Like Julius Caesar’s Gaul, the territory of the old Venetian Republic is today divided into three parts: the regions of Trentino Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and the Veneto. Appropriately, in Caesar’s time these regions were part of Cisalpine Gaul, and the name Veneto derives from the name of the Celtic tribe who lived in the area.
Although Cisalpine Gaul became part of Roman Italy in 49 BC, it retained an otherness which, due to the Italian peninsula’s long history of division and unification only arriving in 1861, persists to this day.
Veneto is a region of dramatic differences. It starts high up in the mountains on the Austrian border then rolls down towards the Adriatic Sea, where it finishes with a final flourish in the city of Venezia, the bell tower of San Marco becoming the exclamation mark on the word ‘wow’!
Venetian dialect and its sub-dialects are as widely spoken as they were during the thousand years of the powerful Venetian Republic, known as La Serenissima (‘the most serene’), the memory of which is still very strong. The flag of the republic, a red banner bearing a golden lion, is still the official symbol of the region.
Modern Veneto is divided into seven provinces, each named after the provincial capital. These are Belluno, Padua (Padova in Italian), Rovigo, Treviso, Vicenza, Verona and Venice (Venezia). Each province has a distinctive character and, as we shall see, unique cuisines rich in dishes and local produce.