It is a city on water. Whether you are approaching by air or traveling by train across a causeway you are stunned the first time you see Venice. It is a city that should not exist. Majestic cathedrals, palaces, and beautiful quaint buildings just erupt from the sea. You’re mind is telling you that this should not be, yet it is. Venice is unlike any other place you will ever visit.
We loved every single minute in Venice. Of course we are art/architecture and food junkies…so Venice is another form of paradise for us. And the shopping is great too. But the tourist version of Venice is a new thing. What lasted for centuries was a financial and maritime/military juggernaut that dominated the late Medieval and Renaissance worlds.
Venice began around AD 452. Attila the Hun and later other barbarians were coming down from central Europe pillaging and killing and enslaving everyone in their path. The Roman Empire was crumbling. Many of the citizens in the Veneto region of northern Italy proudly considered themselves to be free citizens of Rome. They were also Christians, and they wanted to escape the barbarians. Where would they go? They looked out at the water and saw a shallow lagoon with several marshy islands. Maybe if they could make it there, they could begin a new life and be safe from the barbarians. (Attila and the other invaders did not have a navy.)
So they got their families into boats and rowed out to the marshy islands to begin a new life. As Dr. Thomas Madden says in his excellent book (“Venice, A New History”): “There, they hoped, they could survive the end of the world. Although they could never have known it, the desperate men, women, and children in those lonely boats were the founders of one of history’s most remarkable cities.” Venice became a republic…a state in which they were not ruled by dynasties of ruling elites. Instead, the Venetians elected their own leaders! They were a government of laws, not men, and for a thousand years the free people of Venice were the freest people in the world.
It’s an amazing city with an incredible story. Go see it for yourself!