Veneto History | Napoleon and the Risorgimento (1797-1866)

Under the government of Venice, Veneto flourished culturally and artistically but was impoverished in terms of local and political initiatives: despite respect for local prerogatives, those on the mainland were not allowed the chance to participate.

Among the local aristocracy especially, this led to long-lasting descent, and at times anti-Venetian demonstrations: in 1509 some cities ( Verona, Padua and other minor centers) opened their gates to the armies of the League of Cambrai, guided by emperor Maximilian I (others, however, remained most faithful to Venice, and Cadore bloodily defeated the Imperial army, forcing it to retreat). For the same reason, when Napoleon descended on Italy at the beginning of 1797, carrying with him the spirit of the French Revolution, he was received with enthusiasm almost everywhere: but this died rather quickly when the people realized that, far from carrying out the ideas of liberty and independence, the French army occupied the region in authentic military fashion, destruction and the exportation of works of art (the famous horses of St. Mark’s and many Venetian paintings ended up in Paris: they were restored with the fall of Napoleon in 1815).

In a place of the now defunct Republic of Venice, Napoleon set up a short-lived Democratic Republic which lasted only a few months. With ignoble bartering, Veneto and Venice after the Treaty of Campoformio, October, 1797, were handed over to Austria, while the territories of Lombardy were joined to the Cisalpina Republic. Later, with the Treaty of Presburg (1805), Napoleon took Veneto from Austria and joined it to the Regno Italico which he set up in northern Italy. But in 1815 the region was again in the hands of Austria and would remain under its dominion until 1866, as part of the Regno Lombardo-Veneto.

Veneto participated in the Italian Risorgimento: the Bandiera and Moro brothers, shot in 1821, the year in which many centers rebelled, were Venetians. In 1848 the entire region rose up against the Austrians (except for Verona, Peschiera and Legnago, strongholds of the famous Quadrilateral). In Venice Daniele Manin proclaimed the Republic and the people forced the Austrians to abandon the city on March 21, 1848. The same occurred in other cities and in Cadore (with Pier Fortunato Calvi): in July, when Piedmont entered the war, all of Veneto lined up at its side and proclaimed its annexation. With the victory of Novara, however, Austria regained the upper hand. Led by Daniele Manin and Tommaseo, Venice resisted desperately for nearly 5 months, yielding at last only to hunger and cholera. Finally, when Prussia defeated Austria in 1866, Veneto was freed. A triumphant plebiscite (674,426 favorable votes, 69 contrary) decreed the annexation of the region to the Kingdom of Italy.

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