Rarely in history has a great city arisen in a less likely place than the islands and mud flats of the Venetian lagoon. But they provided the city's founders with a refuge from the barbarians who had invaded their mainland homes.
With energy and ingenuity, these displaced people created a maritime empire of unequaled splendor. At its height, the Republic of Venice was said to encompass "one quarter and one half of one quarter" of the known world. During those years, its merchant princess lived more lavishly than many kings. With the discovery of the New World, however, Venice's trading monopolies were broken. The long, slow decline that followed was protracted and infinitely poignant. Today, the decaying buildings adjoining the Rialto Bridge serve as haunting reminders of the bygone age of La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic.
Here is the dramatic story of the city that was once known as the most beautiful in the world - the bride of the Adriatic and the unchallenged mistress of the Mediterranean.