Venice is embarking on a yearlong series of commemorations to honor Marco Polo on the 700th anniversary of his death. The festivities kicked off during the opening of the Carnival season,

where 600 rowers in period dress rowed along the Grand Canal from St. Marks Square to the Rialto Bridge, shouting "We are all Marco Polo" in salute.

In addition to the Carnival events, the city has planned various activities throughout the year, including a major exhibit at the Palazzo Ducale that traces Marco Polo's 13th-century travels to Asia. Marco Polo's famous memoirs, titled "Il Milione," chronicled his discoveries in Asia, providing Europe with one of the most well-written accounts of the region's culture, geography, and people.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro highlighted the contemporary relevance of Marco Polo as an explorer who engaged in dialogue with diverse cultures. In a city historically serving as a bridge between East and West, Brugnaro emphasized the importance of embracing such dialogue.

Over the weekend, a visitor dressed as Marco Polo and a masked Carnival character carried a copy of his memoirs during the opening street show. Marco Polo, born in Venice in 1254 to a merchant family, spent a quarter-century exploring the Silk Road and serving the Mongol Court. A marble plaque on one of the city's palazzi commemorates his homes, stating, "These were the homes of Marco Polo, who travelled to the farthest regions of Asia and described them." Photo by Roberto Vicario, Wikimedia commons.