The first inhabitants of the lagoon were refugees from the cities that were under Barbaric attack. They were people used to a level of wealth and that suddenly found themselves in a hostile environment and difficult to cultivate. The only activity that promised some hope of economic stability was trading and navigation with the people in Dalmatia, Istria and Ravenna who were under Byzantine rule.
But the Venetians needed something to exchange – they found it under their feet – salt. At the beginning there were salt deposits everywhere in Venice. It was collected and deposited in large warehouses called ‘saloni’ and then exported along the Adriatic coast in exchange for real money.
The laws which were developed to control this trade were important for the city. They allowed bartering so that the state accumulated resources and money. The Venetians soon spread into foreign lands and established their own trade bases. Later foreign merchants came to Venice with their wares so that they themselves took on the risk of travel and transportation. The Venetians were able to stay at home. AT this time the ‘fondachi’ were built which comes from the Arab word ‘fundugh’ which means hotel – deposit where the foreigners were forced to stay with their goods so that they could be more easily controlled by the Venetians.