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Aghios Nikolaos (Crete), Greece

 Crete's eastern corner is home to the resort of Aghios Nikolas, a port that leads the way to the island's most significant ancient ruins. The ancient Minoans lived on Crete as far back as 2500 BC in a society that was by far the most advanced at the time. The ruins of the Minoan palaces that remain today date from 1700 to 1500 BC and reveal remarkable achievements. The Palace of Knossos was built around an open courtyard and contain a labyrinth of rooms, drainage and lighting systems and even a toilet and bathtub. Other significant periods in Crete's history include medieval times when Turkish artists and writers fled to Crete following the fall of Constantinople and resulting in a "Cretan Renaissance" era.

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Barcelona, Spain

 The Phoenicians were the first to settle in Barcelona, and during the 3rd century BC the Carthaginians named it Barcino after Barca, the ruling family's name. The city grew rapidly under the early rule of the Romans and during medieval times had reached significant wealth and political power. In 1640 the people of the city began a revolution against ruler Philip IV and built a fort for their own protection on Montjuic hill. By the nineteenth century, Barcelona was one of Europe's largest and most successful ports, and today is one of the world's leading cities in art and architecture. The artistic beauty of this unique destination is credited to the talents of Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Antonio Gaudi, Jose Clara and others.

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Bordeaux, France

 Inland from France's central Atlantic coast, along the Garonne River, lies the port of Bordeaux, best known for its superior wines. During the twelfth century, the King Louis VI's son married Eleanor, the daughter to Duke William of Aquitaine. The dowry included the southwestern portion of France. But fifteen years later, the marriage was dissolved, and the dowry was returned. Eleanor quickly married the Duke of Normandy, who soon was crowned King Henry II of England. The three centuries that followed were filled with conflict between England and France, but in the final battle of the Hundred Years War, Bordeaux was won back for France. Later during the French Revolution, a group known as the Girondins were formed in Bordeaux. They were accused of conspiracy against the revolution and executed in 1773.

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Calvi, Italy

 The citadel-town of Calvi has a population of 3600. It sits atop a promontory at the western end of a beach-lined, half-moon shaped bay. For much of the year, seaside sunbathers can either admire the iridescent turquoise waters of the Golfe de Calvi or, if they turn around, ponder Monte Cinto (2706 metres) and its snowy neighbours only 20 km or so inland. The coast between Calvi and I'lle Rousse is dotted with a string of the fine-sand beaches. Calvi is the largest settlement in the Balagne region.

From the 13th to the 18th centuries, Calvi was a Genoese stronghold. Its citizens' renowned loyalty to Genoa is immortalized in the motto accorded to the town by the Republic of Genoa in 1562 and carved over the gate to the Citadel: Civitas Calvi Semper Fidelis (the city of Calvi, forever faithful). In 1794, a British expeditionary fleet assisting Pasquale Paoli's Corsican nationalist forces, who had fallen out with the island's post-1789 Revolutionary government, besieged and bombarded Calvi. In the course of the battle, a certain Captain Nelson - later known to the world as Admiral Horatio Nelson - was wounded by rock splinters and lost the use of his right eye.

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Cannes, France

 When Lord Brougham, Chancellor of Britain was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Cannes on his journey to Italy, he was captivated by the natural setting of the village. Each winter he returned to Cannes which began a tourism industry as England's wealthy flocked to spend their holidays here. Today the rich and famous come from all over the world to participate in the elite Cannes Film Festival, which honors filmmakers from the world over.

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Cadiz, Spain

 In 1100 BC, Cadiz was established as a trading post by the Phoenicians and was later occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and Moors. Following Columbus' fifteenth century discovery of America, many treasures were brought back to the port, making Cadiz the wealthiest western European port. Due to its vast treasures, it was constantly attacked, and in 1587 Sir Francis Drake burned all the ships anchored in the bay. During the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, Britain's Lord Admiral Nelson along with Spanish and French troops defeated Napoleon off the coast of Cadiz, but Nelson was killed during the battle. In 1812 Ferdinand was captured and imprisoned in Cadiz but was released by the French.

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Capri, Italy

 Despite the boatloads of tourists who pour onto the Marina Grande each day and restaurants that boast real English butter and Maxwell House coffee, Capri is a beautiful and relatively unspoiled dot in the Bay of Naples. Its breathtaking caves, luxuriant vegetation and the charming narrow lanes of its small towns have attracted visitors for centuries. Capri was first occupied by the Greeks and then the Romans, when in 29 BC it became the playground of Emperor Augustus and his successor, Tiberius.

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Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 

  Ancient Rome was built upon seven hills in the eighth century BC. As early as the sixth century BC, the Romans developed their city into the most sophisticated society in all of the Western world. By the fourth century BC, Christianity was permitted in Rome, and for the past nineteen centuries the Roman Catholic religion has spread across the world under the leadership of the pope. One the Roman's most powerful rulers, Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC during the Ides of March. Caesar's nephew, Augustus, was chosen as the first emperor of Rome in 27 BC. Since its history began, the Romans have built magnificent structures awarding them with some of the world's most honored ancient and modern artistic achievements.

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Corfu, Greece

 Legendary Corfu is a lush and romantic island, written about by Homer in his famous Odyssey. The Corinthians were the first to settle on the Ionian Islands in the eighth century BC. From the fourteenth through eighteenth centuries, the Venetians ruled Corfu establishing it as a base for their merchant ships. But their greatest enemies were the Turks, who invaded the island on several occasions. When Venice fell to the French in 1797, thousands of French were sent to the island only to be forced out by the Russians and Turks. By 1864, Ionian Islands were granted independence under the Treaty of France, and in 1862 the islands were joined with the new state of Greece.

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Corinth, Greece

 One of ancient Greece's most prosperous cities, Corinth strategically linked the Ionian and Aegean Seas. An enormous acropolis was built by the Greeks and later expanded by the Romans. The Corinthians were known for their many talents including the making of fine clay figurines, bronze statues and glass. They lived a life of luxury and were known throughout the ancient world for their abundance of courtesans who practiced sacred prostitution in the Temple of Aphrodite. Under the Romans, St. Paul preached Christianity to all who lived in Corinth including the Pagans and Jews. In 1858, a violent earthquake destroyed most of the town, but many of the structures of the acropolis were saved.

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Corinth Canal - Itea, Greece

 The Corinth Canal is flanked by the city of Livadostro and the historic city of Corinth. East of Corinth, the Isthmus is only four miles wide and ten miles long. It must have been apparent from a very early period that if you could get your ships across at this point, you would avoid the long and dangerous journey around the Pelopenese. Such a maneuver would in fact shorten the journey from Athens to the west by some 200 miles and about ten sailing hours.

The present canal was completed in 1893 after 11 years of work. The canal as it is today is nearly four miles long, 75 feet wide and 26 feet deep. The walls towering above are solid rock walls, taller than a 20 story building, thus giving the illusion that the channel is narrower than it actually looks.

Basking in a setting of unparalleled beauty on the slope of Mount Parnassus, Delphi is perhaps the most famous classical site in Greece. For the ancient Greeks it was the "navel" of the earth, the spot where two eagles let loose by Zeus had flown from opposite ends of the world and met. Apollo, brightest and best of the gods, slew the dragon Python when he took over the precinct from the earth goddess Gaia and her daughters. The oracle he is said to have founded here, in a cleft on the rockface, was the religious and moral capital of the classical world for many centuries. 

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Delos, Greece

 According to Greek mythology, Leto, former lover of Zeus, gave birth to twins under a palm tree on the island of Ortygia. In celebration of the birth of Apollo and Artemis, the island was renamed Delos, meaning "illustrious", and quickly became the sanctuary of Apollo. During the Mycenean period, from 1400 to 1200 BC, the Cycladic Island of Delos was already well-established with palaces and artistic treasures. Delos was later the capital of a group of nearby islands and reached the peak of its religious significance during the seventh and sixth centuries BC. During the mid-sixth century BC, Tyrant Peisistratos from Athens established a law that prohibited births and deaths on the island. Later all graves were removed from the Delos in honor of his wishes.  

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Florence, Italy

 Cradle of the Renaissance, home of Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and the Medicis, Florence is at once overwhelming in its wealth of art, culture and history, and yet one of the most atmospheric and pleasant cities to visit in Italy.

Situated on the banks of the Arno River and set among low hills clad in olive groves and vineyards, Florence is immediately captivating. Florence attracts millions of tourists each year who come to gaze at Michelangelo's David, or stand in awe at Brunelleschi's immense and magnificent Duomo, and Giotto's accompanying bell tower. The French writer Stendhal expressed a feeling of culture shock, of giddy faintness that left him unable to walk after being dazzled by the magnificence of the Church of Santa Croce. This condition is now known as Stendhalismo, or Stendhal's Disease, described by Florentine doctors who treat up to 12 cases each year.

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Ibiza, Spain

 The scenic Balearic Islands are covered with limestone hills topped by lush pine forests. Ibiza, often called the "White Island" due to its abundance of whitewashed houses, is the third largest of the group. The Phoenicians began trading here as early as the tenth century BC, leaving behind a large necropolis containing more than 2,000 tombs. By the seventh century BC, the Carthaginians established a powerful colony on the island and ruled until the Romans took occupation. Both these groups expanded the necropolis built by the Phoenicians, burying their dead in the same tradition. All of the Balearic Islands were occupied by the Muslims from the tenth through thirteenth centuries, developing agriculture and building advanced irrigation systems.

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Istanbul, Turkey

 Istanbul is where "East meets West", connecting Europe and Asia Minor. The history of this capital dates back sixteen centuries to the powerful Byzantine Empire, which controlled many cities throughout the world. During this time, around the fifth century BC, the city was called Byzantium. Following Greek and Persian occupation, the city fell to the Romans. Istanbul was declared the Eastern Roman capital under Emperor Constantine, who renamed the city Constantinople. It later served as a capital to the Ottomans, who renamed the city Istanbul. The Ottomans fell to the Turks and the Turkish Republic was established.

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Kusadasi, Turkey

 The Aeolians from Northern Greece were the first to settle in Kusadasi, a city that is the gateway to Ephesus, one of the ancient world's largest and most important archaeological and religious sites.

The Ionians settled in Ephesus during the eleventh century BC, building monuments dedicated to Artemis, goddess of chastity, the moon, and hunting. Soon Christian preachers including St. Paul and St. John visited the area, establishing the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse. St. John addresses this city in his Book of Revelation, after preaching in the Theater of Ephesus. Some of the site's most significant structures included the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Basilica of St. John, where the Apostle is buried and the House of the Virgin Mary.

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Lisbon, Portugal

 Greek mythology tells the tale that Ulysses founded the city, calling it Olisipo. Others claim that the name is Phoenician, but all agree that it is one of Europe's most fascinating destinations. Throughout its long history, the Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors all ruled for a time, and by the twelfth century it fell under the rule of the Christian Portuguese. As the Portuguese established colonies all over the world during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, many people from all over the world came to settle in Lisbon. Gradually it grew into a major European city.

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Livorno, Italy

Livorno is located in the center of Italy's hilly region of Tuscany, gateway to Florence. This was the birthplace of the Italian language and of the inspirational Renaissance movement. From the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, this era of great creative freedom encouraged artists, scientists, writers, and architects to create some of the world's most noted masterpieces. Among the many who reached the heights of success were Dante, Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto, Boticelli, da Vinci, Machiavelli, and others. This powerful era of achievement spread across Italy and into other parts of Europe, making the Middle Ages one of the most prosperous periods in European history.

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Livorno (Florence), Italy

 Livorno is located in the center of Italy's hilly region of Tuscany, gateway to Florence. This was the birthplace of the Italian language and of the inspirational Renaissance movement. From the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries, this era of great creative freedom encouraged artists, scientists, writers, and architects to create some of the world's most noted masterpieces. Among the many who reached the heights of success were Dante, Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto, Boticelli, da Vinci, Machiavelli, and others. This powerful era of achievement spread across Italy and into other parts of Europe, making the Middle Ages one of the most prosperous periods in European history.

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Mallorca, Spain

 The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca, also known as Majorca, is a wind-swept island with steep jagged cliffs and olive groves that are more than a thousand years old. From the late thirteenth through mid fourteenth centuries, James I of Aragon captured the island after defeating the Muslims in the Battle of Palma that killed more than 50,000 men. Soon the entire Balearic archipelago was united under the Kingdom of Majorca, which ended suddenly in 1349. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Gothic Mallorcan painting reached great distinction, and two masters emerged from this era named Nisart and Sedano. Many famous world figures visited the island during the nineteenth century including composer Chopin, English poet Robert Graves and Austrian Archduke, Ludwig Salvator. Mallorca is an island of contrasts, to the South is the busy tourist area, hotels, bars, discos, smart marinas, dozens of restaurants serving delicious food of every type, marvelous shopping and dazzling night life. On towards the North are rocky valleys, sleepy villages shrouded in purple bougainvillea, high mountains dropping dramatically to the sea with hidden coves and breathtaking views. It is no wonder that artists, writers and thousands of tourists are drawn back to Majorca time and again.

Palma, the capital of both islands and the Balearic Archipelago is steeped in countless centuries of history, from the many civilizations that have passed by and is reflected in the old town where the great Gothic Cathedral dominates the houses, streets and alleyways that surround it all miraculously untouched by time.

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Monte Carlo, Monaco

 The tiny Principality of Monaco is one of the world's smallest countries, measuring less than one square mile. Evidence of prehistoric settlements have been discovered here, and later the Greeks and Romans established colonies. In the early part of the fourteenth century, the Grimaldi family purchased Monaco from the Genoans, establishing a new government. Due to its vast fortunes, it has become one of the world's most famous places. Americans became particularly enchanted with the country after Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier III and today it is a popular destination due to its striking natural beauty.

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Mykonos, Greece

 The Cycladic island of Mykonos is today one of Greece's most adored destinations due to its picture postcard setting. From the thirteenth through eighteenth centuries the island was ruled by the Venetians, who introduced Catholicism to the people of Mykonos. Later during Turkish occupation, many pirates sought refuge here to protect their dhows from the strong winds. During Greece's War of Independence the sailors of Mykonos honored the heroine Mando Mevrogenous, who supplied them with two large ships at her own expense. In 1823 she wrote the renowned "Letter to the Women of Paris" detailing her ordeal in the war.

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Porto Cervo, Sardinia

 Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, situated just eight miles south of French Corsica. The resort of Porto Cervo rests on the island?s ruggedly beautiful northeast corner, known as the "Emerald Coast". Sardinia has over 7,000 ancient stone tower houses referred to as "nuraghi". These prehistoric settlements are believed to date back to the second century BC, and the nuraghi people are said to have much in common with the ancient brochs of Scotland. Also on Sardinia are more than five hundred ancient tombs, where rulers and their families were buried. The Romans were the first to colonize Sardinia, and for a short time, the Pisans, Genoese, and Austrian Empire reigned.

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Portofino, Italy

 Not far from the border of France along Italy's Eastern Riviera is the Portofino Peninsula and the village of the same name. This region of Liguria is best known as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, one of many seafarers to emerge from this part of Italy. The beautiful olive groves and vineyards of Liguria were planted during the Roman Empire and today this is one of Italy's most fertile and scenic regions. For many years Portofino has been a fishing village, but its natural setting along the rocky coastline attracts wealthy Europeans and international travelers during the summer months..

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Rhodes, Greece

 The Cycladic island of Rhodes is most renowned as the site of the former Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The immense statue once straddled the harbor, but was destroyed by an earthquake many centuries ago. One of the most fascinating times in Rhodes' history was from the twelfth through sixteenth centuries when the Knights of St. John established a military base and religious center here. The Knights, mostly of French origin, spoke in seven tongues and were led by a Grand Master. During their stay they built streets and houses, churches, an imposing fortress and the famous Palace of the Grand Masters. The Knights rule in Rhodes ended in 1522 when Suleiman the Magnificent led an army of 100,000 men against them. Those who survived the siege fled to Malta.

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Rome, Italy

 Ancient Rome was built upon seven hills in the eighth century BC. As early as the sixth century BC, the Romans developed their city into the most sophisticated society in all of the Western world. By the fourth century BC, Christianity was permitted in Rome, and for the past nineteen centuries the Roman Catholic religion has spread across the world under the leadership of the pope. One of the Romans' most powerful rulers, Julius Caesar, was assassinated in 44 BC during the Ides of March. Caesar's nephew, Augustus, was chosen as the first emperor of Rome in 27 BC. Since its history began, the Romans have built magnificent structures awarding them with some of the world's most honored ancient and modern artistic achievements.

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Santorini, Greece

 Santorini is one of the world's most magnificent volcanic islands. During the twenty-first through sixteenth centuries BC, the Minoans lived on the island and built the city of Akrotiri, which was later flooded and preserved under a blanket of volcanic ash. A theory developed by Greek archaeologist and professor Marinatos was that Crete and Santorini were at one time a singular land mass divided by a violent volcanic eruption in 1500 BC.

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Sorrento, Italy

 The Sorrento Peninsula lies along the Bay of Naples within Italy's Southern region of Campania. The early history of Campania has been traced as far back as the eleventh century BC, hundreds of years prior to the establishment of Rome. For many centuries, the Greeks settled along the coastline until the advent of the Roman empire. In the years that followed, the wealthy Romans built large country homes throughout the region. As with the rest of Italy, there was a long period of decline under Roman rule until Spanish occupation in the sixteenth century. Today the resort of Sorrento attracts people from all over the world including elite British and Americans who come to enjoy the scenery, climate, and shopping.

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Sorrento (Capri), Italy

 The island of Capri, one of the most beautiful and most visited islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, is in fact an extension of the peninsula of Sorrento, and lies at the southern end of the Gulf of Naples. In Roman times, when it was known as Caprae, it was a favorite resort of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius.

The island, about 4 miles long and 3/4 mile wide, has rugged limestone crags rising to a hight of 1944 feet above the sea. The only places of any size are the picturesque little towns of Capri and Anacapri. The island has a rich flora, including the acanthus, whose leaves form the characteristic ornament of Corinthian capitals.

The regular boats and hydrofoils land their passengers in the picturesqe port of Marina Grande, on the north coast of the island. From here a funicular (5 minutes), a stepped footpath (1/2 hour) and a road (2 miles) leads up to the town of Capri, the island's capital. The town of Capri is situated on a saddle between the hill of Il Capo to the east, Monte Solaro to the west, San Michele to the northeast and Castiglione to the southwest. The central feature of the town is the little Piazza Umberto I, at the top of the funicular from Marina Grande. From here it is a short walk past the steps leading up to the church of Santo Stefano (1683) and along the main shopping street (where you will find beautiful shops) to the Certosa de San Giacomo (founded 1371, restored 1933), a former Carthusian house, which houses the Museo Diefenbach, with late Romanesque picures by Diefenbach (1851 - 1915). The adjoining church of San Giacomo has a Gothic doorway, 17th c. frescoes and two cloisters.

From Capri a very attractive footpath, the "Via Tiberio" (45 minutes), runs northeast to the promontory of Il Capo. Immediately beyond a gateway is the rock known as the Salto de Tiberio (980 ft) from which legend has it that the tyrannical Emperor Tiberius had his victims thrown into the sea.

About 2 miles north-west of Anacapri is one of Capri's great tourist attractions, the Blue Grotto, which can be reached either by boat from Marina Grande or by the Via Pagliaro (2 miles) from Anacapri. This, the most famous of Capri's caves, was carved out of the rock in prehistoric times by the constant battering of the sea. As a result of the sinking of the land it is now half-filled with water. The entrance, only about 3 1/2 feet high, can be negotiated only by small boats when the sea is calm. The cave is 178 feet long, 99 feet wide and 50 feet high, with 46 to 66 feet depth of water. When the sun is shining it is filled with an extraordinary blue light.

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St. Tropez, France

 The fashionable French Riviera resort of St. Tropez enchants visitors from the world over. Its beauty was noted by writer Guy de Maupassant at the end of the nineteenth century and by painter Paul Signac, who shared his knowledge of its inspiring landscapes to his other artist friends, including Matisse. Its real claim to fame came after Brigitte Bardot stared in the film "And God Created Woman" in 1956. The port is named after a Roman soldier from Pisa who was killed after declaring his Christian faith. His well-preserved body floated ashore and many pilgrims came to pay homage to his burial site, which was given the name of St. Tropez.

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Taormina, Sicily - Italy

 Situated along the Northeast coast of Sicily, Taormina rests 820 feet above the sea overlooking Mount Etna. Its strategic position has attracted many occupants, including the Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians. During the sixth century BC, the Greeks were the first to settle here, building a grand theater. The theater was later remodeled by the Romans, who controlled all of Sicily by the middle of the third century BC. During the Middle Ages, Taormina prospered in trade, and in addition to two magnificent palaces, many mansions and elaborate public buildings were erected in the heart of the city. During the early part of the twentieth century, Taormina began to attract visitors from the world over, due to its historic sites, mild climate and spectacular scenery.

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Venice, Italy

 The history of Venice began during the early ninth century when the Venetian Empire quickly grew in power under the rule of a "Doge". With the development of maritime trade, Venice grew to be one of the wealthiest cities in the world. During the fourteenth century, Marco Polo brought many treasures to Venice from his travels to China, as written about in his Book of Marvels. The peak of Venetian power was reached during the fifteenth century when Gallipoli, Cyprus, and Crete were conquered as well as many cities on Italy's mainland. It was during this time that the Italian Renaissance emerged, and many of the country's most talented artists came from Venice. The decline of the Venetian Empire began in 1453 when the Turks captured Constantinople. By 1797 the Venetian Empire was officially dissolved by Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered Venice and abolished its 1,000 year old constitution.

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