Video – English Version


Altino, the name of the patron god of the city of the ancient Venetians, “the Venetians with the beautiful horses”; 

Altino, the name of the capital of the lagoon in Roman times, nowadays the name of a small country village. 

Enclosed in the nature reserve of the Sile river and of the northern lagoon, Altino is an amphibious territory, rich in wildlife, made of land, rivers and channels that turn into mud flats, salt marshes and eventually islands. 

Altino is a place that overlooks the lagoon, where Torcello and Burano rise from the marshes. 

Like Venice, and before Venice, Altino was a city built on water, a port on the Adriatic. Today, it is a precious heritage, the largest archaeological area of the Veneto, a hidden treasure. 

Here, where ancient streets crossed – the Via Annia and the Claudia Augusta Altinate – fields and pastures are superimposed on an invisible archaeological plot underground, in a delicate balance of land, water and memories. 


Altino was an important city. Located on the edge of the lagoon and crossed by waterways, it was a maritime and fluvial hub for commercial traffic of the northern Adriatic. The goods arrived at the port of Altino to take the sea route or to be shunted to the hinterland. From here the horses of the Venetians, among the most appreciated of the ancient world, and the wool of Altino, among the finest in the imperial era, reached distant destinations. Boats went up and down the Sile river, which connected Altino and Treviso. The goods could be taken on the roads to Oderzo, Padua and Aquileia; wine, grain, timber, carts, people and armies travelled along the Via Annia and went up along the Claudia Augusta Altinate across the Alps to reach the banks of the Danube. It was a journey of over 600 kilometers! The latest studies confirm that Altino had dimensions similar to those of Pompeii or the same as Aquileia, and it is likely that in the heyday between the first and second century, it came to have about 30,000 inhabitants: a more than substantial number for that era. Even the monumental center of the city, a town hall with good autonomy, proves that it was the capital of the lagoon and had a similar role to that which was later inherited by Venice. Altino had a big forum, a basilica, a theater, an amphitheater similar in size to the arena of Verona and, above all, had an Odeon, which no other city in the region had, except for Verona itself. The monumental center of Altino in imperial times was built on an ancient elevation, the area that had been the heart of the settlement of the Venetians. It is likely that for those approaching from the sea, it was visible from afar, indicating the proximity of the city. Studies, excavations and the most recent scientific findings show that Altino was a prosperous and refined city, situated in a strategic position. Also today, from nearby Padua, Treviso and Mestre, comes the testament of the importance of Altino: the most ancient gates of these cities, crossed by roads leading to the lagoon, are still called “Altinia” or “Altinate”: there, before Venice, there was Altino! 


Altino is a Venice before Venice. It’s a settlement of the ancient Venetians that overlooked the lagoon, which became a populous and vibrant city in the Roman era, rich in “temples, porticos and gardens” and lived for over a thousand years. Now, after centuries of neglect after the birth of Venice, Altino is an expanse of fields. Ancient sources tell us about Altino. They talk about Latin authors such as the encyclopedist Pliny the Elder and the architect Vitruvius, or the Greek, as the historian and geographer Strabo; they recount how Altino was a special city surrounded by water. 

(Pliny)”Then comes the tenth Italic region, in the Adriatic Sea, which includes Venice, the Sile river coming from the Treviso mountains, the city of Altino, the Livenza river that descends from the mountains of Oderzo and the port that goes by the same name, the Concordia colony … “ 

(Strabone) “… The entire area is rich in rivers and lagoons, mainly inhabited by the Venetians; Here there are also the alternations of the tides …This place is traversed by channels and dams – on one side the ground is drained and cultivated, on the other it can be navigated.Some cities are real islands, others are only partially surrounded by water … Of the cities that are in the midst of the marches, Ravenna is the largest, made completely of wood and traversed by water: therefore one moves on bridges and boats … Also Altino is amid the lagoons, in a condition that resembles that of Ravenna” 

Even Cassiodoro, prefect of Theodoric, speaks of the lagoons and in his letters he’s amazed by how the inhabitants of Venice can build their houses on water. 

(Cassiodoro) “It’s worth mentioning the situation of your dwellings which we’ve seen. The Veneto … on the southern part bordering on Ravenna and the Po … Here your home is built like the nests of water birds … in fact the land is tied up and consolidated with flexible wicker, and such a fragile construction is not afraid to oppose the flow of the sea…” 

But the territory of Altino was most famous for its villas and for its countryside, as Martial the poet recounts. 

(Marziale)”Beaches of Altino where the villas are similar to those of Baia … you will be the quiet harbour of my old age .…” 

And Pliny the Younger, nephew of Pliny the Elder, writing to his friend Arriano Maturo, “the noblest of Altino”, asks news of his terrain. 

(Pliny) “… How are your plantations, your vineyards, your seedlings, your very precious sheep?” 

The Altino sheep and their pure wool are praised by the Latin authors Columella, Tertullian and Martial. 

(Columella) “… Now the Gallic breed of sheep is considered the most valuable, particularly that of Altino” 

(Tertulliano) “To omit the sheep of Miletus and Selgiche and Altino, or those for which Taranto or Betica are famous for, because the nature of the sites colours the fleeces …” 

(Marziale) “White wool: Puglia is the winner with its fleeces, Parma is second, the honor of the third place goes to Altino.” Columella tells us that in Altino even the cows were particular. 

(Columella) “For this purpose it’s better to acquire the cows of Altino, which the locals call “ceve”. They are of short stature and produce large amounts of milk, and they are raised because once their calves are removed, they generously offer their udders to others. “ 

According to the grammarian Servius, in these water-rich environments, many daily activities took place standing in the boat, just as it’s going to be in Venice later on. 

(Servio) “Lintre, river boats: it is certainly not without reason that Virgilio recalls the lintre, because in most of the Veneto, which abounds in rivers, one performs any trade with the lintres, as in Ravenna and Altino, where hunting, bird trapping and also the cultivation of fields are done by boat  

Important historical facts involved Altino. For example the presence of seven legions commanded by Asinius Pollio during the Roman civil war, between 42 and 40 BC, and later in mid-February 169 AD also the death of Lucius Verus, who ruled with Emperor Marc Aurel. 

(Asinio Pollione) “In fact, Asinius Pollio, with his seven legions, maintained Venice long under the authority of Antonio, and performed great and brilliant enterprises in Altino and other cities of the region …. he reunited with Antonio … “ “Not far from Altino, while he was on a wagon, Lucio Verus was suddenly seized by an illness which is called apoplexy; They bled him after having gotten him of the wagon and took him to Altino; after not having spoken for three days, he died in Altino.” In 452 AD, when Attila and the barbarians penetrated deep into the Roman Empire, it was the beginning of the end. 

(Attila 1 – Anonymus Ravennas) “In the Venetian region there are also other cities – Vicenza, Padua, Altino, which was once known as Altilia, before being conquered by Attila 

(Attila 2 – Paul the Deacon) “The tremendous enemy, after having killed or captured the citizens, burned and razed many other strongholds in the same region: Concordia, Altino and also Padova, cities nearby Aquileia, destroying them in the same way.” Desperate and on the run, the inhabitants of Altino found a temporary shelter on the islands in the lagoon. Subsequently, after the first wave of invasions, they returned to rebuild and inhabit their city. But, about two centuries later, under the pressure of Lombard invasions, and because of the silting of their lands, most Altinians moved to the lagoon, to Torcello and the islands that were already inhabited since the time of Martial. 

(Altino Chronicle) “The population fled from the city of Altino divided into two groups: some escaped from captivity to Ravenna, to Istria, to the Roman Pentapolis; others instead went on a three-day fast, so that God would show them how they could survive by living on their boats or taking refuge in some place. The people, according to the promise that was made to these unworthy creatures, heard the voice of God, like a thunder, telling them: “Climb the tower, look at the stars.”The people ascend and in the stars see residential areas very close to the surrounding islands, like in a picture; and to all of them it was shown figuratively that they would become their inhabitants.” 

At that time began a story of pride, courage and resourcefulness that culminated in the founding of a new lagoon city: Venice.