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.
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.
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.”