Venice, one of the world’s most unique cities, sometimes referred to as the ”City of Romance” or the ”City of Water”.
It is one of the most favourite cities in Europe, visited by approximately 25 million tourists annually.
I can state with confidence that it will be the canals, gondolas and the stunning architecture. Did you know that the first public casino in the world was opened in Venice? Or that the first woman in the world that graduated was born in Venice?
The islands are connected by around 400 bridges and over 170 canals and are located within the shallow waters of the Venetian Lagoon. The Venetian Lagoon is listed as a world heritage site. The depth of the water has an average depth of 10.5m and only drops to a maximum of 21 m.
The narrowest street in the city, Calle Varisco, is just 53cm wide.
This is due to both natural causes and man-made factors.
Firstly, the natural cause is the rising sea level... on the other hand, man-made cause refers to the 20th century when the industry worsened things by pumping out massive amounts of groundwater. They were pumping out groundwater from the aquifer beneath the lagoon for nearly 50 years before the government stopped the practice in the 1970s.
Please, do not feel confused – Venice is truly Italian on the map. However, its construction hides an international secret. This city was built on wooden piles instead of directly on the surface of the island.
There are over 100.000 wooden stilts beneath the islands, which originally served as the foundations for the fishermen’s houses who founded Venice. These piles were sourced from the Karst region (now Slovenia), and from forests further south in what is now Croatia and Montenegro.
The city used to be a powerful State in Europe that originated from the lagoon communities in the area of now northeastern Italy. It existed from the late 7th century AD until 1797 and comprised of territories as far as Istria, Dalmatia, of Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.
The very first casino was opened in Venice in 1638.
Casino of Venice is regarded as the oldest casino in the World. It was opened in 1638 and the building of the casino is also the final resting place of the German composer, Richard Wagner.
You need a professional licence to become a gondolier. Primarily, the profession was handed down from father to son for centuries.
In contrast to nowadays, when there exists a gondolier course. However, only about 3 or 4 new licences are granted each year... the course involves 400 hours of training to learn the skills needed and an apprenticeship with a gondolier
Gondolas are made of 280 hand-made pieces using eight types of wood (lime, oak, mahogany, walnut, cherry, fir, larch and elm)
The most recognized Italian greeting ‘Ciao’ in the world originates in Venice. Particularly, it comes from a typical Venetian greeting, “s-ciavo vostro”, that translates into “your slave”. At some point, the greeting became “s-ciavo“, until it simply got to “ciao“, the word widely known today.
Despite her declining political weight, Venice in the 17th and 18th Cs was the centre of European culture offering numerous attractions. In the 17th and 18th Cs Venice had the reputation of being the gayest and most inconsequential of European capitals.
Book Music in Venice tour to see Venice Opera HouseVenice’s Opera House was opened in 1792. Its name, La Fenice, couldn’t be more appropriate.
The Phoenix, in fact, was a mythological bird reputed to rise from its own ashes. In the case of this theatre, this already happened once, when it was rebuilt following a terrible fire in 1836.
The taste for music in Venice grew apace until 18C. In addition to the accademies and private concerts which took place every night in one palace or another, the “Ospedali” (orphanages) began to organize paying concerts where vocal and instrumental music were given by the young girls of these institutions.
They were standing in a n upper gallery hidden behind a grill. The success of these concerts were so immense that great masters such as Galuppi and Vivaldi welcomed the opportunity of directing them.
Book Music in Venice private guided tour to learn about Antonio VivaldiFrom 1703 Antonio Vivaldi taught at the musical seminary of La Pietà, where he was the violin master and occasionally also the choirmaster. Vivaldi was an incomparable virtuoso and composed approximately 250 violin concerts... in 1700 the city counted 17 theatres and her theatres began to give more time to spoken drama.
Both tragedies and comedies attracted audiences which expressed their reactions vociferously.
Problems of the present days
Venice Saint Mark's Square flooded
The acqua alta has always been a natural feature in Venetian life. We have records of disastrous floods as early as in 1240, like this one, reporting that
The acqua alta is in fact a combination of seasonal tides and particular weather conditions.
The lagoon is connected with the Adriatic sea, and therefore the lagoon basin experiences two high tides and two low tides every day.
During high tide the sea flows in through the three port-mouths that provide access to the lagoon; then, during ebb tide it flows back out into the Adriatic, carring refuse with it; the motion of water within the basin is circular, and because of this scouring action Venice didn’t need sewers.
Now, it is a southern, warm wind which alters the natural flowing of water.
First it forces the water of the Adriatic sea through the three port-mouths and then its constant blowing prevents the water from flowing back out again... consider that in the old days submerged sandbanks protected access to the lagoon, water spilled slowly across it and the violence of the tides was thus cushioned.
Ships-of-the-line were brought from and to the Arsenal by attaching to them some kind of pontoons called “camels” to reduce their draught.
As Venetians, we have grown used to acqua alta. In our own way, we are organized. We have our rubber boots, an alarm which sets off and can be heard in the whole lagoon... and then all the gang-planks where people can walk on. Yet, in the last fifty years, because of the reasons I have just listed, the phenomenon has presented itself more and more frequently, flooding being more and more disastrous.
Learn about the very controversial project for Venice flood with Venice Guide and Boat
The solution to the problem should to be some sort of a submerged barrage system called Mose, after the great manipulator of waters.
The costly project was to involve laying 80 steel flaps on the floor of the 3 canals that provide access to the lagoon; in case of emergency the ballast is released from the flaps and the barrier rises to protect the city.
Yet Mose remains a very controversial issue and many experts and politicians are still criticizing it. It has been the object of extensive studies and testing, but experts claim the problems are the deeper effect of a series of neglect and rushed-in decisions that never showed any consideration for one fact: that the existence of Venice has always depended on the equilibrium of its lagoon, something the old Venetians were very much aware of.