She was born over 1600 years ago when some tradesmen fled the mainland to escape the Huns. There was nothing there but wilderness and salt water. But her parents, the survivors of the great migrations, were inventive. And quickly they began to trade in salt, as by the sea, there was lots of it.
Cities were founded all around the Adriatic Sea, all trading, all making business. But none of them controlled the waters like the city that rose from wooden stakes. She was situated in the best place possible, between old and new, east and west, between a destroyed Rome and an exploited Byzantium. She was stone on water. She was the Lion Republic. She was Serenissima.
And Serenissima did not wait to take the centre stage. She was beautiful and powerful, so why not! After she took control of the Adriatic and I don’t mean by military force, no, by diplomacy and charm, by trade and business, she thought why not take charge over all the sea?
By the time of the Middle Ages, she set the tone for the whole Mediterranean, from North Africa to Byzantium and all the way to Asia. If you wanted to trade, if you wanted to make business, if you wanted to play a part in history, you had to come to her, to the singing siren Serenissima. Everyone listened to the Sea Queen’s song. But don’t be mistaken by her beautiful voice. She was not a mermaid but a siren and if you did not play like she wanted to, she would devour you instantly.
But who could deny her? She was fun, she had everything one needed, she had all the goods and spices. East and West bowed down to her. But the first blow for Serenissima had to come. It was no physical enemy. No one climbed her walls. She did not have any. She did not need any. It was simply fate. The Portuguese discovered the sea path to India and the rest of Europe discovered a new world to the west.
Suddenly, the world was not governed by city- states any longer but by countries and continents. For a moment, she raised her eyebrows on her comfortable thrown of silken pillows. She was in doubt. Her song was not as powerful as it used to be. But Serenissima laughed in their faces. She knew better than that. She did what she had been doing all along. She chose to create art. And who cares about politics when you can be the centre of attention? Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, they all came to Serenissima and paid tribute to her. And while the Ottoman Empire to the east and the Habsburgs to the west battled on, Serenissima celebrated. She knew death would come eventually. So why not greet him with some wine and cheese?
Goldoni and Casanova celebrated with her until the sweet end, until a short man, called Napoleon, crashed the party and all was over. What was left of Serenissima was given to the Habsburgs and now, what one thousand years could not do, one hundred years of pollution finally achieved. The wooden stakes are unable to carry the consequences of mortal men. Immortal Serenissima is sinking. But she will laugh at that too, in her hand, a glass of good wine, drinking.