Venetian Lagoon, Veneto, Italy

The Venetian Lagoon is an enclosed bay of the Adriatic Sea, in northern Italy, in which the city of Venice is situated. It is the largest lagoon in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of about 550 km², of which 8% consists of mainland (Venice itself and many smaller islands), about 11% permanently composed of water or canals dredged and about 80% made up of tidal flats or artificial bridging boxes. The entire area was included in 1987 in the list of World Heritage by UNESCO.

The Venetian Lagoon, the largest wetland in the Mediterranean Basin, stretches from the River Sile in the north to the Brenta in the south. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea by three inlets: Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia. Sited at the end of a largely enclosed sea, the lagoon is subject to high variations in water level, the most extreme being the spring tides known as the “high water”, which regularly flood much of Venice.

It is connected to the Adriatic Sea by three inlets. In order, from the north: Lido-San Nicolò, Malamocco, Chioggia. Being located at the end of a closed sea, the lagoon is subject to large variations in water level, the most conspicuous of which (especially in autumn and spring) cause phenomena such as high water, which periodically floods the lower islands., or shallow water, which sometimes makes shallower channels impracticable. To facilitate navigation, the lagoon canals are marked by rows of poles: the bricole. The Riviera del Brenta overlooks the lagoon in its central part.

In the north-central area of the lagoon lies the city of Venice, 4 km from the mainland and 2 km from the open sea. The most part of the inhabitants of Venice, as well as its economic core, its airport and its harbor, stand on the western border of the lagoon, around the former towns of Mestre and Marghera. At the northern end of the lagoon, there is the town of Jesolo, a famous sea resort; and the town of Cavallino-Treporti. It also extends widely on the immediate mainland with the conurbation of Mestre – Marghera – Favaro Veneto. The city of Chioggia stands at the southern end, while at the eastern end the small towns included in the municipality of Cavallino-Treporti along the Cavallino coast.

The present aspect of the Lagoon is due to human intervention. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Venetian hydraulic projects to prevent the lagoon from turning into a marsh reversed the natural evolution of the Lagoon. Pumping of aquifers since the nineteenth century has increased subsidence. Originally many of the Lagoon’s islands were marshy, but a gradual programme of drainage rendered them habitable. Many of the smaller islands are entirely artificial, while some areas around the seaport of the Mestre are also reclaimed islands. The remaining islands are essentially dunes, including those of the coastal strip (Lido, Pellestrina and Treporti).

The Lagoon was formed about six to seven thousand years ago, when the marine transgression following the Ice Age flooded the upper Adriatic coastal plain. Deposition of river sediments compensated for the sinking coastal plain, and coastwise drift from the mouth of the Po tended to close tidal inlets with sand bars.

During the ice ages, the region was occupied by land that does not exclude the existence of prehistoric villages. About 6,000 years ago, following the Holocene marine invasion, the lagoon was formed but, as evidenced by studies based, for example, on coring, the area was unstable for a long time, with continuous variations in sea level and the position of coasts. These phenomena may have contributed to canceling or better hiding the traces of human presence in ancient times.

The few findings consist of flint artefacts, arrowheads and the like, some dating back to the second millennium BC The situation in the immediate hinterland is quite different, where even remains of villages have been found. It can therefore be assumed that at that time the lagoon was used as a source of livelihood for hunting, fishing and gathering, but never as a permanently inhabited place.

After 1000 BC the climate, which became colder and rainier, quickly made the lagoon more stable geologically, favoring the intensification of human presence. The first finds of what will later become Altino, Spina, Adria and Aquileia date back to this period. These first settlements were far from becoming the great port centers that will later be, but the lagoon was already involved, as evidenced by the presence of Etruscan and Greek artifacts, in intense commercial traffic.

Roman period
In the records of the Roman period, although no clear and consistent records were given, there have been written records of different aspects. Strabo speaks of the climate (good, even if humid and unstable) and of villages built on stilts and connected to the sea by canals; Vitruvius also underlines the healthy climate; Pliny the Elder speaks of transverse artificial canals used to facilitate navigation; Martial even praises the shores of Altino comparing them to those of Baia, which was one of the most famous holiday resorts of the time.

The archaeological finds of amphorae, pottery shards and the like are frequent, especially in the northern lagoon. Important findings have been made in Torcello, Mazzorbo and near the disappeared Costanziaco and Ammiana, a sign of a scattered but stable presence. The existence of the port of Clodia, the current Chioggia, has been certain for some time. Indeed, at Malamocco the remains of a wall were found, with material dating back to the Roman age and some finds in the surroundings of Torcello would prove the existence of real villas. Other material demonstrates the existence of salt pans and mills, which suggest reclaimed and cultivated areas.

On lagoon’s banks overlooked the ports that attracted the trade routes. Inside there were vast areas exploited for hunting and fishing, but also salt marshes and reclaimed countryside, with inhabited centers and popular “tourist resorts”. Most likely at that time the lagoon was divided into the four current basins, but with land that emerged to divide them at the current watersheds.

Middle Ages
During the High Middle Ages, with the depopulation of the major urban centers of the mainland, the Venice lagoon was a flourishing of more or less important urban centers, which then declined subsequently with the parallel development of Venice, until largely disappearing. There were added a myriad of smaller islands and monastic settlements. A denser and more stable population occurred from the 5th – 6th century AD, when the lagoon served as a refuge for the Roman people fleeing the barbarian invasions.

In Roman times Venice was the name of the northeastern region of Italy, the Regio X Venetia et Histria, but in this period it passed to designate, with the name of maritime Venice, the only coastal strip between the lagoons of Venice and Grado. Following the campaigns of Justinian, the region was subjected, albeit with a certain autonomy, to the Byzantine Empire and remained there even when the rest of the Veneto was subjected to the Lombards.

Testimony of the lagoon life of that time is a letter that Cassiodorus addresses to the managers of the maritime Venice. The well-known scholar dwells at a certain point on the description of the place: people, regardless of social background, mainly eat fish; among the main activities, the salt industry stands out, a product that is even used as a bargaining chip; each family owns a boat that they often use when traveling, similarly to horses on land; the buildings “recall the nests of sea birds”, built among the reeds or even floating on the water.

The lagoon is a complex ecosystem and quite distinct from that of the open sea (there are however unusual visits such as dolphin visits) and it is also a suitable environment for fishing, as well as for a limited amount of hunting and for the new fish farming industry. Typical houses of the lagoon are still the casoni, buildings in wood and marsh reeds, used as a refuge for the fishermen who once lived in these areas.

Some of the smaller islands are entirely artificial, while most of the areas around the port of Marghera are the result of massive reclamation activities. On the other hand, the large islands of the coastal strip (Lido, Pellestrina and Treporti) are sandy. The remaining islands are practically more or less consistent and more or less stable outcrops called sandbanks, motte or velme.

Human activity has profoundly changed the appearance and hydro-geographical balance of the lagoon, since the time of the first settlements: over the centuries the initially more numerous inlets have been reduced to the current three, the cordons sandy beaches (the shores) that separated the lagoon from the sea have been reinforced and stabilized with the mighty works of the Murazzi (very long eighteenth-century dams in Istrian stone placed to defend the external lagoon perimeter), while the mouths of the Sile, Piave and Brenta rivers they have been diverted outside the lagoon eaves to prevent their burial. This has often compromised the ancient balance, also leading to the decline of numerous inhabited centers, such as Torcello, Costanziacoand Ammiana.

Even today the lagoon provides an excellent base for the port of Venice (commercial and industrial) and for that of Chioggia (commercial and fishing) and for the Arsenal of the Navy and for various activities concerning shipbuilding (in Venice, Marghera, Chioggia and Pellestrina), as well as minor and pleasure shipbuilding.

The environment of the lagoon is a humid territory of great naturalistic, ecological and commercial interest. The high number of fish species, unusual for a stretch of water with a sandy bottom, is due to the complexity of the lagoon area, formed by river mouths, shallow waters (up to a maximum of 10 meters), sandbanks, islands, artificial canals. and inlets. Occasionally, bottlenose dolphins enter the lagoon, possibly for feeding. The salinity of the water varies from 27 ‰ to 34 ‰, with higher or lower peaks according to the seasons, as well as the temperature.

The level of pollution in the lagoon has long been a concern The large phytoplankton and macroalgae blooms of the late 1980s proved particularly devastating. Negative effects to the environment such as air pollution, loss of landscape, surface water pollution, erosion, and decreasing water quality have occurred due to the emission and impacts of cruise ships transiting into the Venetian Lagoon.

From 1987 to 2003, the Venice Lagoon was interested by a relevant reduction of the nutrient inputs and of the macroalgal biomasses due to climate change; of the concentrations distributions of total nitrogen, organic phosphorus and organic carbon in the upper sediments. Meanwhile, the seagrasses started a natural process of recolonization, restoration the pristine conditions of the marine ecosystem.

The progressive erosion of the lagoon, a process that involves the disappearance of large surfaces covered by mudflats and sandbanks and, in general, the lowering of the seabed and the leveling of internal morphological differences, associated with a constant loss of sediments from the much higher inlets the inputs from the drainage basin, and the pollution resulting from the city, the port and the water injections from the drainage basin, are just some of the problems that haunt this unique ecosystem in the world, recognized by UNESCO together with the city, World Heritage Humanity. Some of the factors that have aggravated the erosive process of the lagoon are the enlargement of the inlets and the excavation of the Malamocco- Marghera canal. The increased inflow of water has increased the currents and consequently also the quantities of sediments torn from the lagoon and poured into the sea.

On the other hand, the MO.SE project for the construction of a sort of dam through the raising of mobile floating gates in front of the three exits towards the sea, with the theoretical purpose of contrasting the extreme flood phenomena that go under the name of water high, constitutes a further environmental risk factor for the lagoon, limiting the oxygen exchange of the water body, which is already very limited, in the operational phase.

Major Islands
The Venice Lagoon is mostly included in the Metropolitan City of Venice, but the south-western area is part of the Province of Padua.

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers (more exactly between the Brenta and the Sile).

The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice for over a millennium, from 697 to 1797. It was a major financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as an important center of commerce—especially silk, grain, and spice, and of art from the 13th century to the end of the 17th. The city-state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.

Sant’Erasmo is an island in the Venetian Lagoon lying north-east of the Lido island and east of Venice, Italy. An annual boat race takes place during the summer. Sant’Erasmo is also known for the waders on sand banks in the lagoon surrounding it. The island was a port attached to Murano in the 8th century, but is now known for market gardening. Ruined fortifications, including the so-called Torre Massimiliana (Tower of Maximilian), ring the isle. Forts existed in the island as early as the 16th century.

After the fall of the Republic of Venice, the French built here a stronghold in 1811–1814. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Austrian Archduke Maximilian of Austria-Este had a tower built here in 1843–1844, and also found here refuge during a revolt. The tower has a polygonal base of 25 m and is surrounded by a ditch. On the upper floor up to 13 cannons could be housed. It was used by the Italian Army as late as World War I.

Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It is famous for its glass making. It was once an independent comune, but is now a frazione of the comune of Venice. Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on high-quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including optically clear glass. Today, the artisans of Murano still employ these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewellery to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Venice kept protecting the secret of the production of glass and of crystal but, notwithstanding it, the Republic partially lost its monopoly at the end of the sixteenth century, because of some glass makers who let the secret be known in many European countries. Today, Murano is home to the Museo del Vetro or Murano Glass Museum in the Palazzo Giustinian, which holds displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.

Chioggia is a coastal town and comune of the Metropolitan City of Venice in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The town is situated on a small island at the southern entrance to the Lagoon of Venice about 25 kilometres. The most ancient documents naming Chioggia date from the 6th century AD, when it was part of the Byzantine Empire. Chioggia was destroyed by King Pippin of Italy in the 9th century, but rebuilt around a new industry based on salt pans.

A free commune and an episcopal see from 1110, it had later an important role in the so-called War of Chioggia between Genoa and Venice, being conquered by Genoa in 1378 and finally by Venice in June 1380. Although the town remained largely autonomous, it was always thereafter subordinate to Venice. On 14 March 1381, Chioggia concluded an alliance with Zadar and Trogir against Venice, and finally Chioggia became better protected by Venice in 1412, because Šibenik became in 1412 the seat of the main customs office and the seat of the salt consumers office with a monopoly on the salt trade in Chioggia and on the whole Adriatic Sea.

Giudecca lies immediately south of the central islands of Venice, from which it is separated by the Giudecca Canal. San Giorgio Maggiore lies off its eastern tip. Giudecca was historically an area of large palaces with gardens, the island became an industrial area in the early 20th century with shipyards and factories, in addition to a film studio. Much of the industry went into decline after World War II, but it is now once more regarded as a quiet residential area of largely working-class housing with some chic apartments and exclusive houses.

Modern renovations of some antique architecture in Giudecca have bolstered the island’s reputation as a vacation locale. In 2011, Venetian developers reopened the lodgings of a prominent 16th-century mansion as long-term rentals under the name “Villa F.” It is known for its long dock and its churches, including the Palladio-designed Il Redentore. The island was the home of a huge flour mill, the Molino Stucky, which has been converted into a luxury hotel and apartment complex. At the other end of Giudecca is the famous five-star Cipriani hotel with large private gardens and salt-water pool.

Mazzorbo is one of various islands in the northern part of the Lagoon of Venice. In the 1980s the architect Giancarlo De Carlo built a brightly coloured residential neighbourhood to help to repopulate Mazzorbo. It is linked to Burano by a wooden bridge. It was once an important trading centre but is now known for its vineyards and orchards. Its main attraction is the fourteenth century church of Santa Caterina.

Mazzorbo today is a sparsely populated island devoted mainly to agriculture with vegetable growing, vineyards and orchards. Mazzorbetto and Santa Caterina are also devoted to agriculture. In the latter two there are several farmsteads and hardly any inhabitants. At the eastern end of Mazzorbo, by the bridge which connects it to Burano, there is the Scarpa farm. It has a number of buildings, some of which date to the 16th century, vineyards, fruit trees and vegetable areas which are surrounded by a 19th century wall. It was bought by Venice council in 1999 and after it was restored in 2006 it was opened to the public. It has information about the history of local agriculture. The Dordona grape is grown here. This is a fine grape which is native of the lagoon and has been recently been selected from centuries-old vines.

Torcello is a sparsely populated island at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon, in north-eastern Italy. It was first settled in the year 452 and has been referred to as the parent island from which Venice was populated. After the downfall of the Western Roman Empire, Torcello was one of the first lagoon islands to be successively populated by those Veneti who fled the mainland to take shelter from the recurring barbarian invasions.

In pre-Medieval times, Torcello was a much more powerful trading center than Venice. Thanks to the lagoon’s salt marshes, the salines became Torcello’s economic backbone and its harbour developed quickly into an important re-export market in the profitable east-west-trade, which was largely controlled by Byzantium during that period. The Black Death devastated the Venice Republic in 1348 and again between 1575 and 1577. A further serious issue for Torcello specifically was that the swamp area of the lagoon around the island increased by the 14th century, partly because of the lowering of the land level. Navigation in the laguna morta (dead lagoon) was impossible before long and traders ceased calling at the island.

Sant’Elena is an island of Venice. It lies at the eastern tip of the main island group and forms part of sestiere of Castello. The original island was separated by an arm of the Venetian Lagoon from Venice itself, and was centred on the Church of Sant’Elena and its monastery, originally built in the twelfth century and rebuilt in the 15th.

In the 1920s, the island was expanded to fill in the gap; it is linked to the rest of the city by three bridges. It includes the Rimembranze Park, a naval college and a football stadium, Stadio Pier Luigi Penzo, in addition to residential areas and Venice Bienniale buildings. The belltower has a ring of 6 bells in B rung with the Veronese bellringing art.

Burano is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy, near Torcello at the northern end of the lagoon, known for its lace work and brightly coloured homes. The primary economy is tourism. Burano is also known for its small, brightly painted houses, which are popular with artists. Other attractions include the church of San Martino, with a leaning campanile and a painting by Giambattista Tiepolo, the Oratorio di Santa Barbara.

The Lace of Burano is one of the most popular lace in the world, the centuries-old tradition and specific island Burano in the Venice lagoon, home to a famous lace museum. Over two hundred unique pieces from the school’s collection, made between the 16th and 20th centuries, are exhibited at the Burano Lace Museum. The museum also preserves the school archive and other documents and works of art relating to lace making in Venice.

The Lido, or Venice Lido is an 11-kilometre-long barrier island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. Lido was expanded into a tourist attraction for individuals in the early 20th century. A large number of Art Nouveau buildings, including mansions, hotels and manors, were built during this period.

Lido di Venezia is home to the Venice International Film Festival. It is the world’s oldest film festival and one of the three most prestigious ones, together with the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival.