Sunday, 16 January 2011

Veneto - Benvegnùo!

This is my 100th blogpost on Learning about the World!  It feels quite apt to be starting a new place with this post and I'm really looking forward to learning more about the Veneto in the coming weeks.  I hope you are too!

Veneto is an interesting place in the sense that, although nowadays it's part of Italy, this is only a recent state of affairs and the Veneto, in its former guise - the Venetian Republic - was an independent state for around 1,000 years.  A very powerful state, at that.  It's sort of odd that the Veneto didn't end up existing as a country in its own right in the 20th century and I get the feeling that regional identity is incredibly strong in this 'corner of Italy'.  I'm sure most locals see themselves as Venetians first and Italians second (if at all).

Like neighbouring Lombardy, it's one of the wealthiest Italian regions, famous for its textile and fashion industries, but also made wealthy by the 60 million tourists who visit every year.  Of course, Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic, the City of Masques, the Old Lady of the Lagoon is famous the world over.  It's definitely an iconic city and, like Paris and Athens, is used as a standard for cities the world over.  I used to live in the Venice of the East, Bangkok, but there are other Venices of the East, including Osaka, Udaipur and Basra!  There is also the Venice of the North, St Petersburg or, if you prefer, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Hamburg or even . . . Birmingham?

Piazza San Marco by Scott Ingram
 But the Veneto is not all about Venice, it's also got the Dolomites and Lake Garda, not to mention the UNESCO heritage sites of Verona, Vicenza and Padua.  The region is only slightly smaller than Wales and, perhaps surprisingly, Venice has a relatively small population (about a quarter of a million), which makes it about the same size as Swansea!  For my American readers, the Veneto is about the size of New Jersey and Venice is comparable in size to Newark.  The Veneto is made up of seven provinces, including:

Venice - phenomenally sited in the middle of a lagoon, the city seems to have been built out of desperation, in an attempt to escape the invasions of the Goths from the north of Europe.  The wonder of Venice's existence has inspired artists, writers and myth makers throughout the centuries. 

Verona - on the other hand, has been around since Roman times and was the original 'capital' of the region.  It's famous for its amphitheatre where open-air operas are staged every summer.  It's also the setting for Shakespeare's version of Romeo and Juliet

Vicenza - is the industrial heartland of the Veneto.  It's suffered a lot in recent years, due to the decline in the steel and textile industries.  Unemployment is at an all-time high.  Interestingly, Sonia Gandhi was born in the Vicenza region - she met her husband Rajiv whilst she was working as a waitress in Cambridge, where Rajiv was studying engineering. 

Treviso - is the heart of the Veneto's fashion industry and the headquarters of the Benetton Group

Padua - is home to one of the world's oldest universities.  It was also the setting for Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Rovigo - is in the very south of the Veneto and is a swampy wetland that contains the delta of the River Po.

Belluno - is the mountainous northern province.  It's the most sparsely populated province in the Veneto and is well-know for its production of (eye) glasses.

I visited the Veneto in 2003, spending a few days in Verona, which was an impressive city.  I saw Verdi's Nabucco performed in the Roman amphitheatre, which was one of the most amazing experiences ever!!  I also visited Venice, which was incredibly beautiful, despite the throngs of tourists.  I just happened to be there during the famous Biennale and, although I'm not usually a massive fan of modern art, I found the exhibition fascinating and would love to go back sometime (maybe this year!). 

As usual, I've got some books and movies lined up, I'm definitely going to delve into Opera music and, most of all, I look forward to trying my hand at Venetian cuisine!  I hope you'll join me, as I learn about the Veneto. 

Image credits:

The image of the flag of Veneto was provided copyright-free on Wikimedia, the original image having been supplied by wikuser Vajotwo with this derived version being added by wikiuser Flanker - you can see a more detailed description of this image at

I found the amazing image of Piazza San Marco on flickr and this is provided copyright-free by flickruser Scott Ingram Photography - Scott is a self-proclaimed technogeek from Denver, Colorado and has some amazing images on his flickrstream, the most recent being a series of images from Hawaii.  You can visit Scott's flickrstream at and you can also visit his website

The image of the Provinces of Veneto was taken from Wikimedia Commons.  It was created by Wikiuser NormanEinstein and is distributed using the Creative Commons License.  You can see the description page of this file at

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