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Falkenstein Venizia

Page history last edited by Michael 2 years, 9 months ago



     The history of 'the Jewel of the Adriatic' begins in 809 A.D., when the Carolingian king Pepin (son of Charlemagne), having defeated the German Lombards and forced them to recognize Frankish suzerainty, began a campaign to conquer the city of Malamocco, on the inland edge of the lagoons at the mouth of the River Po. The inhabitants of Malamocco fled to a group of islands, the Rivo Alto. Pepin's fleet, attempting to follow them, was destroyed, and the city of Venezia was founded, standing on more than one hundred islands.


     In 829, the Venetian Grand Council sent a group of merchant adventurers to Alexandria, where they stole the body of St. Mark and brought it back to Venezia as the city's patron saint.


     Beginning in the 13th Century, Venezia achieved naval superiority over Verona, and gained a commanding position in trade with the Levant, Greece, and the East. The Republic became a strictly autocratic affair, with an increasingly powerless Doge elected for life. The city became the sophisticated and splendid capital of a commercial empire. The corrupting influence of immense riches led to the shameful conquest of Constantinople in 1202 by Crusaders in debt to Venetian merchants.


     After the Turkish War ended in 1718 as a loss to the Ottoman Empire, Venezia began a long decline, although her citizens maintained their brilliant traditions, artistic temperament, unique customs and particular dialect. The Venetian Republic was extinguished by Napoleon in 1797; after the First Empire fell, Venezia was assigned to the Kingdom of Austria. At that time, the Golden Book (listing all members of the Grand Council) had grown to 1,218 names; most of the great families were living in idleness and poverty.


     The Resorgimento in 1849 re-established the Republic for seventeen months under Daniele Manin, until the Austrians reconquered the city. Manin, a grandson of the last Doge, Ludovico (reigned 1789-1797), died in exile in 1857. The Austrians continued to dominate the north of Italy until 1866, when, defeated by Prussia in the north, and by Mazzini and Garibaldi in Italy, they withdrew. Venezia is now firmly part of the Kingdom of Italy.




     Venezia (pop. 150,000) lies at the very head of the Adriatic Sea, 2 miles from the mainland of Italy in the Laguna Veneta, a salt-water lagoon 25 miles long and up to 9 miles wide, which is separated from the sea by three narrow sandy islands (lidi, sing. lido). It is a city of incomparable attraction with its unique network of canals and its beautiful palaces and churches. An air of picturesque decay has led artists of many lands to establish studios here.


     About one hundred canals, 118 islands, and 400 bridges define Venezia cartographically. Some 15,000 houses, built on piles, form a close-packed huddle of narrow streets and lanes, often no more than five feet wide. There is only one piazza, St. Mark's Square; smaller squares are called campo or campiello. The quays or embankments are called riva or fondamenta.


     Venezia's industry is confined to crafts such as glass blowing, lace making, and boat building. It is also an important seaport. A railroad bridge was constructed in 1841 by the Austrians, destroyed during the Resorgimento, and never rebuilt.


     Venezia is of course famous for its canals, and various gondolas, vaporetti (steam launches), dustbarges, ambulance boats, merchants delivery boats, fire-fighting boats, funerary craft, and private vessels ply the waters. The Grand Canal is two miles long, about 200 feet wide, and 15 feet deep; other canals have greatly reduced dimensions.


     Numerous small islands in the lagoon, while not part of Venezia proper, are integral to her history. San Michele, for example, is the cemetery island for the city; Murano is the centre of the glass-making industry; and Chioggia is a busy fishing port.


     Important events in the Venetian calendar include the Festa del Redentore and its famous boat-bridge to a Palladian church (third Saturday in July); the Gondola Race (first Sunday in September); and the famous Carneval, which runs from mid-February to Easter.


Visiting Venezia


     Travellers will find excellent accomodations at the hotels along the Grand Canal, near St. Mark's Square. Many of these are in fact converted from old aristocratic palaces. The Danieli, at Castello 4196; and the Gritti Palace, on the Campo San Moise, are particularly recommended; the Excelsior Palace Hotel, on the Lido a few miles away (but easily reached by water), is advised for those whose constitutions cannot abide Venezia's atmosphere for prolonged periods.


     If possible, of course, a traveller should engage a palazzo or casa (these terms are interchangeable in Venezia) for the duration of his or her stay. Any invitation from one of Venezia's old noble families should be accepted at once -- not only to avoid giving offence, but for the opportunity to view some of the hidden treasures of the crumbling old palaces along the Grand Canal, or the amazing gardens in the villas on the Giudecca. The acquaintance of a member of Venezia's nobility may also open the way to a box seat at La Fenice (Phoenix) Theatre, owned by the descendants of the city's great families. One of Europe's prettiest theatres, it has seen many glittering premieres (Verdi's La Traviata, for example), and is the meeting-place of Venetian Society. While there is a land entrance, the only proper entrance is by gondola on the Rio Verona. It should be remembered that the first public opera house in the world opened, in 1637, in Venezia.


     Those seeking magical or academic lore would do well to seek entrance to the State Archives, on the Campo dei Frari. Over one thousand years of uninterrupted records are deposited here, over 12 million volumes organized by the character of their contents. A good knowledge of Latin is of course essential. Another useful source of information is the ancient Marciana Library; it contains many archives brought from the collapsing Byzantine Empire, and has been open since 1560 in a grand building on St. Mark's Square.


     Travel in Venezia by gondola or private steam-launch (vaporetti) is expensive, but affords grand views and the pleasure of relaxation -- there are, of course, no carriages, steam or otherwise, on Venezia's narrow and uneven streets. Porters and ganziers (retired gondoliers attending travellers at the quays) should be tipped, but tipping and alms-giving opportunities are refreshingly rare in Venezia.


     Veal is the staple meat of Venetian cuisine, generally quite good but dull. The traditional Venetian meat dish is fegato alla Veneziana, fried liver and onions. The one meat which is nearly always good is prosciutto crudo, raw ham, generally eaten as a starting dish. It usually comes from Parma, and is to be relied on for its quality. It is often served with melon or figs, and if the figs be in season they are delicious, served skinned and ice cold.


     Those who like soup are fortunate. It is nearly always good, especially the vegetable and fish soups -- although the calamari and seppie, squids cooked in their own juices, are not to everyone's taste.


     Pasta dishes are never bad; fine fish dishes are available. The coda di rospo ("toad's tail"), while terrifying in appearance, makes a good and inexpensive dish. Mushrooms, artichokes, and other vegetables abound. The local cheese is highly regarded.


     The local hot beverage is a variety of coffee, caffe espresso, very strong. Campari with soda, vermouth, and the local white wine (Soave) are recommended.


     Excellent guide books by Baedeker, Murray and others describe the many churches, palaces, museums and other places of interest in detail.



Expenses in Venezia




night at the best hotels

40 s

50 lira

month rent on unfurnished apartment

80 s

100 lira

month rent on unfurnished minor palace

100 gn

2,625 lira

excellent meal

20 - 40 s

25 - 50 lira

gondola fare

3 - 5 p

6 - 10 soldo

vaporetti (to own)

50 gn

1,312 lira




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