• Katie

The Six Venetian Defenses

From a very early age, we are taught that fortresses keep us safe. We make blanket forts under dining room tables or in our backyards. We watch and read about stories where the princess is guarded in the fortress until her prince charming comes to save her (yikes!). But real-life fortresses aren’t as innocent. There was once a time in human history when we built massive fortresses to keep out enemies during bloody wars. These were nothing like the beautiful fortresses in fairytales. They were big, imposing, threatening, made to look intimidating to warn off rivals, and built to show power. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Venetians had such power. They broadcasted it all around their dominion by erecting six impenetrable fortresses that have remained formidable to this day- that doesn’t mean you can’t visit them.


The six Venetian Works of Defence are split up into two parts. The Stato da Terra, which comprises three sites in Italy, is located in the west to guard the territory on land.


The Stato da Mar, which includes three locations in Montenegro and Croatia, protects the sea routes and ports in the Adriatic Sea.


Fortified City of Bergamo


Traveling to all six is easiest if you start at the fortified city of Bergamo, located in Lombardy, because it is the first in the defense system. When it was first constructed, its primary duty was to be the first to show power to enemies throughout Europe.


The walls of the Bergamo Alta stretch along for more than 3 miles and are more than 150 feet high.


Fortified City of Peschiera del Garda


The next is the fortified city of Peschiera del Garda, located in Vento. It’s pentagonal and sits in a crevice of Lake Garda.


It was built by Michele Sanmicheli in 1549 as an exceptional example of a fortification built in a modern, or bastioned, system. That’s the new way fortresses were constructed after the invention of gunpowder.


City Fortress of Palmanova


Like Peschiera, the City Fortress of Palmanova is also a walled city, located in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It paints a picture of a beautiful geometric nine-point star shape on the landscape.


The Serenissima not only made it perfect in looks but also perfect in practicality- there are cannon stationed throughout points in the walls threatening anyone who comes near.


Defensive System of Zadar


With its prime location on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, the Defensive System of Zadar is the perfect naval base. It was an essential part of Venetian maritime trade, so they poured money in to protect it from invasion.


Fort of St. Nikola, Šibenik-Knin County


Looking upon this fortress is less pleasant than all the rest. It is located on an island by itself, and its tall grey walls are imposing and intimidating.


Built to protect the area’s cash crop, salt, the stand-alone fortress was built to be the first thing invaders saw when they sailed down the St. Anthony channel.


Fortified City of Kotor


The southernmost fortress in the system is Kotor in Montenegro, and it is just as grey and imposing as St. Nikola. It was built before the Venetians took hold of it and has passed in power throughout the centuries.


Traveling to all six fortresses paints a clearer picture of how the Venetians fortified their empire. Have you visited any of the six? I’d love to hear about it!

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