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Venice, Italy
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    (circa 166- )
    Founded by refugees from the Roman Empire fleeing barbarian invasions
    Built on an archipelago of 118 islands in a lagoon and on the nearby shores
    Known for its canals and gondolas
    Landmarks include St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and the Lido
    Population: 271,251 (2004 census estimate)
    During the Fourth Crusade (1202-04) its sailors and soldiers decided it would be more profitable to sack Constantinople than liberate the Holy Land.
    Until recently, almost all wastewater ran directly into the canals, making the city a giant open sewer.
    Much of the city has been sinking into the lagoon since the early 20th century.
    As a result, the first floors of many older buildings are uninhabitable.
    A plan to protect the city from flooding by deploying inflatable pontoons during high tides is controversial for its potentially harmful effect on wildlife in the lagoon.
    It was Europe's leading center of trade in the Middle Ages.
    Its leaders were relatively tolerant of religion and did not execute a single person for heresy during the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
    Its city center is the largest car-free urban area in Europe.
    The city and its lagoon were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
    It was the home of explorer Marco Polo, composer Antonio Vivaldi and artists Titian, Tintoretto, Giovanni Bellini, Canaletto and Giovanni Tiepolo.

Credit: C. Fishel

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