For most tourists, a visit to Venice is like a journey in time about two or three centuries ago. The atmosphere of the citadel is a unique one. Venice boasted for centuries with the fact that it held supremacy over large territories, as it was once the capital of a great republic. Venice, located in the middle of a lagoon in the north-western Adriatic extremity spans over 118 islands. Rivers bring sediments that accumulate in shallow coastal waters. Because of the action of tides and currents have formed a series of coastal belts, which gave birth to a lagoon with calm waters, about 51 km long and about 14 km wide. Historians say that the city was founded in the fifth century and seventh century AD, when the hordes of northern barbarians invaded here in repeated rows, by looting and burning the houses. In front of the invaders, much of the continent's population sought refuge on the islands of the lagoon, which, although difficult to reach, were providing safety.
Historical documents attest that the first buildings were built on foundations of wooden poles stuck in the mud, bound together with reeds and straw. Later, the Venetians built stone houses on foundations made of thousands of wooden poles. The Rialto islands, that were to become the center of the city, were soaked in water. Because the ground underneath was not strong enough and the surface was not sufficient to accommodate the large number of people willing to settle here, it was necessary to be drained and extended with a primitive system of recovering the land from the sea. Residents dug canals for boats and strengthened the shores, preparing the islands for building homes. The bridges built over the canals have facilitated the pedestrian traffic from one island to another, and the canals became the streets of the city.
In the centuries that followed, Venice fought wars in the Mediterranean Sea with several military powers, among which there are the Sarrasins, the Normans and the Byzantines. Nevertheless, Venice became a great power only after contributing to the ending of the fourth Crusade in 1204, when the Constantinopole, the most feared rival of hers, was destroyed. Venice had started many commercial points on the shore of the Black Sea and of the Aegean Sea, as well as in Greece, Constantinopole, Syria, Palestine, Cyprus and Crete. Now it took advantage of the fall of the Byzantine Empire and turned some of these commercial points into colonies. Venices colonies, scattered in the Mediterranean, never enjoyed geographic and governmental unity, nor ever really cooperated. Their loss was inevitable. The neighbor states have snatched its possessions one by one until, in 1797, Napoleon conquered the city and gave it to Austria. In 1866, Venice was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
Generally, the traffic on the narrow streets is separated from the traffic on the channels. Exceptions are the portions in which the sidewalks guard the channels, crossed here and there by typical arched stone bridges. The only vehicles with engines are the boats, the streets being "paved" with… water! The city offers a multitude of picturesque sights. St. Mark's Square and Basilica from the market, Campanile and the beautiful waterfront, from where you can see the sun shining in the green waters of the lagoon, have inspired great artists.
The outdoor coffee-houses in the central square, full of people, are an attraction for the tourists and locals alike. Here you can enjoy a drink or an ice cream in the classical arrangements of small orchestras. Indeed, when you sit and watch the passers-by and admire the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings, without seeing a car around, you feel like you have traveled back in time.
Also, Venice is a reference point for all art lovers. The numerous palaces, museums and churches here are keeping many famous artists paintings. But some tourists are content with only wandering the narrow streets and marveling at the unusual sights. A lot of shops delight the visitors with the articles that brought fame to the city: the lace and embroidery from the Burano Island, as well as the beautiful glass and crystal objects from the Murano Island. A short trip with a small ship represents a unique expeience where you can see craftsmen at work.
The number of the people in the center of the town decreased from 175 000 in 1951 to 64 000 in 2003. In the 20s of the last century, on the continent has been developed a new industrial area in the hope that it will boost the local economy. Then, in the lagoon was dug a deep channel in order for the oil tankers to reach the refineries. Although it offered new jobs, the industry is guilty of polluting and creating the destroying high tides called Acqua Alta, which flood more frequent much of the historic city center. Currently, the situation is the most critical in the history of the citadel.
The sea water level continues to grow worldwide. Moreover, the lagoon area was reduced as a result of the work done in order to recover the land from the sea and the water-land balance was affected. The water flow always represented a threat to the city, but never in our century. At first, in the past, St. Mark's Square was flooded about 5-7 times a year, but in current times in one year was flooded 80 times.