Venice and its Lagoon

800px-santa_maria_della_salute_-_venice2c_italy_-_panoramio
Santa Maria della Salute (Sergey Ashmarin/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0).
 Italy
Province of Venezia, Veneto Region
N45 26 3.5 E12 20 20.2
Date of Inscription: 1987
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)(vi)
Ref: 394
28182099584_46c5aed5c6_b
The Grand Canal (Ray in Manila/Flickr, CC BY 2.0).

The UNESCO World Heritage property comprises the city of Venice and its lagoon situated in the Veneto Region of Northeast Italy. Founded in the 5th century AD and spread over 118 small islands, Venice became a major maritime power in the 10th century. The whole city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and others.

In this lagoon covering 50,000 km², nature and history have been closely linked since the 5th century when Venetian populations, to escape barbarian raids, found refuge on the sandy islands of Torcello, Jesolo and Malamocco. These temporary settlements gradually became permanent and the initial refuge of the land-dwelling peasants and fishermen became a maritime power. Over the centuries, during the entire period of the expansion of Venice, when it was obliged to defend its trading markets against the commercial undertakings of the Arabs, the Genoese and the Ottoman Turks, Venice never ceased to consolidate its position in the lagoon.

In this inland sea that has continuously been under threat, rises amid a tiny archipelago at the very edge of the waves one of the most extraordinary built-up areas of the Middle Ages. From Torcello to the north to Chioggia to the south, almost every small island had its own settlement, town, fishing village and artisan village (Murano). However, at the heart of the lagoon, Venice itself stood as one of the greatest capitals in the medieval world. When a group of tiny islands were consolidated and organized in a unique urban system, nothing remained of the primitive topography but what became canals, such as the Giudecca Canal, St Mark’s Canal and the Great Canal, and a network of small rii that are the veritable arteries of a city on water.

Venice and its lagoon landscape is the result of a dynamic process which illustrates the interaction between people and the ecosystem of their natural environment over time. Human interventions show high technical and creative skills in the realization of the hydraulic and architectural works in the lagoon area. The unique cultural heritage accumulated in the lagoon over the centuries is attested by the discovery of important archaeological settlements in the Altino area and other sites on the mainland, which were important communication and trade hubs.

Venice and its lagoon form an inseparable whole of which the city of Venice is the pulsating historic heart and a unique artistic achievement. The influence of Venice on the development of architecture and monumental arts has been considerable..

Criterion (i): Venice is a unique artistic achievement. The city is built on 118 small islands and seems to float on the waters of the lagoon, composing an unforgettable landscape whose imponderable beauty inspired Canaletto, Guardi, Turner and many other painters. The lagoon of Venice also has one of the highest concentrations of masterpieces in the world: from Torcello’s Cathedral to the church of Santa Maria della Salute.The years of the Republic’s extraordinary Golden Age are represented by monuments of incomparable beauty: San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, San Zanipolo, Scuola di San Marco, Frari and Scuola di San Rocco, San Giorgio Maggiore, etc.

Criterion (ii): The influence of Venice on the development of architecture and monumental arts is considerable; first through the Serenissima’s fondachi or trading stations, along the Dalmatian coast, in Asia Minor and in Egypt, in the islands of the Ionian Sea, the Peloponnesus, Crete, and Cyprus, where the monuments were clearly built following Venetian models. But when it began to lose its power over the seas, Venice exerted its influence in a very different manner, thanks to its great painters. Bellini and Giorgione, then Tiziano, Tintoretto, Veronese and Tiepolo completely changed the perception of space, light and colour thus leaving a decisive mark on the development of painting and decorative arts in the whole of Europe.

Criterion (iii): With the unusualness of an archaeological site which still breathes life, Venice bears testimony unto itself. This mistress of the seas is a link between the East and the West, between Islam and Christianity and lives on through thousands of monuments and vestiges of a time gone by.

Criterion (iv): Venice possesses an incomparable series of architectural ensembles illustrating the hight of the Republic’s splendour. From great monuments such as Piazza San Marco and Piazzetta (the cathedral, Palazzo Ducale, Marciana, Museo Correr Procuratie Vecchie), to the more modest residences in the calli and campi of its six quarters (Sestieri), including the 13th century Scuole hospitals and charitable or cooperative institutions, Venice presents a complete typology of medieval architecture, whose exemplary value goes hand-in-hand with the outstanding character of an urban setting which had to adapt to the special requirements of the site.

Criterion (v): In the Mediterranean area, the lagoon of Venice represents an outstanding example of a semi-lacustral habitat which has become vulnerable as a result of irreversible natural and climate changes. In this coherent ecosystem where the muddy shelves (alternately above and below water level) are as important as the islands, pile-dwellings, fishing villages and rice-fields need to be protected no less than the palazzi and churches.

Criterion (vi): Venice symbolizes the people’s victorious struggle against the elements as they managed to master a hostile nature. The city is also directly and tangibly associated with the history of humankind. The “Queen of the Seas”, heroically perched on her tiny islands, extended her horizon well beyond the lagoon, the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. It was from Venice that Marco Polo (1254-1324) set out in search of China, Annam, Tonkin, Sumatra, India and Persia. His tomb at San Lorenzo recalls the role of Venetian merchants in the discovery of the world – after the Arabs, but well before the Portuguese.

Recommended base:

Venice (Italian: Venezia; Venetian: Venexia) used to be an independent republic, and remains one of Italy’s most important cities. This sanctuary on a lagoon is virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character. Venice has decayed since its heyday and is heavily touristed (there are slightly more tourists than residents), but the romantic charm remains. It is also known as the birthplace of composers Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi. Venice and its lagoon are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The comune (municipality) of Venice is made up of numerous islands in the Venetian Lagoon as well as a stretch of terraferma (mainland) in northern Italy. The comune is divided into six boroughs, the most famous of which (known as Venezia Insulare) comprises the historic city of Venice as well as the islands of Giudecca, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Mazzorbo, and Sant’Erasmo. [read more]

Verona is an historic city with a population of about a quarter of a million in north-eastern Italy’s Veneto region. It’s most famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Though close to the more popular tourist destination of Venice, many people consider Verona a more relaxed and pleasant place to visit. There are many tourists, but the number of tourists per square metre is lower. Verona was a Roman city, and many Roman ruins have been preserved, notably the Arena. The ancient city was badly wrecked by the earthquake of 1117 AD, which led to a flurry of re-building. Therefore, most of the historical sights on view today date from the past 800 years, while the Roman city lies 6 metres below you. [read more]

Bologna (Emilian: Bulåggna) is a historical city, with around 380,000 inhabitants. Although it is well known by Italians, it is less so among foreign visitors. Little English is spoken by its residents. It is the capital and largest city of Emilia-Romagna (a region in northern Italy). Bologna is famed for the oldest university in the Western world, lively student population, exquisite food, typical brick terracotta-roofed architecture and porticos, theatre and nightlife. Bologna is famous for its cuisine (la cucina Bolognese). It is also viewed as a progressive and well-administered city. It is considered second only to Venice in beauty by many Italians and certainly has one of the largest and best preserved historic centers among Italian cities. Its architecture is noted for its palette of terracotta reds, burnt oranges, and warm yellows, hence the name of Bologna la rossa (Bologna the red). [read more]

CATEGORY:     ITALY
TAG:     IT – VENICE AND ITS LAGOON

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