Venice history

La Fenice - Entrance from the canal

La Fenice – Entrance from the canal

Venice is a city full of culture and art. The Venice history is reflected almost everywhere in the city. Basically every house has an interesting history and is charming in its own way, even if they might be deteriorating. If you like culture do not miss a performance in the world-famous Opera La Fenice, in the middle of the island. Especially charming it is to arrive by boat or to leave by boat at night. If you happen to be there, join into the exciting program of the La Biennale, the yearly art and culture program which spans basically the entire year. It involves art programs, architectural fairs and exhibitions, the famous Venice Film Festival in autumn, dance and music performances, theater and historical archives of Contemporary Arts.

Venice History

Looking at the history, Venice like not many other cities in Europe has dominated the development of the continent throughout centuries through its dominant position in sea trade between Asia and Europe, its military naval power and its diplomacy.

The history of Venice starts in the turmoils of the emigration of nations in Europe in the first century. The mighty center of Roman power, the city of Aquileia), was destroyed by the hun king Attila in the year 452. It is still very impressive to see the many remains, amongst them the old Basilica of that Roman town.  Many inhabitants flew into the swamps of the nearby laguna. Over the next centuries, these people fortified the shallow islands of the swamps and started building houses and infrastructure.

The Saint Mark's Lion - Symbol of the Venetian Republic

The Saint Mark’s Lion – Symbol of the Venetian Republic

In 828, according to a legend, Venetian traders steal relics of the saint Markus in Alexandria on the African shores and bring them to Venice. The lion, which is the symbol of the saint Marcus, becomes the symbol of the republic.

Around the year 1000, Venice becomes the hub for trade between the orient and Europe, after it supports the Byzantine Roman emperor against the Arabs, giving them privileges in trade.

1104, the Arsenal, the huge basin and fabric halls for batch production of galleys is founded. The highly efficient production processes allow Venice from now on to prosper even more as naval power.

Around 1200, Venice receives tree eights of the Byzantine territory after a military victory. Venice installs colonies on the Aegean islands of Crete, Eubeoa, Naxos and others.

Between 1423 and 1457, Venice occupies significant territories on the mainland in the north of the city and calls them Terraferm – firm land.

1453 is a year of fate for Europe, after Constantinople, the capital city and last remain of the Roman empire, is conquered by the Ottomans. Hence, Venice enters centuries of hostility against the Ottomans in the eastern Mediterraneans and later on in Southeastern Europe, especially in Dalmatia.

After the rediscovery of the American continent by Christoph Kolumbus in 1492 and the sea route to India in 1498 by Vasco de Gama, trade routes reroute away from the ancient ways held by the Venetians. The might and power of Venice starts to diminish slowly.

In the 1500s the Venice history is charactericed by losses of big parts of its Terraferma. The republic has high costs for defending its territories but experiences high times of art and architecture, with famous artists like Tizian, Sansovino, Nicolo da Ponte and Tintorreto. The mightiest families, the Patricians, build the still today famous Palazzi.

The Rialto bridge with typical ship poles in the foreground

The Rialto bridge with typical ship poles in the foreground

In 1524, the Rialto bridge over the Canale Grande is build, after the former wooden bridge collapsed.

In 1572, the Venetian fleet and its allies achieve a historic naval victory over the Ottoman fleet in Lepanto. However, the expanding Ottoman empire forces Venice in the coming decates to abandon the colonies on the islands of Cypress (1573) and Crete (1669). With Crete, Venice loses its last big outpost in the Eastern Mediterraneans.

The world famous coffee bar Florian, opens in 1683 as “Alla Venezia Trionfante”.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous German poet visits Venice in 1786 and writes about it, which initiates the slow transformation of the former trade power of Venice into a tourist attraction.

In 1797, after almost 1000 years, Venice is conquered by Napoelon and the republic of Venice ceases to exist. Some years later, in 1815 handed over to the Austrian Habsburg empire. The Austrians build a rail bridge from the mainland to the island in 1841, which is still in use today.

In 1866, Venice becomes part of Italy, after the Austrians lost a war against the Prussians.

The world famous La Biennale, the festival of contemporary art, is initiated in 1895.

As of today, only around 65,000 people have a permanent domicile in Venice, while over 10 million tourists visit the island every year.

A more detailed overview of the Venice’s history can be found on this page from