The floating city of Venice, one of the most extraordinary cities in the world was built on 118 islands in the middle of the Venetian Lagoon at the head of the Adriatic Sea in Northern Italy. For travelers who have visited Venice and for those who have yet to go, Venice remains a beautiful mystery. It seems impossible for such a grand city to be floating in a lagoon of water, reeds and marshland. This is a place you must see to believe.

How was Venice built - Venice skyline

Why did people move to Venice | Refugee from barbarian conquerors

So, why would anyone want to live on a flat, muddy, waterlogged island in the middle of a lagoon? Fear! People fled their homes on the mainland when barbarian conquerors were ravaging Italy in the 5th century A.D. They used the marshy lagoon for protection and found refuge among the poor fishermen living there. As the invasions continued across Italy, more and more refugees joined the first settlers and the need to build a new city grew.The famous city of Venice was born on Friday March 25th 421 AD (At high noon), just the beginning of the long and rich history for Venice.

How was Venice built | The floating city

How Venice was built is its most fascinating story. When the new settlers arrived on the islands around 402 A.D., they were faced with the need for more space and a stronger foundation to live on. They had to find ways to strengthen the islands, drain them, enlarge them and protect the fragile environment. So, they dug hundreds of canals and shored up the banks with wood pilings. They also used similar wood pilings as foundations for their buildings. The settlers pounded thousands of wooden piles into the mud, so close together that they were touching. Then, they cut off the tops and created solid platforms for the foundations of their homes. Because the wood was underwater, it didn’t rot. It’s hard to believe, but there are many buildings in Venice today that are still standing on 1000 year old piles of wood!

Today, some people say Venice should be called the sinking city rather than the floating city. But, Venice began sinking the moment it was built. From the beginning, the weight of the city pushed down on the dirt and mud that it was built on, squeezing out water and compacting the soil. This phenomenon, together with the natural movement of high tides (called acqua alta) cause periodic flooding in the city, creating a sinking sensation. Over the past 100 years, the city has sunk nine inches. Some experts warn that global warming will cause sea levels to rise and eventually cover the Adriatic coastline and the city of Venice by 2100.

How was Venice built? Venice gondola

Just like the first permanent inhabitants of these islands, Venitians today are trying to find ways to help their city endure and prosper. Famous Russian writer, Alexander Herzen said: “To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.”

If you found this interesting, then learn more with LivItaly!
Book a Venice Walking Tour!

Venice Walking Tour LivItaly
  1. Nice little article, summing up in a few words the main points that so many would like to know. Thank you.

  2. Yes, I found this useful. Concise and answered my questions.

  3. This is amazing. I really wanted to know about Venice because of curiosity and because of I want to go there, maybe one day. I wish I could live there. It is a very beautiful city.

  4. Insightful description of a wonderful city that everyone should get to see at least once in a lifetime. Thank you

  5. Thanks for this beautiful information! I need these kind of information for my school assesment!

  6. This article is nearly as impressive as Venice itself! What a masterpiece of essay literature you have created. The comments are second only to the article as well, including this one. The comments are all real and not written by the authors friends or the publication. A true wonder to perceive this and that!

  7. Thank you, I truly enjoyed reading every word. You seem to of known all the answers to the questions I was thinking. Very informative! I hope to be visiting this next year.

  8. Answers my question and easy to understand

  9. Thank you so much for answering my question. It truly is a fascinating story of people working together on a common purpose.

  10. Venice is an old star fort. Nice little article!! Leaves me to wonder A LOT though….what an amazing amount of temples in this small area?!?

  11. I always wondered how this amazing city was built, knowing that these people built this city from hand is hands down amazing. I’d love to visit the city and hopefully we never loose this beautiful place.

  12. I have been to Venice some 20 years ago and am going to visit it again i March,2019. This beautifully written informative article has given more information and inspiration. I salute to the imaginative untiring hard working people who built such a beautiful ‘floating’ city out of nothing.

  13. We went to Venice two years ago for the first time, on a group tour. We explored Venice on our own, it was lovely to see pretty buildings. We didn’t go on the Gondola, it was pricey unless you have 4/6 people sharing. Venice is beautiful but everything there is pricey, just like London. My hubby said he wouldn’t visit Venice again. We’ve been to see the city, and that’s enough. Although we did see the Castle there, that was more interesting than Venice city itself.

    It was an experience to see Venice for the first time, but it didn’t do anything for us, and we wouldn’t go again. Sorry people, for those who loved Venice, I certainly wouldn’t buy a house there, and especially if it’s going to sink one day, what with the global warming as well.

    1. Hello S J. Thanks for the comment. Venice is a particular city and certainly not for everyone but we definitely love it dearly. The beauty of Italy is that there is a city to match everyone’s tastes! What’s your favorite Italian city?

  14. Thank you for such an interesting and informative article about the history of Venice, a truly beautiful and fascinating city that I had the pleasure to visit in February of this year during The Carnevale. It was as if the history came to life with all the period costumes, the locals proudly presenting themselves against the awesome majestic buildings. I can’t wait to return to the city and people I fell in love with! ❤️

    1. We can’t wait to have you back! It is truly a stunning city. Let us know when you’re in town – we have just launched a St Mark’s Basilica at Night Tour where our groups get to be in the basilica entirely on our own. The atmosphere is amazing!!!

Leave a Reply