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The line of forts

itinerari

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There is a fortified Venice that few are aware of; or rather, there used to be one. Today only a part of the city's huge and complex defensive system has survived. This valuable group of buildings for decades had been designated exclusively for military purposes and was little known. Now that the military authorities have ceded a good many of these forts, it has been possible to convert them into cultural sites and places of tourist interest. They are now part of the new historical naturalist itineraries between the lagoon and its hinterland, winding along a very extensive and most picturesque route.
The 'walk' - of extraordinary architectural, naturalistic and archaeological interest - begins at Forte Marghera, the oldest and most imposing of those of the entrenchment around Mestre, occupying in fact over 40 hectares. A star-shaped design, it was the first fortified work built for the defence of Venice and of its Arsenale against attacks from the land and is placed in the centre ground. From here, proceeding to Forte Manin and on to Forte Bazzera, where we find the powder magazines, the last remaining ones of the whole system, and dating from the First World War. Amid archaeological excavations, river mouths and watchtowers, we come to Forte Carpenedo, where the 19th century military barracks have been perfectly reconstructed with their infirmaries, dormitories and stables. But in the course of our unusual walk we chance upon a great variety of edifices. We may even come across the fine mills at Marzenego. So, even before reaching Venice and the lagoon we have already seen a good part of the defensive system that extends to the Arsenale, the vast complex whose workshops fitted out the powerful Venetian mercantile war fleets that so facilitated the city's rise to greatness.
The moment has come to go further afield and visit the lagoon forts. Between one island and another stands the strategically sited Forte Sant'Andrea at the entrance to the lagoon, and then the Lazzaretto Nuovo island, Forte San Felice at Chioggia, the Maximilian Tower on Sant'Erasmo, the Scarpa-Volo Estate at Mazzorbo and the Forte Ca' Roman on the littoral at Pellestrina. Altogether it's worthwhile to retrace Venice's magnificent past, visiting the defence network that made it possible for the city to survive right down to the present day.