Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi: what do these four attractive Italian towns have in common? Find out about their glorious, sea-related past, that left plenty of traces, monuments and fun facts still noticeable today visiting the cities.

During the Middle Ages, four coastal towns of the Italic peninsula conquered a leading role in the European scene, becoming queens of the Mediterranean Sea. They were independent maritime city-states and in their governments the merchant class had considerable power: rather unique cases, in the Medieval World! These four republics almost look like a throwback to the great maritime republics of ancient times, such as Athens and Carthage. It was to defend themselves from the threats of Muslim raiders and pirates that they developed powerful navies, that soon were able to go on to the offensive: from the 10th to the 13th centuries the Maritime Republics took control of many of the sea trade routes in the Mediterranean and played an essential role in the Crusades.

The Maritime Republics also found themselves in competition, engaged in shifting alliances and warfare; but despite the commercial rivalry that played them off against one another, these four cities have always been considered a great Italian glory, for their initiative, their spirit of adventure and their ability of resurrect in the face of adversity. What is most surprising, is that very few people know about their glorious past as maritime powers, although they are at the present time very popular touristic destinations, famous all over the world for their monuments, their historical heritage or natural beauty…

Amalfi, the enchanting little town that gives its name to the famous stretch of coastline in the Campania region (Southern Italy): a UNESCO’s world heritage site, that offers stunning views of steep mountain cliffs, rocky seashore, multicolored towns and lush forests. Lemons, olives, grapes and flowers fill the air with divine scent. The town looks like a cluster of white houses clinging to the rock; in the main square, the beautiful Cathedral of St. Andrew, with its impressive staircase, the bell-tower in Arab-Norman style and the charming Cloister of Paradise.

Pisa, the town of the iconic Leaning Tower. Its artistic heritage goes far beyond the very famous Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), with the tower, the Dome and the Baptistery. There are noble Renaissance buildings, small Medieval alleyways, beautiful churches… and the Lungarni, especially spectacular at night with the lights reflecting on the water of the river. Not to mention the splendid hills and Medieval hamlets of the Pisan countryside.

Photo courtesy of Luca Aless

Genoa, the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus, is the capital of the Liguria Region. Its historical centre is the largest in Europe: noble palaces, splendid churches and an intricate maze of alleyways called “caruggi” that open unexpectedly onto beautiful small squares. The Old Harbor, next to the Aquarium (the biggest in Europe), is an entertainment area with museums, cinemas, cafés and also a beautiful promenade along the sea, redesigned by famous architect Renzo Piano.

Lastly Venice, with its magical romantic atmosphere… where you get lost in the maze of canals and narrow streets, marveling at every bridge you cross. The glass islands, the secret gardens, the splendor of the San Marco’s Basilica…  Venice is an incomparable chest of art and wonders, where each corner holds magnificent glimpses of the countless architectural masterpieces from every period of history.

You can relive the ancient Maritime Republics’ glory, their stories, adventures and great deeds, in each of these towns; an additional reason to chose Venice, Amalfi, Pisa or Genoa as your travel destination.

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by Arianna on Jan 23, 2017