St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice – Basilica di San Marco

San Marco’s basement stands on the mud of Rivoalto’s island and the legends about Venice history.

While the resizing of eastern Roman’s Empire at the beginning of IX century, the Dodge Giustiniano Partcipazio thought necessary to update those traditions acquired from that culture, in order to build up the people spirit of belonging to the Republic of Venice.

The sunset of Byzantine influence, pushed Venice on the search for Its identity, starting from the patron of the city.

St.Mark, already venerated by the population, perfectly matched this role, mirroring Venecian’s values and devotion.

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Treasure of Saint Mark

The stolen treasure of Saint Mark

What the chronicles of the late 1400s report is perhaps one of the most sensational attempts at theft in the history of Venice.

Before the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte in Venice, the Treasures of Saint Mark held priceless valuables from all over the known world, and in 1494 a man thought that he could steal them.

This is the story of Stamati Crassiotti who devised a plan to steal the Treasure of Saint Mark.

Of the many petty thefts that occurred daily in Venice, Stamati probably thought that the risk he ran for his plan to work was pretty small compared to the prospect of a life lived in unbridled luxury that so many riches would have granted him.

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Calletta Varisco: the narrowest calle in Venice

Calletta Varisco in Venice is one of the narrowest streets in the city, and owes its name to the Varisco family who moved to Venice from Bergamo in the fifteenth century.

As well as being known in the city as silk workers in a Rialto shop, the chronicles of those times speak of Varisco family as the protagonists in two violent episodes that saw them imprisoned for a spell.
In 1488 Giovanni Varisco, who was considered a “man with a quarrelsome and bad temper”, wounded Luigi Dragan with a knife near the Basilica of San Giovanni e Paolo. The motivation for Giovanni’s attack are not known. A few years later, in 1491, Pietro Varisco (the eldest of the family), who being accused of fraud by a young servant named Marco, orders his son Luigi to slap the boy.

The consequences of this argument follow quickly, and on March 8, 1491, the court of the Serenissima condemns both father and son to a year of imprisonment together with the payment of a large sum of money. The administrative efficiency of the courts and the severity of the prisons of the Serenissima Repubblica, served only partly to stem crime in Venice so much so that the Varisco tale is not an isolated one, and certainly not the most serious of the court reports of those times.

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Walking into the history of Venice

The history of Venice is even more fascinating if you let the city itself tell it to you.

Beyond the majestic palaces facing the canals, the splendour of Venice is visible in the many small details that have survived to the present day and tell us the history of Venice as one of the most unique cities in the world.

Some of these details are very obvious such as the nizioleti, the street signs, that remind us of the people who worked in that street or which Venetian family lived there; eg: In the Sestiere of Cannaregio the underpass of the ‘Iron Den’ was the workplace of those specialising in the finishing of metal objects, especially those used to make gondolas.

In Castello, in the calle of the cutters there were stonecutters who worked the rough stone that would be used in the construction of palaces and churches.

San Marco, where the merchant’s boats landed, was the right place to look for hospitality for the night, more precisely in Calle de la Vida or the Locande.

These are just 3 of the four thousand nizioleti you can find in Venice, each of them with a story to tell, too numerous to describe here! 

The most attentive visitors, often remain fascinated by some of the carved symbols you can see when walking around the city, less obvious in their meaning than the nizioleti, and more profound to interpret.

If the history of Venice was a film, among the main protagonists you would certainly see the Venetian workers who, divided into different categories – the schools – supported the development of the city; the traces of their contribution are still visible if you can recognise their symbols:

In Saint Mark: the school of the spade makers, the School of Merchants, the school of masons; In Cannaregio: The school of painters, the sewing school; In Dorsoduro wool weaving school

The importance of work in the history of Venice was such that it has earned itself a prominent space in the heart of the city; an example of this are the sculptures at the base of the two large columns at the gates of Piazza San Marco that represent: the wine merchants, the fishmongers, the blacksmiths and the salinieri, together with the base of one of the columns in the ground floor porch of the Palazzo Ducale which is dedicated to the arts and to trades.

This article certainly only tells a small part of the history of Venice.

If you’re interested in this topic, take part in one of our Adventure Theater shows for a real journey through time in the company of professional actors who will show you the city and its history in an unusual experience away from the crowds!