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If you had been taking a walk in the Venetian lagoon in AD 400, besides needing heavy-duty gumboots, you would have come across a somewhat melancholy landscape. Ducks, swamp reeds, rats the size of small dogs, the occasional fisherman's boat sailing through the mist and a few distraught human beings, desperately trying to escape the barbaric invasions which were tormenting the mainland. A couple centuries later, the first Doge (venetian for 'Duke') was elected. Il Doge was the head of a state, the Most Serene Republic, that would have lasted for eleven centuries. Venice grew from a small city-state, became...

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