If you’re a history lover, then Venice in Italy should be at the top of your travel list. This city is crammed full of history, from the Gothic architecture to the canals and gondolas.
There are dozens of things to see and do in Venice that will transport you back in time. Here are five reasons why traveling to Venice is a must for history lovers.
1. The architecture is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles
The architecture of Venice is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. This unique blend of styles is what makes Venice so special and unique.
To understand how this combination of styles came around, it is important to explore the origins of the Venetian Republic.
How was Venice built?
Venice is lovingly referred to as the floating city.
Originally occupied by fishing communities, in the 5th century AD, refugees fled the mainland and used the marshy lagoon in the Adriatic Sea for protection. As more settlers arrived, and the population grew, an entirely new city was built.
To create more space, settlers dug hundreds of canals and shored the banks using wood pilings (timber reinforcements). Fixing the pilings deep in the mud and removing the tops formed the foundations for the buildings.
Because these wooden platforms were stuck in the mud, the air was unable to access them and therefore they were resistant to decomposition. After thousands of years, the majority of these wooden piles have now turned to stone.
Even today Venice is still filled with buildings standing on pilings of wood that date back centuries. Although some sinking is inevitable, the Venetian lagoon has so far stood the test of time and most buildings are expected to remain in place for years to come.
Architecture in the city of Venice
The Gothic architecture found in Venice is some of the most beautiful in the world. The intricate details and imposing size of the cathedrals and palaces will leave you in awe.
Similarly, if you’re a fan of renaissance architecture, then you’ll be blown away by the sights in Venice. From the ornate buildings and churches to the fascinating details in the design, there’s no shortage of beautiful buildings to admire in this city.
Not sure where to begin? Piazza San Marco has plenty to offer for lovers of architecture.
2. There are dozens of museums to visit, including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Doge’s Palace
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a must-see for any visitors to Venice. Located on the Grand Canal, the museum is home to artwork by American painter Jackson Pollock as well as the iconic Angel of the City statue by Italian sculptor Marino Marini.
Similarly, Doge’s Palace is one of the city’s main attractions. Originally home to the city’s government seat during the 14th to 18th centuries, the palace has been used as a museum since 1923. Today, Doge’s palace is made up of several ballrooms, former apartments, a grand inner courtyard, and historical prisons.
Other museums in Venice to visit include:
- Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
- Ca’ Rezzonico
- Gallerie dell’Accademia
- Museo della Musica
- Museo del Merletto
3. Venice was once an important center for trade in Europe, so there’s lots of history about trading routes to learn from
Venice has a rich economic history.
Fundamentally, while during the Middle Ages, Venice was a major trade center with Arabs and Indians, it was during the 15th century that the city truly came into its own by monopolizing the spice trade.
Owing largely to its unique geographical location, Venice has historically benefited from Mediterranean trade opportunities.
The city also opened up European commerce through shipping technology in sugar production and processing, silk textiles, glassblowing, and jewelry.
Furthermore, when exploring Venice there is a lot to learn about Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, explorer, and writer who has long been celebrated as the reason so much is known about trade and the Silk Road during the 13th century.
If you would like to learn more about Marco Polo’s travels and his contributions to perfume making, a trip to the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo provides an unforgettable experience.
4. There are several churches that have been used by different religions over time
St. Mark’s Basilica is one of Venice’s most-visited sights. With a rich past that goes back to the 9th century AD, it is a church steeped in biblical history as well as some intriguing lores and legends.
Inside, visitors can enjoy mosaics dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, a golden altar, symbolic chapels, and treasury including sacred objects and reliquaries.
In total there are approximately 170 churches in Venice. These historical buildings can be found in the city as well as on the outlying islands of the lagoon.
Other popular churches to check out are the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (one of the largest churches in the city), the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo (home to the largest stained glass window in Venice), and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (a white marble structure famously painted by French painter Claude Monet).
5. You can see some ancient Roman ruins scattered around Venice
It has long been assumed that Venice came to be after the fall of the Roman empire in the West. It was originally believed that the area was populated by mainlanders, fishermen, and salt workers who were driven onto the islands of the lagoon by Lombard hordes.
However, in 2021, it was confirmed that a Roman road and dock that were found submerged in a Venice lagoon in the 1980s both seem to suggest that permanent human settlements were actually in the area centuries before.
Accordingly, If you are a fan of Roman history then Venice has a lot to offer.
The Campanile di San Marco for example is a brick tower built in the 9th century on Roman ruins. Despite being destroyed, rebuilt, and renovated several times, climbing to the top of the tower offers some of the best views in the city.
As it is one of the most popular bell towers in the city, the Campanile is likely to be busy. To avoid the queues be sure to book a priority ticket to secure an unforgettable photo opportunity.
Venice is a historic city with plenty to offer tourists of all ages
Ultimately, Venice has a lot to offer for anyone looking for a trip filled with historical facts and fun.
Researching the history of Venice is one thing, but seeing the architecture, treasures, and sites of the city up close and personal provides an unforgettable experience.
Above all, when it comes to memories that will last a lifetime, Venice is the place to be.
Which areas in Venice do you find most interesting?