"Venice's popularity with visitors helped make the republic a trade-blazer of the tourist industry. The first guidebooks for tourists, published in Venice in the 1500s, were guides to the city's sights. Venice was becoming renowned for its elegant buildings, exotic atmosphere, beautiful art and music, and colorful ceremonies. More and more visitors came to experience this unique city for themselves. Restaurants and inns flourished. The business of producing souvenirs also grew- in 18th century many artists earned their living by painting Venetian scenes for tourists.
By the 1700s Venice had a reputation as a city of pleasure. Wealthy and adventurous people flocked there, especially during Carnival time, when they could be unknown behind their masks. They left their troubles behind at plays and operas. They gossiped in the cafes. They won and lost fortunes in elegant casinos, where they enjoyed music and dancing as well as gambling. In this city of dreams, they indulged themselves as they could never dream of doing at home. After Napoleon's conquest of Venice, the crowds of pleasure seekers fell away."
"Venice, or Venezia as it is known in Italian, is an architectural delight, an entire city built on an artificial island in the middle of a lagoon. With palaces, churches and ordinary houses which have not changed since the 16th century, Venice wallows in the past, remembering a time when it was the richest city in the world, bearing the title 'The Most Serene Republic of Venice'.
The history of Venice starts on a different island, Torcello. Because the inhabitants were completely at home in boats and on the water, in 811 AD, some of them started to live on a mud bank called Rialto in the middle of the lagoon. They started to convert this into a proper island, sinking wooden piles into the mud and building quays and flat areas on which to build houses. The city of Venice was born. Eventually, Torcello was abandoned with all the population moving to Venice.
Protected by the lagoon from attackers, Venice had literally no natural resources and nothing going for it except its security and the ability of the people to handle boats.
Everything needed to be shipped into the city so the Venetians became experts in moving merchandise, in short, traders. At that time, trade between Europe and the Orient was just taking off and the Venetians were in there from the start. Marco Polo, a Venetian trader, did much to open up trade routes to China, bringing back to Venice such exotic eastern dishes as rice and pasta, both still a staple of the Italian people. Situated on the trade route from the Orient to Europe, the Venetians became fabulously rich.
As the city became richer, the Venetians developed their military skills and their navy became the best in the world, ruling the Mediterranean.
During the decline of the city, a new problem became evident. Venice was sinking into the lagoon. Built on wooden piles sunk into mud, the weight of an entire city was pushing the island down into the mud. As the centuries passed, tides rose higher. By the 20th Century, the city had sunk so far that St Mark's Square was flooded every spring tide, that is, every two weeks."
city, major seaport, and capital of both the provincia (province) of Venezia and the regione (region) of Veneto, northern Italy. An island city, it was once the centre of a maritime republic. It was the greatest seaport in late medieval Europe and the continent's commercial and cultural link with Asia. Venice is unique environmentally, architecturally, and historically, and in its days as a republic the city was styled la serenissima ("the most serene" or "sublime"). It remains a major Italian port in the northern Adriatic Sea and is one of the world's oldest tourist and cultural centers.
Since the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797, the city has held an unrivaled place in the Western imagination and has been endlessly described in prose and verse. The luminous spectacle of ornate marbled and frescoed palaces, bell towers, and domes reflected in the sparkling waters of the lagoon under a blue Adriatic sky has been painted, photographed, and filmed to such an extent that it is difficult to distinguish the real city from its romantic representations.
Today Venice is recognized as part of the artistic and architectural patrimony of all humanity, a fitting role for a city whose thousand-year economic and political independence was sustained by its role in global trading. The situation of the city on islands has limited modern suburban spread beyond the historic centre; its framework of canals and narrow streets has prevented the intrusion of automobiles; and its wealth of fine buildings and monuments dating from the period of commercial dominance has ensured a keen and almost universal desire for sensitive conservation. This concern for conservation is now extended not just to the city's monuments but to the very city itself, as rising water levels and subsidence of the land upon which Venice is built threaten the continued existence of the city in its present form.
The landscape of Venice is as much a product of its economic activities, past and present, as of its physical environment. The enduring foundation of Venetian wealth was maritime commerce, initially in local products such as fish and salt from the lagoon, but rapidly expanding to include rich stores of merchandise as Venice became the entrepot between Europe and the Middle East and Asia.
Venetian trade required well-constructed vessels both for transport and for protection from pirates, rivals, and Turkish military forces. Shipbuilding inevitably became a major industry. It occupied a whole sector in the northeast of the city, the Arsenal - a vast assemblage of basins, yards, and workshops for making sails, ropes, and ordnance. At its entrance is an elaborately decorated gateway with a fine group of stone lions guarding what was until the 18th century Europe's largest industrial complex.
But the real focus of commercial shipping today is Port Marghera, developed next to the suburb of Mestre on the mainland shore west of Venice. Although these areas are incorporated into the administration of Venice, the chief port activities are largely separate from the city proper. Their impact on the old city, however, has been considerable. Marghera was for 50 years the site of a huge oil-refining and petrochemical complex, easily visible from Venice and a source of air pollution that severely damaged its architecture. Although industrial activity at Marghera has declined, the long-term damage of pollution is still felt.
Reacting to their physical environment and to a variety of cultural influences - from Italy, northern Europe, and the East - the Venetians consciously designed their city as an exceptional place. They regarded it as a divinely ordained centre of religious, civic, and commercial life, a community blessed by St. Mark, protected by its lagoon, and governed by a balanced constitution incorporating monarchy, aristocracy, and republican liberty. Historians refer to this perception as the "myth of Venice." The architecture of the city, especially in the Renaissance, purposely emulated republican Rome, and the great rituals of state - the doge's procession from his palace to the basilica or the annual Marriage with the Sea, when the doge cast a gold ring into the lagoon saying "We wed you, Sea, as a symbol of our perpetual Rule" - publicly expressed the myth.
A growing problem for Venice is the loss of population from the city core. Faced with poor social amenities and old, decaying, often damp buildings with rents inflated by the costs of renovation, demands of the tourist industry, and wealthy foreign residents (who are often absent from their houses), Venetians have elected in ever -increasing numbers to move into modern apartments in the mainland boroughs of Mestre and Marghera or on the Lido. This exodus has produced a daily commuting problem and has left the city of Venice with a smaller resident population than many of its formerly subject towns. It threatens to turn Venice into a museum city - a glorious spectacle whose architectural and artistic heritage is preserved, as it should be, but whose daily life is almost a parody of the vital unity of commerce, piety, politics, and ritual that was the pride of la serenissima.
Venice has always been a city of production, from the invention of mass boat and ship construction in the Arsenal to the industrialization of Port Marghera.
In a broad sense, the entire history of Venice has been that of a struggle to control and utilize the environment, and indeed the most urgent problems confronting the present-day city are environmental. In the second half of the 20th century, the deterioration of ancient buildings and art treasures, which had long been associated with natural phenomena such as flooding and subsidence, was intensified by an atmosphere laden with sulfuric acid, much of it generated by industrial and domestic smoke.
Tourism has been a major sector of Venetian industry since the 18th century, when it was a major centre for the grand tour, due to its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. In the 19th century, it became a fashionable centre for the rich and famous, often staying or dining at luxury establishments. It continued being a fashionable city in vogue right into the early 20th century.
Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Bridges", and "The City of Light". Luigi Barzini, writing in The New York Times, described it as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man" and it has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities."