The Early Modern Business Area of the piazza
Hardly the mercantile character of early modern Venice fails to pervade almost every corner of the city. As a trading hub since its very beginning, and as an important manufacturing centre from the Renaissance onward, warehouses and shops dotted above all the central districts of the city, with the highest commercial density: the areas around Piazza San Marco and its banks on the Bacino of San Marco, those around the urban route of the Mercerie linking San Marco and Rialto, and beyond the Rialto bridge the dense and cramped space of the market. It was mainly this latter area to concentrate the highest density of places designated for trade, and, as a heart to Venetian merchant world, the space in front of the church of San Giacomo summarised all the functions and services that a merchant city could offer, particularly after the great reconstruction and reorganisation after the fire of 1514: a circumscribed meeting place for merchants and intermediaries, a precise area for insurers and notaries, a public bank (two from 1619 to 1637), a space dedicated to news and public announcements, interpreters, and merchant courts, while the daily market for a city of over one hundred thousand inhabitants buzzed all around. The piazza of Campo San Giacomo represented the multinational community of Venetian traders, a place in which private interests and public reputation mingled to offer a safe environment to business. This contribution will thus highlight some of the elements that characterised the piazza.