20 Interesting facts about Venice, Italy.

Facts about Venice, Italy: origin and history

  • The origin of Venice dates back to the mid 400, over 1500 years ago.

  • The foundation of the town was the result of a flight of the people living in the Veneto terra firma: as a consequence of the barbarians invasion from northern and eastern Europe following the Roman Empire decline they escaped towards the nearby archipelago. Here more details about the early history of Venice

  • The Venice Republic was the biggest power of the Mediterranean during 1300's-1500's.
    Its territories embraced a big area in the east Mediterranean sea, encompassing the terra firma, that is the current Veneto and Friuli, and the today's Croatian Histria and Dalmatia with their islands, plus part of the Greek islands.

  • The fall of the Republic of Venice occurred in 1797, when the Serenissima yielded to the military campaigns of Napoleon in Italy.
    With the Campoformio Treaty Venice and the Veneto, plus Histria and Dalmatia, were relinquished to the Austrian Empire, which ruled over them for about 60 years. Read more about the history of the Venice Republic at its peak, and its fall

Facts about Venice: how was the town built?

  • Venice lies on an archipelago made up of 118 flat islands far off the Veneto coast, in the northeastern Mediterranean (aka Adriatic sea).

  • Venice was not built directly on the surface of the islets, but instead supported by wooden platforms kept together by wooden piles entrenched in the sea bed. Why? Because those emerging flat lands were not sturdy enough to support a building on them.

  • For this reason, under the Venice lagoon there are literally millions of wooden piles.

    In a book titled Venezia città nobilissima del Sansovino, published in Venice in 1663, the Venice building proceeding is explained in details.
    Just think that to consolidate the ground in order to build the Santa Maria della Salute church, over a period of two years and two months 1,106,657 wooden piles were dug underwater, each of them measuring on average about 4 mt/11,2 ft long.

Facts about Venice: figures

  • In Venice there are about 7000 chimneys, of over 10 different types and shapes.

  • 170 bell towers stand over the former queen of the Mediterranean. In the past, besides serving as a call for church services, they were also used as lighthouses or as observatories to control fires, mostly the San Marco bell tower, the tallest in the town.

  • The San Marco bell tower - or campanile - is the Italy's fifth tallest bell tower, measuring 98,6mt/275ft.
    Built in the 12th century, it collapsed un-expectantly in 1902. The only victim was the poor cat of the caretaker. The tower was afterwards rebuilt exactly the same.

  • Venice is made up of 118 islands, 416 bridges, 177 canals, 127 campi (squares).

  • The biggest and longest canal is the S-shaped Grand Canal, splitting the town in two.

  • There are 3 ancient bridges over the Grand Canal: Rialto bridge, Accademia, Scalzi (Ferrovia).
    There is a fourth one, the recent Calatrava bridge, close to the Scalzi bridge, near Piazzale Roma. It is only 4 years old, but I was recently told that it already begins to show signs of decay, unlike the centuries old ones...

  • 6 sestieri, (Venetian quarters) make up Venice: San Marco, San Polo, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, Cannaregio, Castello.

  • There are about 350 gondolas and 400 gondolieri.

  • The Veneto town is visited by 18 millions tourists a year, on average 50,000 a day.

Facts about Venice: its problems

  • Depopulation is a serious issue for the lagoon town: Venetians living in the historic center were 121,000 in 1966, decreased to about 60,000 today.
    At this rate, some experts expect that in 2030 Venice may be a ghost town, populated only with tourists, coming in at morning until evening, like in a big theme park. Very sad.

  • The main causes of the Venice depopulation are:

    1. the first great escape was during the 1966 flood (the same rainy year when Florence was hardly hit as well). On that occasion 16.000 Venetian ground-floor apartements were abandoned.

    2. The progressive sinking of the town, with more frequent acqua alta (high water) phenomenons.

    3. The increasing maintenance costs of its houses, old, often in bad conditions and constantly under attack by damp.

    4. The increasing costs of houses and rentals: the real estate market is now dominated more and more by very wealthy people or corporations, Italians and foreigners, making the prices prohibitive for ordinary mortals.

    5. This is both a cause and a consequence of depopulation: many small business, mom and pop stores, like handicraft stores, bakeries, small businesses, etc., are little by little closing down, swept away by big unpersonal chains established just for the huge tourism stream, or by stores filled with junk souvenirs or fake Venetian masks...

      It is a catch 22, because due to high prices, most tourists prefer to sleep in Mestre, and even bring with them their box lunch when visiting Venice during daytime. It is understandable, but that way Venice often ends up to get more drawbacks than benefits from tourism.

Other facts about Venice: acqua alta

  • Acqua alta - high water - is another problem for Venice, that tourists may find picturesque, but it is actually bothering to the Venetians, even though they are used to it.
    It happens in November-December, mostly as a result of an interaction between tides and Sirocco (a warm wind blowing from north Africa).

  • To fight back acqua alta, the city is now building a big engineering project called Mose, which is a system of big movable barriers able to lift up when the tides exceed a certain level, so to prevent the water from flooding the town.

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