The history of Caorle is older than people think. In the immediate hinterland, within a radius of about 4 kilometres, artefacts of ancient prehistoric settlements have been found, such as pottery dating back to the Bronze Age, i.e. to the 15th-17th centuries BC.
The town then went through Roman times and, as Pliny the Elder mentions, the present Falconera Port was the Portus Reatinum: the most important Roman port in the Upper Adriatic, where imperial triremes stopped to load or unload men and merchandise. From here the small boats sailed up the “flumen Reatinum”, today’s Lemene, arriving at Julia Concordia, today Concordia Sagittaria, an important city for its arrow factory, sagitte.
Caorle and the Romans. Evidence of a real settlement during the Roman period is provided by two funerary areas found in the Caorle area. The first is the Batola altar, found in the early 1800s near the cathedral and now housed in the Concordia museum. This altar, as well as bearing an interesting Latin inscription summarising the will of the sailor Batola, has bas-reliefs on its sides depicting mythological figures. There is also the Licovia family altar, currently kept in the Caorle cathedral, which describes the composition of the family. On the sides of the altar, there are interesting engravings of knives, an axe and chisels, indicating that the Licovia family practised the crafts. However, the islands and lagoons of Caorle became populated in the 5th century, and it was the barbarian invasions that caused this boost.
When did the population of Caorle begin to grow? In 452 Attila, King of the Huns, sacked Aquileia and Concordia, forcing the inhabitants of the cities to take refuge along the intricate network of lagoon canals, where, in addition to Caorle, there were the nearby islands of Grado, Equilio, Malamocco and Rivoalto. The foundations were laid for the Serenissima Republic. Caorle also became an Episcopal seat.
The history of Caorle followed a parallel evolution with Venice, with which it was linked by close commercial and social relations. These are centuries of important events, moments of sustained economic impetus alternating with mournful and often dramatic events. One of these was the war between Genoa and Venice fought between 1378 and 1381, in which Caorle was also involved and won.
Napoleon in Caorle. From 1797 Caorle, like nearby Venice, fell under the rule of first Napoleon and then the Habsburgs. French vandalism is well known: as well as taking away objects of great artistic and economic value, they destroyed all the marble symbols, first and foremost the winged lion, which represents the Serenissima Republic. That is why today only a few examples of the Venetian winged lions remain on the colourful houses in the old town.
The two world wars brought havoc and suffering to the city: many young people lost their lives during the conflicts and the post-war period proved to be very difficult.
Around 1960, a new industry was born: tourism. Many of the people of Caorle abandoned the hard work of fishing and turned to this less strenuous and more profitable activity: they succeeded because the hospitable and cordial character of these people was a trump card in human relations and with tourists.