A ADRIATIC SEA Th e Adriatic Sea is the section of the Mediterranean Sea between the Italian and Balkan peninsulas. It stretches for  miles, oriented northwest to southeast, with an average width of  miles. At its mouth—the Strait of Otranto—it narrows to  miles across, emptying into the Ionian Sea. Th e western shore is mostly lowland formed from the erosion of the Apennine Mountain range, which forms the spine of Italy. Th e soil is best suited for cultivating grapes, grains, and olives. Because this region has very few major rivers and the minor ones are short and fl ow on a course perpendicular to the coast, it has few ports capable of protecting shipping in bad weather. Bari and Brindisi are the most prominent cities close to the Strait of Otranto in the south, while Ancona is the only major port in the center of the Italian coast. In the North, silt from the Po, Adige, Brenta, and other minor rivers in Lombardy and the Veneto, fi lls the region between the Apennines and Alps, making rich lands capable of supporting intensive farming. On the northernmost corner of the Adri- atic, the land becomes marshy and supports the lagoon where Venice is located. Th e coincidence of rivers, deep shipping lanes (despite the shifting sands), and one of the major routes out of Italy through the Alps, gave the citizens of Venice the opportu- nity to become one of the great emporiums in the medieval and early modern eras. Th e nearby Istrian Peninsula, which projects far into the Adriatic, was close enough to Venice to act as a staging post for ships when the shipping lanes of Venice were especially busy. South from Istria, the Balkan Mountains come close to the Adriatic in some areas, while rivers provide deltas and pockets of land in others. Th e Adriatic shipping lanes followed close to the land of the Eastern shore of the sea because of prevailing winds, the pattern of currents and deep-water, and an abundance of places
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