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HISTORY OF VENICE
 
 


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Venetian decline: 16th - 18th century

After the Italian turmoil of the early 16th century, Venice enters a long and gradual period of decline. This is in no way diminishes the artistic brilliance of the city. The Venetian school of the 16th century includes Giorgione, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto; two centuries later Venice is home to Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi. But politically the great days are over.

This is evident in the fact that the republic, once so pugnacious, maintains a cautious neutrality from the mid-16th century onwards. Venice now fights only to defend its Mediterranean possessions from the Turks. In the long run even this proves a hopeless battle.
 









At first the omens seem good on the Mediterranean front. The Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1570 prompts a vigorous Christian response. A joint Spanish and Venetian fleet defeats the Turks decisively at Lepanto in 1571. But it proves a hollow victory. Only two years later, in 1573, Venice cedes the island to Turkey. A century later, in 1669, the Turks finally evict the Venetians from another great prize, Crete.

Of the island staging posts to the east, so carefully accumulated by Venice, only the Ionian group (including Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante) escapes Turkish encroachment.
 








Losing its political will, Venice finds the new role which it has enjoyed ever since - as a place of pleasure and delight, Europe's most sparkling tourist attraction. The city has the world's first public opera house, which opens in 1637. It has the pageantry seen in Canaletto, the titillating tradition of masked women who feature in paintings by Longhi, the social comedy of the plays of Goldoni.

This city of canals is an irresistible part of the fashionable Grand Tour. And it remains, under its doddery oligarchy of doge and senate, an independent republic - until the brusque intrusion of Napoleon in 1797.
 







Austrian and Italian Venice: 1797-1866

Napoleon, campaigning against Austria in Italy in 1797, deposes the last doge. By the treaty of Campo Formio, later in the same year, Venice and the Veneto are handed over to Austria.

Venice remains under Austrian rule until 1866, when Austria is defeated in the Seven Weeks' War. Venice and the Veneto (often collectively known as Venetia) are ceded to the newly independent kingdom of Italy. The ancient city becomes, as it remains today, the capital of the province of Venezia.
 








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