Venice

(Venezia)
   One of the most famous and visited cities in the world, Venice was long one of Europe’s most powerful independent states, La Serenissima Repubblica (The Most Serene Republic). The doges of Venice (chosen by a popular assembly until AD 1172 and by a Grand Council of noblemen thereafter) dominated the eastern Mediterranean and trade between Europe and the East until the 18th century, when Venice’s centuries-long struggle against the power of the Ottoman Turks was brought to an end by the Peace of Passerowitz, in which the Venetians lost all their colonies except for settlements along the Dalmatian coastline.
   The city’s modern history began in 1797, when a century of economic decline ended in a popular revolt against the aristocracy and the institution of a short-lived democracy. Briefly under Austrian rule, Venice became part of Bonaparte’s Kingdom of Italy, but at the Congress of Vienna it was restored to Austria. In 1848, under the leadership of Daniele Manin, the city established a republic that held out against the Austrians until August 1849. It subsequently remained under Austrian rule until 1866 when, after a plebiscite, it passed into Italian hands.
   With the possible exceptions of Florence and Saint Petersburg, it is probably fair to say that no city in the world has so large a share of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage as Venice. Its long dominant position and its commercial wealth made the city a mecca for artists during the Renaissance and after. Bellini, Giorgione, Tiziano, Tintoretto, Veronese, Tiepolo, and Canaletto are all “Venetian” artists. The modern city has 70,000 inhabitants, down from 150,000 just a few decades ago. On the other side of the lagoon is the large industrial satellite-city of Mestre, with nearly 400,000 citizens. Tens of millions of tourists every year take a gondola down the Grand Canal or visit Saint Mark’s Square. Tourism, while an immense source of income for the local economy, has inflicted substantial environmental costs, and on some days during the high season the city has to block the road link from Mestre to prevent overcrowding. Venice is currently sinking into its lagoon at a dangerous rate, and the city council, the Italian government, and UNESCO are studying various projects to stop the slide.
   See also Napoleonic Italy.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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