A worker sanitizes streets near San Marco, in Venice. Picture: AP
A worker sanitizes streets near San Marco, in Venice. Picture: AP

Venice marks 1 600 years since its founding

By IANS Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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Venice - Venice, the capital of northern Italys Veneto region, has completed 1,600 years since it was traditionally founded in March 25, 421, by the Western Roman Empire.

Spread over 118 small islands separated by canals and connected by more than 400 bridges, legend has it that Venice, also known as the "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals", was founded on the central island of Rialto, reports Xinhua news agency.

But the past two years have not been kind to Venice, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of Italy's biggest tourist attractions.

Plagued by over-tourism, the city sparked controversy when it started charging a special tax to those visiting from out of town.

Then, in late 2019, Venice saw its most severe flooding in nearly 50 years.

A little more than a year ago came the biggest problem to date: the coronavirus pandemic, a near knockout blow to the city's fragile economy.

If there is any solace in the celebration of a landmark anniversary during such a difficult time, it is the knowledge that the city has been through far worse and yet it survived.

"As people age, they are less fazed by what happens because they have seen more," Angela Serin, a Venice-based tour guide who has been earning money as a dog walker since the pandemic struck, told Xinhua on Thursday.

"It's the same with cities. Venice is an old city."

Without a doubt, Venice has seen repeated highs and lows over the past 1,600 years.

At one point, the city rose up to become one of Europe's economic and maritime superpowers and an international cultural hub, but it has also been flooded and sacked and overrun by invaders countless times.

Venice has also had its share of pandemics as it survived three major outbreaks of plague.

In fact, the word "quarantine" comes from the Italian "quarenta giorni" - meaning "40 days" - a reference to the amount of time ships had to dock off Venice's shores before crew and merchandise could disembark, a safeguard against importing diseases from faraway ports.

Listed as a World Heritage Site, Venice, home to fewer than 60 000 permanent residents, is the Italian city most visited by tourists ahead of Rome, Milan and Florence.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro predicted that the city would show its resilience once the pandemic passes.

"This too will pass," Brugnaro said in a televised statement. "The tourists will come back, things will return to normal and we'll try to learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward."

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