Marco Polo: Corte del Milion

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Marco Polo was born in Venice in 1254 into a family of merchants. The father Nicholas and his uncle Matthew had already made a long journey for commercial purposes between 1260 and 1269 in Central Asia until the city of Bukhara. In that place, far more than 5000 kilometers from their hometown, they had stayed for 3 years by continuing their trades. Until the dignitaries of the Great Kublai Khan contacted them, inviting them to meet their lord, the Emperor of China. The Polo brothers went to Persia and then across China to Beijing, where they met, finally, the Great Khan. Kublai was the grandson of Genghis Khan, but did not have the same spirit of fierce warrior. He asked the two brothers to deliver a letter to the Pope with a request that 100 monks were sent to convert the Mongols to Christianity. The two brothers returned to their hometown after a long journey, but the demands of the Great Khan were not heard by the Pope.

Marco Polo

The brothers Polo then decided to take another trip to China but this time accompanied by the young Marco who was only 17 years old. They set in November 1271, Marco Polo could not imagine that his trip would last 24 years. The three Venetians had many adventures and dangers to face, it takes 30 months to arrive in China for some stretches along the Silk Road. Marco Polo got in S. Giovanni d'Acri, and then went on to Persia, then to the highlands of the Pamir, Turkmenistan, the Gobi Desert and was finally in Beijing where he was welcomed with all the honors by Kublai himself. The Great Khan was in sympathy with Marco Polo. At the Great Khan service for 17 years, Marco Polo had a great opportunity to travel along China while the father and his uncle continued their trade. He could know so distant lands such as Tibet, Siam, Burma and the Indochinese peninsula as well as many Chinese provinces. He was able to speak five Asian languages correctly. After all those years spent away from home Marco Polo asked several times for permission to return, but it was always denied. Finally got the big opportunity. Kublai entrusted to him one last task: to accompany to Persia a princess that had to marry the king of that Country. It was prepared a fleet of 14 ships that departed in January 1292 from the port of Zadon, Marco spent nearly two years to get there. Marco Polo sailed to the coast of China, then down to Indochina, Malaysia, Sumatra and India. He arrived in Ormuz and from there reached Tabriz, Trabzon, Istanbul and finally Venice. The three travelers were not recognized when returned, too much time had elapsed since their departure. But finally they were celebrated and honored by their family for the wealth that had brought from China.

Marco Polo house

After returning Marco Polo continued its merchant activities, until in 1298 he was made prisoner by the Genoese army in the naval battle of Korcula. The period of imprisonment of Marco Polo in Genoa was only one year, but was for him a fortune. Marco Polo knew in prison Rustichello da Pisa to which dictated "The Million" , the book that would have handed down in history as the greatest traveler of all time. In this book, he told his extraordinary adventures and described the places he had visited during his long journey. For many he was not believed. At that age was not easy to imagine that could be real the "stone burning" (coal) or the "black water that burns" (oil). However Christopher Columbus almost two centuries later was inspired by Marco Polo. He was convinced that it could reach the great sea of China (Pacific Ocean) traveling to the West, and ended up arriving in a continent (America), which was unaware of its existence. Who asked him to retract his allegations of forgery, Marco Polo said that he had not told even half of what he had seen. Marco Polo died in Venice in 1324.

The house of Marco Polo is located in the nearby of St. John Chrysostom Church, at three-minute walk from the Rialto Bridge. It was located in the same area where now stands the Teatro Malibran. A marble engraving reminds us that this house (see photo) was owned by Marco Polo and his family.

The life of Marco Polo was told by a beautiful television serial drama created by Giuliano Montaldo in 1982, which received a huge success with the public. The role of protagonist was entrusted to Ken Marshall.

The International Airport of Venice is called Marco Polo in homage to the great traveler and is located at Tessera. It has replaced starting from 1967 the historic Nicelli airport located in S. Nicolo del Lido.


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