Adriatic coast from Venice to Ravenna, from Codice Piranense (1520) by Pietro Coppo
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Adriatic coast from Venice to Ravenna, from Codice Piranense (1520) by Pietro Coppo

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The Italian Coastline

The Adriatic Sea was crucial for the development of the Venetian State and its growing trade. Many cities and ports along the eastern and western coasts of the Adriatic often acted as safe harbours and distribution points for Venetian convoys and ships (civil and military), even if not necessarily under Venetian rule.

To the West, along the Italian coastline, there were many city-ports that, at various times and in different ways, ended up under Venetian sway.
Starting with Ravenna, a port since the 1st Century bc: by invitation of the inhabitants of Ravenna, the Venetians took control of the city in 1441 and governed it until May 17th 1509 when they handed it over to Pope Julius II.

In the mid 1400s, Venice was at the height of its power and had ambitions of direct domination over the other ports in Emilia Romagna, especially Cesenatico.
Further south, Ancona opposed Venice’s domain. Ancona, like Gaeta, Trani and Ragusa, was one of the minor marine republics at the end of the 11th Century: Venice refused to accept that another maritime city in the Adriatic could be a competitor (albeit a weak one) for its traffic with the East. Ancona reached the height of its influence in the 13th and 14th Centuries, to become one of the most important ports in the Adriatic, at times in conflict with Venice, at others its ally.

In the south of Italy, Puglia (Apulia) was particularly linked to the fortunes of Venice.
In 1259, Manfred of Swabia, who ruled the region at the time, granted Venice the right to export some ten thousand “salme” of wheat (as he had Genoa) from a few ports in Abruzzo and Puglia, including Brindisi.
This city, Brindisi, was occupied by the Venetians along with the other major ports in Puglia (Monopoli, Polignano, Mola and Trani) some two centuries later (in 1496) and stayed under Venetian rule until 1509. During those years, the city of Brindisi acted as an important distribution centre for local produce (wine, livestock and oil) before being invaded by the Spanish. It also supplied the Venetian fleet with wheat for Corfu.
The white port of Otranto was also important for Venice and was ruled by the Serenissima for eleven years (1484-1495) before being occupied by the French. The Puglia coastline also supplied the Venetian merchant fleet with large amounts of salt, produced in the salt-works south of Manfredonia.

Following the fall of Constantinople (1453) to the Turks and the discovery of America (1492), the centre of trade gradually shifted towards the Atlantic and so all the maritime cities in Italy experienced a long period of recession, lasting the whole of the 17th Century.

1300 - 1400  -   - rev. 0.1.7

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