By Nina Heyn – Your Culture Scout
Even if Venice itself is not in the Middle East, until the early 1500s the Venetian empire, built on trade with Asia and the Levant, extended far beyond the city walls, incorporating such lands as Dalmatia and Istria, and reaching practically up to Constantinople. Venice was the gateway to the riches of the East—silk from China, spices and gemstones from India, Ceylon, and Indonesia, lapis and malachite from central Asia, carpets from Persia—all these goods flowed through Venice into Europe. In the late 1400s, for example, Venetian merchant galley ships would bring 400 tons of pepper from Egypt each year. This was a lot of wealth to spur the construction of palazzos, the importation of gold dishes, and the display of the finest fabrics in clothing.