The Murazzi are made of Istrian stone and were built to defend the lagoon from erosion coming from the sea. The Murazzi substituted the original dykes. The originators behind this idea were the Franciscan Brother and astronomer Vincenzo Maria Coronelli who 1716 proposed the idea of a large dyke. The building was planned and overlooked by Bernardino Zendrini. It began in 1744 and finished in 1782.
The Murazzi are divided into three parts:
- One, on Lido island, that begins in Ca’ Bianca and finishes 5 kms after near the the Alberoni;
- A second part on the Island of Pellestrina, that begins atSanta Maria del Mare and finishes 10kms later at Ca’ Roman;
- A third on the coast of Sottomarina. It beings at Forte San Felice and finishes after 1255 metres in the centre of Sottomarina Vecchia.
These dykes underwent damage during the storms of 1825 and especially that of 4th November, 1966 when their collapse was one of the causes of the exceptional high tides that submerged Venice..
Walking the Murazzi, one can find plaques. One from 1751 at the end of Pelestrina says:
AESTUARIA URBIS ET LIBERTATIS SEDES PERPETUUM CONSERVENTUR COLOSSEAS MOLES EX SOLIIDO MARMORE CONTRA MARE PUSUERE CURATORES AQUARUM AN.SAL.MDCCLI AB URBE CON MCCCXXX"
(The preservers of the seas here place these collosal marble stones against the sea to conserve forever the sacred estuaries of the city and of the rights to freedom.)I curatori delle acque posero le colossali moli di solido marmo contro il mare affinché siano conservati in perpetuo i sacri estuari della città e della libertà).
On Lido the Murazzi provide a narrow pathway, five metres above the sea that allow bikers or walkers to enjoy the view. A series of stairways lead down to enormous stone blocks that many Venetians use during the summer for sunbathing.
Here and there among the stones one can see sulptures in wood or little huts built by beachcombers searching for a bit of shade..