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Subsidence

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Further information: Acqua Alta
Acqua Alta or high water in Venice.
Venice and surroundings in false colour, from Terra. The picture is oriented with North at the top.

[edit]Foundations

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.

Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface. It is petrified as a result of the constant flow of mineral-rich water around and through it, so that it becomes a stone-like structure.[citation needed]

Most of these piles were made from trunks of alder trees,[26] a wood noted for its water resistance.[27] The alder came from the western-most part of today's Slovenia (resulting in the barren land of the Kras region), in two regions of Croatia, Lika and Gorski kotar (resulting in the barren slopes of Velebit) and south of Montenegro.[citation needed] Leonid Grigoriev has stated that Russian larchwas imported to build some of Venice's foundations.[28] Larch is also used in the production of Venice turpentine.[29]

[edit]History

Panorama of the Giudecca Canal and the Saint Mark's Basin

The city is often threatened by flood tides pushing in from the Adriatic between autumn and early spring. Six hundred years ago, Venetians protected themselves from land-based attacks by diverting all the major rivers flowing into the lagoon and thus preventing sediment from filling the area around the city. This created an ever-deeper lagoon environment.

In 1604, to defray the cost of flood relief Venice introduced what could be considered the first example of a 'stamp tax'. When the revenue fell short of expectations in 1608, Venice introduced paper with the superscription 'AQ' and imprinted instructions, which was to be used for 'letters to officials'. At first, this was to be a temporary tax, but it remained in effect until the fall of the Republic in 1797. Shortly after the introduction of the tax, Spain produced similar paper for general taxation purposes, and the practice spread to other countries.

During the 20th century, when many artesian wells were sunk into the periphery of the lagoon to draw water for local industry, Venice began to subside. It was realised that extraction of water from the aquifer was the cause. The sinking has slowed markedly since artesian wells were banned in the 1960s. However, the city is still threatened by more frequent low-level floods (called Acqua alta, "high water") that creep to a height of several centimetres over its quays, regularly following certain tides. In many old houses the former staircases used to unload goods are now flooded, rendering the former ground floor uninhabitable.

Some recent studies have suggested that the city is no longer sinking,[30][31] but this is not yet certain; therefore, a state of alert has not been revoked. In May 2003 the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inaugurated the MOSE project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), an experimental model for evaluating the performance of hollow floatable gates; the idea is to fix a series of 78 hollow pontoons to the sea bed across the three entrances to the lagoon. When tides are predicted to rise above 110 centimetres, the pontoons will be filled with air, causing them to float and block the incoming water from the Adriatic Sea. This engineering work is due to be completed by 2014.[32]

[edit]Geography

Sestieri of Venice:
    Cannaregio
    Castello
    Dorsoduro
    San Marco
    San Polo
    Santa Croce
Aerial view of Venice
A rare tornado on June 12, 2012 seen from a window of theVenice Marco Polo Airport

The city is divided into six areas or "sestiere". These are CannaregioSan PoloDorsoduro (including the Giudecca and Isola Sacca Fisola), Santa CroceSan Marco (including San Giorgio Maggiore) and Castello (includingSan Pietro di Castello and Sant'Elena). Each sestiere was administered by a procurator and his staff.

These districts consist of parishes – initially seventy in 1033, but reduced under Napoleon and now numbering just thirty-eight. These parishes predate the sestieri, which were created in about 1170.

Other islands of the Venetian Lagoon do not form part of any of the sestieri, having historically enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy.

Each sestiere has its own house numbering system. Each house has a unique number in the district, from one to several thousand, generally numbered from one corner of the area to another, but not usually in a readily understandable manner.

[edit]Climate

According to the Köppen climate classification, Venice has a Humid subtropical climate (Cfa), with cool winters and very warm summers. The 24-hour average in January is 2.5 °C (36.5 °F), and for July this figure is 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). Precipitation is spread relatively evenly throughout the year, and averages 801 millimetres (31.5 in).

[hide]Climate data for Venice (1961–1990)
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Average high °C (°F) 5.8
(42.4)
8.2
(46.8)
12.0
(53.6)
16.3
(61.3)
21.2
(70.2)
24.8
(76.6)
27.5
(81.5)
27.0
(80.6)
23.6
(74.5)
18.1
(64.6)
11.5
(52.7)
6.7
(44.1)
16.9
(62.4)
Average low °C (°F) −0.9
(30.4)
0.7
(33.3)
3.8
(38.8)
7.9
(46.2)
12.3
(54.1)
15.9
(60.6)
17.8
(64.0)
17.3
(63.1)
14.2
(57.6)
9.4
(48.9)
4.2
(39.6)
0.0
(32.0)
8.6
(47.5)
Precipitation mm (inches) 58.1
(2.287)
54.2
(2.134)
57.1
(2.248)
64.3
(2.531)
68.7
(2.705)
76.4
(3.008)
63.1
(2.484)
83.1
(3.272)
66.0
(2.598)
69.0
(2.717)
87.3
(3.437)
53.7
(2.114)
801.0
(31.535)
humidity 81 77 75 75 73 74 71 72 75 77 79 81 75.8
Avg. precipitation days 6.7 6.2 6.6 8.2 8.3 8.9 5.7 6.7 5.4 6.0 7.7 6.4 82.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 80.6 107.4 142.6 174.0 229.4 243.0 288.3 257.3 198.0 151.9 87.0 77.5 2,037.0
Source: MeteoAM[33]

[edit]Economy

Venice's economy has changed throughout history. In the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, Venice was a major centre for commerce and trade, as it controlled a vast sea-empire, and became an extremely wealthy European city, a leader in political and economic affairs and a centre for trade and commerce.[34] Since the 11th century until the 15th century pilgrimages to the Holy Land were offered in Venice. Other ports such as GenoaPisaMarseilleAncona and Dubrovnik were hardly able to make any competition to the well organized transportation of pilgrims from Venice.[35][36] This all changed by the 17th century, when Venice's trade empire was taken over by other countries such as Portugal, and its naval importance was reduced. In the 18th century, then, it became a major agricultural and industrial exporter. The 18th century's biggest industrial complex was the Venice Arsenal, and the Italian Army still uses it today (even though some space has been used for major theatrical and cultural productions, and beautiful spaces for art).[37] Today, Venice's economy is mainly based on tourism, shipbuilding (mainly done in the neighbouring cities of Mestre and Porto Marghera), services, trade and industrial exports.[34] Murano glass production in Murano and lace production in Burano are also highly important to the economy.[34]

[edit]Tourism

Piazza San Marco. Doge's Palace

Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art and architecture.[38] The city has an average of 50,000 tourists a day (2007 estimate).[39] In 2006, it was the world's 28th most internationally visited city, with 2.927 million international arrivals that year.[40]

The Ponte dei Sospiri, the "Bridge of Sighs".
A gondola and a gondolier in the Grand Canal.

Tourism has been a major sector of Venetian industry since the 18th century, when it was a major center for the Grand Tour, with its beautiful cityscape, uniqueness, and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. In the 19th century, it became a fashionable centre for the rich and famous, often staying or dining at luxury establishments such as the Danieli Hotel and the Caffè Florian. It continued being a fashionable city in vogue right into the early 20th century.[38] In the 1980s, theCarnival of Venice was revived and the city has become a major centre of international conferences and festivals, such as the prestigious Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival, which attract visitors from all over the world for their theatrical, cultural, cinematic, artistic, and musical productions[38]

Today, there are numerous attractions in Venice, such as St Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the Piazza San Marco. The Lido di Venezia is also a popular international luxury destination, attracting thousands of actors, critics, celebrities, and mainly people in the cinematic industry. The city also relies heavily on the cruise business.[38]

However, Venice's popularity as a major worldwide tourist destination has caused several problems, including the fact that the city can be very overcrowded at some points of the year. It is regarded by some as a tourist trap, and by others as a 'living museum'.[38] Unlike most other places in Western Europe, and the world, Venice has become widely known for its element of elegant decay. The competition for foreigners to buy homes in Venice has made prices rise so highly that numerous inhabitants are forced to move to more affordable areas of Veneto and Italy, the most notable being Mestre.

[edit]Transport

Aerial view of Venice including the Ponte della Libertà bridge to the mainland

Venice is built on an archipelago of 117 islands formed by 177 canals in a shallow lagoon, connected by 409 bridges.[41] In the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, and almost every form of transport is on water or on foot. In the 19th century a causeway to the mainland brought the Venezia Santa Lucia railway station to Venice, and the Ponte della Libertà road causeway and parking facilities were built during the twentieth century. Beyond the road/rail land entrances at the northern edge of the city, transportation within the city remains (as it was in centuries past) entirely on water or on foot. Venice is Europe's largest urban car-free area. Venice is unique in Europe, in having remained a sizable functioning city in the twenty-first century entirely without motorcars or trucks.

The classical Venetian boat is the gondola, (plural: gondole) although it is now mostly used for tourists, or for weddings, funerals, or other ceremonies, or as 'traghetti' (sing.: traghetto) to cross the Canale Grande in the absence of a nearby bridge. Many gondolas are lushly appointed with crushed velvet seats and Persian rugs. Less well-known is the smaller sandolo. At the front of each Gondola that works in the city there is a large piece of metal called the 'ferro,' or iron. Its shape has evolved through the centuries, as documented in many well-known paintings. Its form, topped by a likeness of the Doge's hat, became gradually standardized, and was then fixed by local law. It consists of six bars pointing forwards representing the Sestieri of the city, and one that points backward representing the Giudecca).[citation needed]

[edit]Waterways

Venezia is a city of small islands, enhanced during the Middle Ages by the dredging of soils to raise the marshy ground above the tides. The resulting canals encouraged a nautical culture to flourish, which proved central to the economy of the city. Today those canals still provide the means for transport of goods and people within the city.

The maze of canals threaded through the city requires the use of more than 400 bridges to permit the flow of foot traffic. In 2011 the city opened Ponte della Costituzione, the fourth bridge across the Grand Canal, connecting the Piazzale Roma bus terminal area with the Stazione Ferroviaria (train station), the others being the original Ponte di Rialto, the Ponte dell'Accademia, and the Ponte degli Scalzi.

[edit]Public transport

Azienda Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano (ACTV) is the name of the public transport system in Venice. It combines land transportation, with buses, and canal travel, with water buses (vaporetti). In total, there are 25 routes that connect the city.

The main public transportation means are motorised waterbuses (vaporetti), which ply regular routes along the Grand Canal and between the city's islands. The only gondole still in common use by Venetians are the traghetti, foot passenger ferries crossing the Grand Canal at certain points without bridges.

The Venice People Mover (managed by ASM) is a cable operated public transit system connecting Tronchetto island with Piazzale Roma. Water taxis are also active.

Morning Impression along a Canal in Venice, Veneto, Italy. by Rafail Sergeevich Levitsky.(1896) The Di Rocco Wieler Private Collection, Toronto, Canada

[edit]Airports

Venice is served by the Marco Polo International Airport, or Aeroporto di Venezia Marco Polo, named in honor of its famous citizen. The airport is on the mainland and was rebuilt away from the coast. From the Venice airport, it's possible to reach by public transport:

  • Venice Piazzale Roma by ATVO (provincial company) buses[42] and by ACTV (city company) buses (route 5aerobus);[43]
  • Venice, Lido and Murano by Alilaguna (private company) boats;
  • Mestre, the mainland and Venice Mestre railways station (convenient for connections to MilanPadovaTrieste,Verona and the rest of Italy) by ACTV lines (route 15 and 45)[43] and by ATVO lines;
  • regional destination (Treviso, Padua, beach, ...) by ATVO buses and by Busitalia Sita Nord[44] buses (national company).

Some airlines market Treviso Airport in Treviso, 30 km from Venice, as a Venice gateway. Some simply advertise flights to "Venice", while naming the actual airport only in small print.[45] To reach Venice from Treviso airport people can catch a public bus from the company ATVO.

Venezia Lido,[46] a public airport suitable for smaller aircraft, is found on the NE end of Lido di Venezia. It has a 1000-metre grass runway.

[edit]Trains

Venice is serviced by regional and national trains, which can connect the city to Rome in 3.5 hours and to Milan in 2.5 hours. Treviso is thirty-five minutes away.[47] Florence and Padua are two of the stops between Rome and Venice. The St. Lucia station is a few steps away from a vaporetti stop.

The station is the terminus and starting point of the Venice Simplon Orient Express from or to London Victoria and Paris.

[edit]Car

The maritime portion of Venice has no roads as such, being composed almost entirely of narrow footpaths, and laid out across islands connected by staired stone footbridges, making transportation impossible by almost anything with wheels (but wheeled suitcases are commonly pulled). Cars can reach the car/bus terminal via the Ponte della Libertà bridge that comes in from the northwest from Mestre. There are two parking lots that serve the city: Tronchetto and Piazzale Roma. A ferry to Lido leaves from the parking lot in Tronchetto, and it is served by public transportation in the form of vaporetti (boats) and buses.

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