The beginning of Venice was in the turbulent centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. After the invasion of the Lombards to northern Italy in the year 568, many refugees escaped to the marshes in the delta of the Po River. They settled and built communities on the small islands in the lagoon. In 639 they started building a cathedral on the island of Torcello.
In the following century the center shifted to the islands and mud reefs of Realto, which became the heart of the new city – Venice. The settlement, that started as part of the Byzantine Empire, developed an independent government and became a separate town – state, under the rule of a Doge that was elected for life.
The gradual weakening of the Byzantines opened the east of the Mediterranean to the merchant and war fleets of Venice. During the expansion of Venice in the end of the middle ages, Genoa, another Italian city, also grew. The future of Venice and Genoa, the two largest marine republics in Italy, was to confront each other in battle. In 1372 Venice won the battle of Chioggia, and Genoa was doomed.
Toward the end of the 14th century Venice became the main power in north Italy. Its rule was considered enlightened in the terms of those days, and many cities asked for its protection against enemies. In the peak of its power Venice controlled large parts of the Adriatic coast, and most of the islands of the Aegean, including Crete and Cyprus.
The power of Venice started to decline with the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. The age of discoveries that followed the travels of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gamma, Amerigo Vespucci and others opened new trade routes that moved the main shipping routes west towards Spain. Still, Venice continued to flourish for a long time, kept its power in struggles with the Pope, and defeated the Turkish fleet in the battle of Lepanto (1571).
The travels of Napoleon have brought an end to the Serenissima republic in Venice, and after Napoleon was defeated, Venice and its territories became part of the Austro-Hungarian province.
Only after Italy’s 3rd war of independence, 1866, Venice became part of Italy.
During World War I, in June 1917, Venice was in danger of falling into the hands of the Austrians again. The Italian army gathered in Piave and ended the German – Austrian attack.
In 1922, when Mussolini came to power, he built the bridge that connects Venice to the Italian mainland.
During World War II, Italy joined Nazi Germany. Venice was not affected by this war.
The latest war venice is fighting is with the rising level of the sea. Venice is flooded more and more often, and a great damage is caused to this beautiful city. The foundations for venice buildings need repairs to withstand the new situation. If you want to read about the high water and the project to fight it – MOSE project, look here.