Luca Pes (Venice International University)


From 15:15
to 16:45
From 15:15
to 16:45

Course description

Various things make Venice a place of particular interest: the fact that it was built on water and marshland; the way its inhabitants shaped the Lagoon and managed the environment; the relationship with Byzantium and the East; the way it became the capital of a merchant empire; its role as a center of the printing industry, art production and Humanism; its development into a city of pleasure; the sudden loss of independence; the 19th Century cultural myth of its death; its rebirth with the Risorgimento of Italy; the creation of a new urban order, from the industrial port of Marghera to the beach resort at the Lido; the great social transformations of the 1950’s-1970’s, leading to a 'Greater Venice' crisis;  its tendency to become a ‘theme-park’; the way the city still presents an alternative notion of urban space.

The course covers all of these themes through interactive lectures and a wide use of multimedia sources (images, videos, music), with a view to providing a broad introduction to ways of looking at the history of this unique place. The main focus will be on the relationship between the environmental setting, the morphology of the city, and its social life and political institutions.

Students are expected to actively contribute to the class, through one oral presentation, and a final research paper, developing themes of personal interest, in agreement with the Professor. Topics can range from Literature to Economics, from Law to Cinema. Past themes have included: Venice and the Fourth Crusade, Venetian Courtesans, The Life of Casanova, The Bostonians in Venice, Fascist Architecture in Venice, Venice in the History of Mass Tourism.

Group work mixing nationalities will be encouraged. Research papers must include bibliographical references and notes. Oral presentations may be the outcome of a field work.

Students are also expected to study a text and discuss it individually with the professor. The aim of the discussion will also be to test student understanding of what said in class and their orientation in time and space.

The course will involve several site visits (most probably: Biennale, Ghetto, Ducal Palace, Lagoon, Pellestrina, Seawalls, Industrial Area). Participants will be invited to walk around the city to explore places mentioned in class.

Detailed information, guidelines and useful materials will be available during the semester in the e-learning platform, which students will be asked to consult regularly, writing comments, when asked.


Syllabus (weekly distribution will depend on number of students attending)

Venetian stereotypes

Origin Narratives

The Invention of the Lagoon

The Construction of the City

Rise of Venice 726-1204

Expansion of Venetian Trade and Power 1204-1453

Decline and Fall 1453-1797

The Venetian Experience

“Death” and Risorgimento of the City

Venice: industrial city

Rise of Greater Venice

Unfinished Greater Venice

Venice: Work of Art in Progress or Theme Park?

Venice as Living City

Future Perspectives



10% attendance and participation

20% individual out of class discussion with professor

30% oral presentations in class

40% written final research paper



(A further list will be available in the e-learning platform)

Giorgio Gianighian and Paola Pavanini, Venice: the basics, Gambier Keller 2010 (80 pages) - introduction to urban Venice as a built environment by two Venetian architectural historians (Gianighian is professor of restoration at IUAV and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and teaches a course on UNESCO World Heritage Sites at VIU in the Fall semesters). 720.945311/GIA VEN

Gherardo Ortalli and Giovanni Scarabello, A Short History of Venice, Pacini Editore 1999 (126 pages) -the best very brief and reliable chronological synthesis of Venice as a city-state and power, widely available, by two scholars of Ca' Foscari University. 945.31/ORT VEN

Joanne M. Ferraro, Venice. History of the Floating City, Cambridge University Press 2012 (214 pages) - most recent overview of the History of Venice as a city and a state, assuming postmodern approaches: the construction and evolution of identities; the multiculturalism of material life; social hierarchy; and gender as a cultural construction - by an American Historian. 945.31/FER VEN

Elisabeth Crouzet Pavan, Venice Triumphant: the Horizons of a Myth, The Johns Hopkins University Press 2005 - top French scholar on Medieval Venice deconstructs myths and tells the history of the city and the Republic before 1797, paying attention also to urban daily life and the relationship with water: excellent book. 945.31/CRO VEN

Frederic Lane, Venice. A Maritime republic, The Johns Hopkins University Press 1973 - the classic textbook on the History of Venice, which keeps being reprinted. Lane has been the most outstanding US economic and social historian on Venice (esp. Renaissance): very reliable and clear. 945.31/LAN VEN

Margaret Plant, Venice. Fragile City 1797-1997, Yale University Press 2003 (424 pages) - this illustrated book encompasses politics, culture and architecture of the city after the fall fo the Republic, using also Italian scholarly research. The author is Professor Emeritus in Art History in Melbourne, Australia. 945.31/PLA VEN

Richard Bosworth, Italian Venice. A History, Yale University Press, New Haven and London 2014 (329 pages) - the history of Venice from the annexation to the present, told by an Australian political historian (famous for his works on Italian Fascism) from the University of Oxford. A most recent book, which roots narrative in visible elements of the urban environment (monuments, buildings, places), aware of Italian Historiographical works. 945.31/BOS VEN



Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272