Replicas of Venice: The Venetian Index

Introduction

Venice, recognized for its unique architecture and romantic gondola rides along the street canals, is one of the most popular Italian cities in the world. Today, it is a must stop for people traveling to Europe, with an average of 50,000 tourists a day (Wikipedia, 2015). In the past, however, the independent Republic of Venice owed its prosperity to its trade relationships with the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world (Wikipedia, 2015). Its commercial success and growing wealth during the medieval period is what shaped the Venetian look we know today.

The popularity Venice gained with its picturesque canals makes people identify every city with waterways crossing the town center as a “Replica of Venice”. Over 50 places worldwide have been referred to as the Venice of the North, the West or the East, as well as Little Venice, The Green Venice, Alpine Venice, the Polish Venice, the Portuguese Venice, Venice of the Languedoc, Venice of the Gâtinais and others. Half of those places are located in Europe and possess the canal as a key uniting feature. However, if you look deeply into their history, the proximity to water has shaped their development in ways similar to Venice’s, turning them into central commercial hubs.

The purpose of this project is to locate all the European “Replicas of Venice” and identify what makes one associate them with the Italian town, be it the look of the city or its historical significance. Based on the performed comparison, each town will be evaluated on its Venetian qualities and assigned a place in the global ranking of European Venices.

Methods

In order to perform the Venetian ranking, first, a list was created of all the places worldwide referenced as “Venice of the XYZ”. Half of the 50 places identified were located in Europe due to the greater similarity in city development on the old continent. Hence, the project scope was limited to Europe and key features were identified in each of the European Venices. Different trends among them were observed and grouped into two main categories: history and geography. Based on these categories, the Venetian Index (VI) was created. The index evaluates the overall performance of each replica in the benchmark characteristics of the Italian town.

Тhe Venetian Index

During the performed literary research, the common attributes united under the geography category were area, population, proximity to sea and the presence of canals. The history category covered age, trade development, architecture, presence of bridges and the celebration of Venetian holidays such as Carnival. Since not all of those attributes are equally important, appropriate weights were assigned to each of them. The general formula for the established VI is given in figure 1 below.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Тhe attribute selected to have the greatest importance and hence the highest weight, wa=3, was trade development. Venice’s location on the Adriatic sea and its monopoly over the salt trade turned it into a wealthy commercial hub up until the Ottoman’s conquest of Constantinople and the Portuguese voyages to Asia (Wikipedia, 2015). Many of the “Venetian Replicas” located in proximity of the sea, were also developed into big trade centers and shared a similar historical development with Venice.

The architecture, the proximity to a sea and the age of the city were given a weight of wa=2. The Venetian Gothic style is unique to Venice (Wikipedia, 2015). Nevertheless, all cities which have preserved their medieval look were awarded one point for architecture. The “Venetian replicas” positioned close to the sea were granted one point for proximity. The ones founded before the X century were given one point for age. The rest of the attributes (area, population, bridges, canals, and Carnival) were assigned a weight of wa=1.

Following these criteria, the maximum score on the Venetian Index was 14 points: 5 for geography and 9 for history. Principal component analysis was subsequently performed on each of the replicas to determine which city and in which categories resembles Venice the most. The VI ranking was created, listing all the cities, starting from the highest to the lowest number of points.

Results

A website available on http://venetian-replicas.gear.host/ was created, where all the collected information on “Replicas of Venice” is currently displayed.

Map Representation

The world map section of the website highlights those European countries with Venetian cities, with the intensity of the color directly proportional to the quantity of “replicas” in the country (figure 2). By clicking on each country, one can see the names of all the “replicas” with representative pictures from the city center and an additional information link to their Wikipedia web page (figure 3).

venicesmap-pins
Figure 2. World Map
venicesmap-info
Figure 3. Additional information by country

Venetian Index

The Venetian Index section of the website gives the users a brief explanation of the methodology used to create the index. The VI ranking section displays the individual country scores (figure 4).

ranking
Figure 4. Venetian Index Ranking

Principal Component Analysis

Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was performed in order to interpret the ranking results (figure 5). Amsterdam and Bruges, with equal scores in the geography and history categories, were the established leaders of the VI with a total score of 10/14. Both cities, including Hamburg in second place with 9/14, and Wrocław in third place with 8/14, were a part of the Hanseatic League, which dictated trade relationships in Northern Europe. All of them are currently referred to as “Venice of the North”. The city of Nantes,  or “Venice of the West”, also in second place with 9/14, prospered thanks to the French slave trade in the XVIII century (Wikipedia, 2015).

Other places like Comacchio, Annecy and Giethoorn resembled Venice more in looks than in historic development. Annecy, “The Alpine Venice”, is the only other city in Europe celebrating the Venetian holiday Carnival (Wikipedia, 2015). Giethoorn, Holland, another one of the many “Venice of the North” towns is famous for its transportation system, being fully accessible by boat (Wikipedia, 2015). Comacchio, “The Little Venice”, is located just slightly north of the original Venice, in a similar coastal Lagoon (Wikipedia, 2015).

pca
Figure 5. Principal Component Analysis

Conclusion and Further Work

Even though it initially appeared as if the canal is the only common feature between the European Venices, further research showed that cities developed in proximity to water share similar historic fates.

In the future, the Venetian ranking can be extended to include towns located in the rest of the world.  Moreover, a more accurate ranking can be established by studying in detail the history and the economic growth of each of the commercial hubs.

References

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