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  • Writer's pictureJody Ferguson

Venezia Giuliano

In July of 2023 we decided to visit Venice, where I had not been since I was a teenager almost forty years ago. I went with low expectations, having read about the hordes of tourists emerging from cruise ships to inundate the town. In addition, we were visiting in late July, the height of the tourist season. We were in nearby Croatia for the summer, so I figured a short drive to see the sights, even if they were crowded, couldn’t be all bad. We could always just get back in our car and leave if it proved to be overwhelming.

Contrary to my expectations, Venice was stunning. If you look past the gaping masses with smart phones aloft to take selfies, the city cannot but impress and awe you. The architecture is perhaps second to none of any city I have visited. As you cruise the canals or walk the stone streets, the beauty of each building or home leaves you breathless. There is not a wasted piece of architectural space. And for my money, St. Mark’s Basilica is the most beautiful cathedral in the world, both inside and out. At night after the tour groups and ships have left, the streets become empty, leaving the cats to stroll. It is the best time to walk around. In the 12th century classic history, The Travels of Marco Polo, the young Polo has to keep his impressions of Venice to himself when he is questioned by the great Kublai Khan, ruler of China and Mongolia. Each time the Khan asks Polo if he has seen anything as impressive or beautiful as some place in his vast empire, Polo has to resist the urge to answer, “Yes, Venice.”

The Venetian Republic, which originated in the 8th Century as a province of the Byzantine Empire (Rome’s eastern successor), grew into a wealthy republic which controlled trade routes between Europe and the Mideast and Asia for more than four centuries. Venetian ships dominated the eastern Mediterranean, while its littoral territory stretched down the eastern Adriatic Sea encompassing much of Dalmatia and Albania, as well as numerous Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea, as far as Cypress and Crete. The republic was led by a Doge (or Duke) and the Great Council, composed of 480 members of prominent Venetian families. Forty of these members were responsible for electing the Doge, normally for life. The Doge’s Palace is next door to St. Mark’s (and is well worth a visit). So adept at shipbuilding and seafaring was the Republic of Venice that it supplied ships and crews for both the Crusaders and the Ottoman Empire, deftly playing the Pope and the Catholic Church and the Ottomans off one another. Its decline was gradual and eventually it fell to French occupation (under Napoleon) and then Austria, before becoming part of the Republic of Italy when the peninsula was unified in the 1860s.


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