How Venice Looked to Victorian Travelers c1890

“Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Bridges”, “City of Canals”—whatever you call this beautiful city, you can be sure to find romance, for the name Venice is derived from the Indo-European root wen- meaning “love”.

Fleeing waves of Germanic and Hun invasions in the 5th century, refugees from the surrounding countryside sought sanctuary on a series of islands in a marshy lagoon between the Piave and Po Rivers.

The Venetian settlers dedicated the first church, San Giacomo, on the islet of Rialto, meaning “high shore”.


Contains affiliate links A Day in Venice by Fivos Valachis

The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge
The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy
The Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge

Venice developed into a city state, that by the late 13th century, was the most prosperous in Europe.

With a strategic position at the head of the Adriatic Sea, Venice dominated Mediterranean trade with a fleet of 3,300 ships.

The wealthiest families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and sponsor the greatest artists.

Da Mulla Palace, Venice, Italy
Da Mulla Palace
Vendramin Palace, Venice, Italy
Vendramin Palace
Pesaro Palace, Venice, Italy
Pesaro Palace
The Golden House, Venice, Italy
The Golden House
Vendramin Calergi Palace, Venice, Italy
Vendramin Calergi Palace

But by the 15th century, a great darkness fell upon the city.

Devastated by plague and war with the Ottoman Empire, Venice went into a long period of decline.

San Georgio from Doges' Palace by moonlight, Venice, Italy
San Georgio from Doges’ Palace by moonlight

As new trade routes across the great oceans were discovered, Venice lost its position as the center for international commerce.

Grand Canal and Doges' Palace by moonlight, Venice, Italy
Grand Canal and Doges’ Palace by moonlight

Ill-suited to ocean-going travel, Venice’s fleet of oared galleys couldn’t compete with the sailing ships of Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands.

Piazzetta and San Georgio by moonlight, Venice, Italy
Piazzetta and San Georgio by moonlight

By the 18th century, Venice was seen in a new light. It was considered the most elegant city in Europe—influencing art, architecture and literature.

And by the Victorian Era, a new form of transportation—the steam ship—brought travelers from far and wide to gaze upon its beauty.

Related post: Steam Travel – How Steamships and Railways Opened Up the World to Victorians.

Doges' Palace, Venice, Italy
Doges’ Palace
Harbor, Venice, Italy
The Harbor, Venice, Italy
Pigeons in St. Mark's Place, Venice, Italy
Pigeons in St. Mark’s Place
Piazaetta and columns of San Marco
Piazaetta and columns of San Marco
Concert in St. Mark's Place, Venice, Italy
Concert in St. Mark’s Place
Columns of St. Mark's Church, Venice, Italy
Columns of St. Mark’s Church, Venice, Italy
Old Venetian courtyard, Venice, Italy
Old Venetian courtyard
Before St. Mark's and public hospital, Venice, Italy
Before St. Mark’s and public hospital
The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
The Grand Canal

Closely spaced wooden piles made from water-resistant alder tree trunks support the buildings of Venice.

Driven through soft layers of sand and mud, the piles reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.

Submerged by water, wood does not decay as rapidly as on land, and most piles are still intact centuries later.

On the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy
On the Grand Canal
Concert in St. Mark's Place, Venice, Italy
Concert in St. Mark’s Place
San Marina Canal, Venice, Italy
San Marina Canal, Venice, Italy
A court yard (Calle dell Angelo a San Martino), Venice, Italy
A court yard (Calle dell Angelo a San Martino)
Interior Scalzi, Venice, Italy
Interior Scalzi
Interior of the Doges' Palace, with the Giant's Staircase, Venice, Italy
Interior of the Doges’ Palace, with the Giant’s Staircase
Rio di San Trovaso, Venice, Italy
Rio di San Trovaso, Venice, Italy
Rio della Botisella, Venice, Italy
Rio della Botisella
St. Mark's Church and the clock, Venice, Italy
St. Mark’s Church and the clock
Interior of St. Mark's, Venice, Italy
Interior of St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy
From the Campanile, Venice, Italy
View from the Campanile

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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