The history of Venice begins with the twilight of the Roman Empire, when barbaric invasions drove the inhabitants of the Venetian coast towards the islands of the lagoon. It wasn’t easy to establish a settlement in this region, scoured by continual tides and flooding. Even less so to erect stable, sound buildings: water, salinity, sand and mud had to be reckoned with.
Venice at its dawning was a city built mainly on wood, with walls made of planks and roofs of thin cane instead of tiles. Later did recurring, devastating fires impose a prohibition against employing this material in construction.
Slowly from the islands of Rialto, the number of buildings increased, the shoals were reclaimed as to outline the present day canals and the span of water between one island and another was diminished to allow for the widening of pedestrian walkways.
In addition to burdensome transport, houses in brick and stone also required a foundation with piling that could support the heavier structures.
Foundations began to be fortified by burying hundreds of pails of alder or larch, set close together in the muddy seabed, driven deep with a rammer that operated by letting a weight drop. On one end, the lower extremities of the logs were implanted in the more solid clay and sand layer called “caranto”, on the upper end, the tops were squared off and every fissure filled in with shards and pieces of brick mixed with lime.
A solid wooden floor was constructed on the leveled tops, and the foundations of the masonry construction were laid on this planking. It was a long, laborious process, but it held up well: many houses are still standing today on logs planted centuries ago.