World Facts Index > Italy > Venice

The best way to reach Venice is to take the train. There are few parking spaces in Piazzale Roma, and these are normally costly and almost always occupied. If you decide to go to drive to Tronchetto, you'll find that the situation there is not much better. It makes sense to leave your car in Mestre in a supervised carpark and to take a train into the centre of Venice.

Remember that when you reach Venice, you will walk a lot! This is not because the city is big, but because the numerous bridges have numerous stairs to climb and descend, be warned: wear comfortable shoes and expect to be worn out by a day exploring the city.

A few words about the layout of the city: Venice is divided into six zones, and the addresses have consecutive numbers eg. Cannaregio 1, 2 etc. As well as having a 'popolare' address, each building has an official address eg Cannaregio XXXX, Calle delle Vele. The popular address and the official address are always written together. The tricky thing is that each of the zones has the same street name So postmen have a very difficult (and highly respected) job, because the official address (eg Calle delle Vele) is never enough to make sure the post goes to the right place.

The six zones or sestiere are, as follows: San Marco, San Polo, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Castello and Santa Croce. Although there are six zones, it is possible to cross the city on foot in under an hour. The zones do not really have strict divisions, however, Dursoduro contains students and the city's university; Cannaregio is the area in which you can find the historic ghetto; San Marco has the basilica and the piazza, which is probably one of the world's most famous squares. San Polo is a down-to-earth zone where the locals live and hang out and Castello has the beautiful Giardini and the Biennale d'Arte (the Venice Arts Festival). Santa Croce is next to the station, just after the Ponte degli Scalzi.

Venice is the only European city and one of the few in the world to have its public transport located entirely on the water (the company is Actv) the timetable constantly changes, depending on the tide. The main waterway, in Venice (Canal Grande) is shaped like an 'S'; this means that if you want to travel from San Marco to Rialto by boat, it will take you twice as long as it would to walk (even if you were walking at a snail's pace). The Grand Canal has only three bridges: the Ponte dell'Accademia, the Ponte di Rialto and the Ponte di Rialto. However, at certain points along the canal it is also possible to hire a gondola (for a modest sum) to cross the stretch of water; it is often saves a great deal of time using a gondola, rather than searching for a bridge.

The main Actv lines are: no. 1, which sails from Piazzale Roma to Lido with lots of stops on the Grand Canal; it is very slow (it takes half an hour from start to finish) and should be used if you want to go sightseeing. There are two circular routes, nos. 41(anticlockwise) and 42 (clockwise) which travel around the whole of the city from San Zaccaria to Piazzale Roma via Giudecca, Cimitero and Murano. There are also nos. 51 and 52: they travel as far as Lido with fewer stops; the 82 also leaves from Lido to Rialto and finally arrives at San Zaccaria stopping at Giudecca, Piazzale Roma, Tronchetto and Ferrovia.

If taxis are more your 'thing', the water borne taxis have very different charges to the more generally found 'land' taxi. You should always tell the 'driver' your destination and find out the price before stepping onboard. Gondolas are also subject to additional charges: Although you will be charged for an hour in a gondola, the trip will actually only last 50 minutes and will cost L.120,000 for up to six people.

History of Venice

According to official historic chronology, one of the first, important events in the history of Venice was the election of the first doge, a type of magistrate, in 697 by the Byzantines, whose name was Paoluccio Anafesto. The domination of Byzantium is much talked about but has little factual basis. However, the city was already an established historical reality in 811 when it moved to Rivoalto, which is now called Rialto, from the islands around Torcello and Malamocco. Agnello Partecipazio was the doge at this time. The remains of St Mark were brought to the city in 829, rescued by two keen fishermen.

The current appearance of the city was more or less in place by the year 1000, under Pietro Tribun. The ordination of power took place in 1177, when Alessandro III met with the Emperor Federico, to negotiate relations between the papacy, the council and the empire. However, in 1204 the situation changed when, after providing ships and equipment for the fourth crusade, Venice first received help to reconquer Zara, and then also kept a large part of the booty of the crusade. This unusual crusade started out to conquer Jerusalem, but ended up sharing out the remains of the Byzantine Empire. Venice won control of a huge part of these spoils which made up an empire. Thanks to a commercial policy that also set up a strict military stronghold, the territories became their rightful property.

The state evolved with the decree of the Great Council in 1297. This act only permitted citizens to participate if their ancestors had served on the Council. As a result the number of nobles in power increased which guaranteed, in theory, that they would continue to hold power even if a rival faction took over. As a result, political struggles were poisoned by many private feuds. According to Bartolo da Sassoferrato, although it is true that the nobility were not much respected by the people, they had more respect than in other cities which were governed in the same way. The population mostly accepted their government, and, as there was such a large population, there were few internal divisions and the majority were reasonably well off, which meant that the society was fairly stable.

It was not until a century later, in 1380, that Genoa was no longer considered a problem. After the war of Chioggia, the struggle with the Ligurian city ceased, it was no longer a military obstacle and only commercial rivalry remained even though they now had control of the eastern routes.

Events that took place around the middle of the fifteenth century would change the fate of the Mediterranean forever. The expansion on the mainland, and the conquest of a great part of Lombardy was the driving force in successive alliances to overthrow an overwhelming power, the first of which was the definitive fall of Constantinopole to the Turks. The trade routes which were the basis of the Italian states, became insecure, and the mercantile trade started to decline. The final straw was the discovery of the American continent. The Mediterranean was on the brink of becoming a kind of lake under the threat of the Ottoman Empire. For many, it was the beginning of the end.

Although Venice had a somewhat overrated victory at Lepanto, Cyprus fell and the ultimate insult was the loss of Crete in 1669. Thirty years later, Venice regained possession of Morea for a period of twenty years. The Turkish wars ended in 1718 with the overwhelming victory of the Turks. Venice then enjoyed its last century of freedom under the rule of the nobility as in 1797, Napoleon handed it to Austria, after having pretended to undergo negotiations. In 1805 he returned to Venice and completed the domination of the city. The industrial structures were knocked down and the city became a shadow of its former self. In 1848-9, it was invaded again by the Hapsburgs, and in 1866, it was united with the Kingdom of Italy.

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