Monday, March 25, 2013

6 Less-Known Facts about Venice, Italy

Many years ago, in 421, at the very same day, March 25, the Great City of Venice was founded. The city was built by people who were escaping Attila’s invasion, so the city’s unique landscape would make it harder for invaders to infiltrate. The Venice Republic was the biggest power of the Mediterranean during 1300's-1500's.  Its territories embraced a big area in the east Mediterranean sea, encompassing the terra firma, that is the current Veneto and Friuli, and the today's Croatian Histria and Dalmatia with their islands, plus part of the Greek islands. The fall of the Republic of Venice occurred in 1797, when the Serenissima yielded to the military campaigns of Napoleon in Italy. With the Campoformio Treaty Venice and the Veneto, plus Histria and Dalmatia, were relinquished to the Austrian Empire, which ruled over them for about 60 years.  

Even those, who never visited the city, know for sure that it is beautiful. Venice captured the impression of a magical floating city by setting wood pilings on the 118 submerged islands in the Northern end of the Adriatic Sea. 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals connect the city to make it easily accessible to the local populace.

In this post, we would like to present some less-known interesting facts about Venice.

1.       Is Venice sinking?

It is sad, but quite obvious fact that Venice is slowly sinking. Reports say that the city has sunk by about seven centimeters a century for the past 1000 years, and has subsided over 24 centimeters in the past century alone. The debate about how to save Venice has been fierce for a long time. An ambitious project called MOSE is underway to secure the future of Venice, by building a series of movable dams (inflatable gates). Then again, it is said that it's only a temporary measure which could protect the city for just 100 years.

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2.       How Venice was built?

When we mentioned earlier more than one hundreds islands, you may assume that the city was built on these pieces of ground. But that assumption would not be correct. The city was not actually built on the islets. Instead, its structures are supported by a series of wooden platforms. These platforms are secured by additional structures placed in the sea. Why did the Venetians do this? The lands themselves were not strong enough to support a regular building. As such, there are millions of “piles” underneath the Venetian lagoon. As you understand, this process was not easy. One of the region’s most famous churches took over two years to build. An astounding 1,106,657 piles were needed to complete its construction. These piles were 11.2 feet long.

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3.       Venice sewer system

Actually, Venice has no sewer system at all. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.

4.       Want to be a Gondolier?

If your dream job is to become a Gondola driver in Venice, think twice, as it is not that easy to get a “driver license” there. Only 3 to 4 Gondolier licenses are issued annually. To qualify, applicants must be able to finish an extensive training after passing a rigorous exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolas operating in Venice today.

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5.       Venice population is shrinking

It is hard to imagine, but depopulation is one of the most serious issues facing Venetian society. Nowadays, Venice has less than 60,000 inhabitants when they were at 140,000 in the golden days. Some experts believe that Venice may become a ghost town as early as 2030. It would only get traffic from visitors (Each year the town receives 18 million tourists, which is an average of 50,000 tourists per day). Among the main of why Venice suffers with depopulation there are two seemingly controversial reasons: frequent floods and high cost of real estate purchase and maintenance.  In 1966 there was a flood which promoted a mass escape. Sixteen apartments were simply abandoned. And at the same time the increasing cost of Venetian real estate limits the ability of the average citizen to buy a home there. Instead, rich foreigners or corporations are taking residence.

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6.       Dying in Venice

Isola di San Michele, a former prison, is Venice’s cemetery.  Because space is so limited on San Michele bodies are buried in tight rows of graves and are allowed to decompose for a mere twelve years before being dug up and the remains either moved into an urn or put with countless others in a nearby bone yard.

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