Polls opened in Venice yesterday in a referendum on whether the city and its surrounding region should leave Italy and become independent. The five-day-long vote is taking place online and has been organised by activists at plebiscito.eu who are dissatisfied at paying high taxes to the rest of Italy.
The result will likely be ignored by Rome, but local activists are still keen to get a large majority in favour of independence. The government of the local Veneto region are also sympathetic to the independence movement, and may use this vote as an excuse to move towards breaking from Rome.
There is wide-spread dissatisfaction with rule from Rome throughout the north of Italy. Wealthier regions are fed up with paying high taxes which are then squandered on the poorer south by what they see as a corrupt political class.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Lodovico Pizzati, spokesman for the independence movement, said: “If there is a majority yes vote, we have scholars drawing up a declaration of independence and there are businesses in the region who say they will begin paying taxes to local authorities instead of to Rome.”
The Telegraph also quotes pro-independence activist Raffaele Serafini as saying: “Venetians not only want out of Italy, but we also want out of the euro, the EU and Nato.”
The Veneto region is currently governed by the nationalist Liga Veneta, which forms part of the Lega Nord, a grouping that ultimately seeks independence for northern Italy.
Venice was once the centre of a major empire and was one of the most powerful nations in medieval Europe. At its height, the Sereníssima Repubblica, as it was known, ruled many Mediterranean territories including Cyprus, Crete, Dalmatia (now part of Croatia), and much of north east Italy.
By the end of the Middle Ages, however, its power was waning, and in 1797 it fell to Napoleon after 1,100 years of independence. It then became part of the Austrian Empire before finally being annexed by Italy in 1866.