A little history
After the year one thousand, the history of this region (which for the many centuries played an important role in the entire region of the Alps) is marked by the events surrounding Venice (presently the regional capital). Its particular geographical position is also important since, as a consequence of a flourishing marine-trade, it has had a history greatly influenced by its contact with the East, which saw its culmination in the fourth religious Crusade. Due to the financial reasons linked to the fact that Venice possessed a marine fleet for its transport, this crusade transformed itself from the Holy War desired by Pope Innocent III (who came to the pontifical throne in 1197) into a war of expansion by Venice under the rule of the Doge Enrico Dandolo. In 1203, after a two month long siege, the crusaders entered Constantinople. Both Venetians and crusaders decided to take possession of the Byzantine empire: Constantinople was taken and ransacked. Baldovino di Fiandra was elected emperor (backed by the Venetians) and the Marquis of Monferrato (head of the crusaders) was made King of Thessalonika. Instead of taking the Holy Lands from the Turks, the crusaders had crushed the Byzantine Empire in the interest of Venetian commercial expansion, giving rise to the birth of the Latin Eastern Empire.
Venice dominated to such a degree in the Marea and in the islands of the archipelago, and in Candia, to become the overriding commander of the East until the fall of the Latin empire in 1261, which signalled a form of revenge for Genoa, the great rival of Venice. The struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean between the two cities continued in the XIV century. In 1381 the Genoese entered the Adriatic, taking Chioggia and besieging the city itself; it was Vittor Pisani who finally saves it and repels the enemy attack.
With the close of the XIV century, a new era in Venetian politics comes into being; a phase defined as being “the politics of dry-land”; there had already been several conquests (Treviso and the Istrian coast), but by the beginning of the 1400’s a policy of systematic penetration into the Venetian hinterland resulted in gains that quickly lead to the city reaching as far the Mincio. This lead to conflict with the Duchy of Milan, while to the east it was pushed toward a more defensive policy that lead to the loss of its former conquests.
In terms of dry-land, it acquired Dalmazia from the King of Hungary; having obtained the cities of Padua and Verona, it came into possession of the Patriarchy of Aquileia (1418-20); and upon conflict with Filippo Maria Visconti, it occupied Brescia, Bergamo and Crema, before claiming the Po delta at Rovigo (1484), and extending its influence over the cities of Puglia (Otranto, Brindisi, Trani, Monopoli) and finally Romagna (1504). Its power could lead one to suspect a aspiration to the monarchy of Italy: and it is just this which brought about its downfall. Its enemies were just over the border, first and foremost the Austrian Hapsburgs (with Maximilian), as well as the King of France Louis XII, who had come into possession of Lombardy. The anti-Venetian ‘League of Cambrai’ was born, and the battle of Agnadello on the 14th of May 1509, resulting in a French victory, spelled the end of Venetian expansionism.
Venice reacted admirably to this harsh blow, managing to divide its enemies, saving at least its landed state, but the era of political greatness was at an end. For all of the XVII century, it was able to defend its eastern possessions; but at the beginning of the XVIII (peace of Passarowitz, 1718) it had to relinquish the Marea and its holdings in the Aegean sea. The power of Venice was over; the European prestige which the republic had enjoyed for centuries was but a distant memory; instead, for the Europeans of the XVIII century, Venice became above all else a centre of pleasure. With the treaty of Campoformio (1797), Venice was given to Austria by Napoleon Bonapart, who treated it as a personal possession, but without arousing any grave hostility. And from that moment the city followed the fortunes of the Lombardy-Veneto regions.
A history, therefore, that of Venice, so broad ranging, with such high ambitions, and so rich in contacts, as to justify the development of a culture enriched by outside influences. Especially those influences from the East, that find their expression in the city’s manners and customs and in particular its cuisine, which still today distinguishes itself for the desire for strong flavours, the use of spices and for the sumptuous and spectacular nature of its banquets.