, it is known as the Serenissima, the Dominant or even the Queen of the Adriatic: it was a form of government that did not exist yet, in the rest of Italy.
Built above the exceptional Venetian Lagoon, taking the land from the sea with a brilliant and avant-garde system for the time, it seems to have known human settlements since prehistoric times. It was however during the period of the barbarian invasions – 7th century - that the first permanent settlements were born, starting from the area of Rivus Altus (lat. “deep channel”, the current area of Rialto on Canal Grande).
Given its strategic position, the Lagoon facilitated maritime transports and commercial activities, two of the main features that fuelled Venice’s economy in the later Middle Ages. In its early years, it prospered on the salt trade, and in subsequent centuries, the city-state established a thalassocracy.
During the Middle Ages the Venetian economy experienced a wide boost and development, phenomenon which gave birth to new buildings and dedicated areas for commerce. At the Arsenale were built fleets of boats that could beat the most distant seas and it was thus that Venice succeeded in weaving intense commercial traffic in the Adriatic Sea, but also with the central and northern Europe, contributing to a flourishing economic development of the area.
In the 13th century the Fondaco dei Tedeschi Palace was built next to Rialto’s Bridge and Canal Grande, one of the city's most powerful colonies of German merchants which became an important trading centre for goods passing from the Orient on their way towards the Alps.
It was thanks to relations with the East that the Serenissima became the queen of the seas, representing the gateway between the Levant world and that of the West: relations with the exotic territories of the East allowed a fruitful exchange between cultures, goods as well as arts, languages, customs, and gastronomy. Venice became an international and cosmopolitan city counted among the Maritime Republics, enjoying political autonomy and economic prosperity.
The history of Venice's commerce and the economy did not stop in the East and at contacts with Constantinople and Alexandria in Egypt, a commercial outlet and a supply centre for luxury silk cloth, spices, precious metals, but it went further by sinking its roots to the heart of China. In fact, Marco Polo was one of the most famous Venetian explorers who managed to venture along the so-called "Silk Road": a series of land, sea, and river routes capable of connecting Italy and Europe with China.
Throughout the 16th century and up to the end of the 18th century we can consider Venice among the most modern, refined, and avant-garde cities of the whole of Europe, with a strong influence in art, architecture, and literature of the time. Great artists, architects and writers were originally from Venice or lived there for long periods of time inspired by its picturesque views and life: Tiziano, Vecellio, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and Paolo Veronese, all artists born in the then Republic of Venice. We also remember Andrea Palladio, Antonio Vivaldi, Carlo Goldoni, Giacomo Casanova and many others to tell how much culture has influenced the city over time and how it still influences today.
Venice reached its peak during the 15th century, when the city-state monopolized the spice trade from India, through the Arab lands, using exclusive trade agreements. This prompted the Spanish and the Portuguese to embark on the search for the new route to India, leading to the discovery of the Americas and the start of the Modern Age. The long history of the Republic of Venice was therefore challenged by the new routes to America (1492) and to India, established by Vasco da Gama (1497), which opened new commerce itineraries for goods.
The Venice Republic ultimately waned in 1797, after more than 1000 years of independence, when the doge Ludovico Manin and the Maggior Consiglio were forced by Napoleon Bonaparte to abdicate to proclaim the "Provisional Government of the Municipality from Venice". Thus, was born a new city, no longer a Republic, but with the same entrepreneurial and multicultural spirit that characterized it over time up to the present day, followed by the flourishing of cultural tourism and industrial development.
The cosmopolitan and international soul that Venice has always had keeps shining over time, but it is threatened by the overcrowding phenomenon which is suffocating the fragile existence of the city. A sustainable and conscious tourism is what Venice and its locals need to preserve its beauty, history and ecosystem. It is vital to choose wisely how to live the Venetian experience, supporting local Craftmanship, traditions and artists, showing real interest and respect towards a city that has so many stories to tell.
Therefore, you can explore the local culture thanks to the GreenerEu 2050 sustainable maps on various themes from contemporary art to ancient pastry shops and crafts.