Venice - City of Canals


Venice is one of the most beautiful cities of the world. It lies on over a hundred islands in a lagoon in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. Venice is a cultural and tourist center and is famous for its museums, architecture, cityscape and world of art.

The city

Only about one fourth of Venice’s 280 000 people live in the historical centre of the city. The rest live on the mainland. The main method of transportation between the islands is by boats that travel up and down the city’s many canals. The main waterway is the Canale Grande, which winds through the heart of Venice. Hundreds of bridges connect the islands. Motorboats have replaced the historic gondolas, which are only used for city tours. People get around the islands either by walking or using so-called waterbuses.


The central location of Venice is the Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark’s Square.  The city’s most famous church, San Marco Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, which was the home of Venice’s rulers for hundreds of years, are the main attractions of the piazza. The square is a famous tourist attraction surrounded by cafes and vendors.

East of the historic centre on the outer part of the lagoon is Lido, a 10 km long sandy island which attracts thousands of beach goers throughout the summer holidays. The Venice Film Festival is one of the major annual film events that take place there.


The location of the city at sea level and global warming has caused many problems for Venice. Over the centuries the Mediterranean town has been regularly flooded by tides that come in.

From November to February they cause acqua alta – a situation in which sea levels rise up to one and a half meters and cover many of Venice’s famous areas.  Wooden walkways must be erected to offer pedestrians a path to walk. Salt water from the sea has damaged the foundations of many buildings and constant repairs are necessary. Water gets into the buildings and destroys the walls and the invaluable frescoes. Industries and tourism have steadily reduced the level of ground water in Venice, making foundations of buildings unstable.

The islands have begun to sink at an alarming rate, about 3 to 4 mm per year. City planners are working on the construction of a series of steel gates that hopefully will stop seawater from coming into the lagoon. They are scheduled to go into operation by 2016.



Venice’s inhabitants are confined by the waterways around them. Since the 1950s thousands have left the islands and have moved to Mestre and other outlying areas, because the city is full of tourists and offers no room for local population. The cost of living is also lower in the suburbs than in the expensive historic part. Especially young Venetians want to escape the chaos and turbulence of the medieval city.


Venice’s economy relies mostly on tourism. Up to 20 million tourists come to the city every year. Craftspeople sell hand-made glass, textiles and furniture to them. Venice is home to one of Italy’s busiest harbors. Chemical industries, oil refineries and steel processing  have spread out over the mainland.



The first inhabitants came to the islands of Venice at about 500 A.D. in an attempt to flee from the oncoming Germanic tribes who invaded southern Europe. They made a living by fishing and trading. By 800 Venice had important trading partners in Constantinople and northern African cities.

In the Middle Ages Venice grew to a powerful city state.  It became the wealthiest city in Europe and controlled trading routes throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The doges, elected among Venice’s rich population, ruled the city. The Venetian empire reached the height of its power in the 15th century.

The Age of Exploration brought about the decline of Venice. Navigators were looking for a sea-route to Asia. When Spanish and Portuguese navigators started conquering new lands trade shifted to Western Europe and the Atlantic. The expansion of the Ottoman Empire led to the loss of many Venetian territories in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the plague killed a fourth of the city’s population.

At the end of the 18th century Napoleon took control of Venice and divided its empire between France and Austria. In the middle of the 19th century Venice became a part of Italy.


Culture and Art

Venice does not only have rich architecture that offers Gothic and Byzantine palazzos but also buildings from many different eras. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Venice, together with Florence and Rome, became a centre of European art. Titian was one of the most famous representatives of the Venetian school of art. It became one of Europe’s first printing centres.

Venice is famous for its glasswork. Murano, made up of several islands in the lagoon became the centre of the glassmaking industry. Traditional families still produce glass of high quality which is sold to tourists and around the world.

Venice hosts a famous carnival every year before the Lent season starts. People wear famous Venetian masks, carefully crafted from leather or porcelain.


Related Topics

Online Exercises



  • alarming rate = here: so fast that you have to worry about it
  • annual = yearly
  • attempt = try
  • attract = pull towards something
  • attraction = place where many tourists go to
  • busy = here: a lot of ships come and go
  • cause = to be the reason for
  • century = a hundred years
  • cityscape= the way a city looks like from a certain place
  • confine = to feel like you are locked up or in prison; you cannot move around the way you like to
  • connect = link
  • conquer = take control of a place and stay there for some time
  • constant = always
  • cover = to form a layer over something
  • craft = make by hand
  • craftspeople = people who sell things that they make by hand, like jewelry, baskets or other things
  • damage = to have a bad effect on
  • decline = downfall
  • destroy = ruin completely
  • divide = split, separate
  • doge = leader of medieval Venice
  • empire = group of many countries or territories ruled by one person
  • erect = construct
  • especially = above all
  • expansion = when something becomes bigger or spreads over a larger area
  • flee = escape
  • flood = to cover land with water
  • foundation = here: the part of a building that is under the water
  • fresco = painting made on the wall while the plaster is still wet
  • furniture = large objects like beds, chairs or tables that you have in your house
  • gate = big door
  • global warming = the rise in the world’s temperature that has been taking place for many years
  • height = climax; highest point
  • host = to offer a place to hold an event
  • in addition = also
  • inhabitant = a person who lives in a city or country
  • invade = enter a place with an army and take control of it
  • invaluable = very expensive
  • lagoon = water that is partly separated from the open sea by rocks, sand or corals
  • Lent = the 40 days before Easter when some Christians eat less or stop doing something they enjoy
  • local = the people who live there
  • location = place
  • loss = is you lose something
  • mainland = the main area of land , not the islands
  • major = important
  • medieval = from the Middle Ages
  • method = way
  • navigator = person on a ship who says which way to go
  • oil refinery = building where oil is made into petrol and other products
  • oncoming = approaching, to come near
  • outlying =far away from the city center
  • palazzo = palace
  • pedestrian = person who travels by walking
  • porcelain = shiny white material used for making expensive cups and plates
  • reduce = lower
  • regularly = over and over again
  • rely = depend on
  • replace = to exchange for something else
  • representative =member
  • rich = famous and interesting
  • rise = go up
  • rule = govern; to be head of
  • scheduled = planned
  • sea level = here: on the coast
  • series = several, many
  • several = many
  • shift = change
  • spread out = expand
  • steadily = bit by bit, slowly
  • steel processing = buildings that produce strong metals that can be easily shaped
  • suburb = living area that is farther away from the city center
  • take control of = put yourself in power
  • territory = land
  • throughout = in all of
  • tides = the regular rising and falling of the level of the sea
  • tribe = group of propel of the same race, who speak the same language and have the same skin color
  • turbulence = confusion, hectic life
  • unstable = shaky; likely to break or fall
  • vendor = someone who sells things on the street
  • walkway = sidewalk, pavement
  • waterbus = boats that are used to bring many people from one place to another
  • wealthy = rich
  • wind = to make many curves