Around the end of the 18th century the term 'Veneto' was used to designate a territory much larger than that we know by this name today, which comprised also Friuli, and parts of Trentino and Lombardy.
Today the boundaries of the region contain seven provinces - Venice, Padua, Rovigo, Verona, Vicenza, Treviso and Belluno - and a vast range of natural landscapes and climes within a polygonal of around 210 km in length (from the Austrian border to the mouth of the Po) and a breadth of around 195 km, from the Eastern shore of Lake Garda to the mouth of the river Tagliamento. The Veneto is the eighth largest region in Italy, with a total area of 18364 km2.
It is also the most varied in its morphology, roughly divisible into four areas: the northern alpine zone, the hill zone, the lower plain and the coastal territory. 29% of its surface is mountainous (the Alpi Carniche, eastern Dolomites and Venetian Prealps), whilst 57% is covered by a vast plain reaching unto the sea, broken only by the hill regions of Monti Berici, Colli Euganei, Colli Asolani and Montello, which constitute the remaining 14% of the territory. Several of the most important rivers in Italy cross through the region (the Po, Adige, Brenta, Bacchiglione, Livenza, Piave, and Tagliamento), and it possesses the eastern shore of the largest lake in the country (Lake Garda). The Adriatic Sea bathes over 200 km of its coastline, of which 100 km are beaches.
To the north the border perches on a mountainous crest, which is not a single unified ridge, but instead breaks up, forming a chain of distinct massifs separated by valleys. The Dolomites contain the highest alpine peaks, and are famous for their individual rocky outcrops: the Marmolada (the highest mountain of the region, at 3342 m), the Tofane, the Cime di Lavaredo, and the Pale di San Martino are the most well-known ranges.
The Venetian Prealps are composed of minor ranges of between 700 and 2200 m. A distinctive characteristic of this chain are the cave formations: the caves, chasms and potholes are a constant source of wonder and delight to both Italian and foreign speleologists. Highlight of these is the Spluga della Preta, situated in the Monte Lessini chain in the province of Verona: with an explored depth of 985 m it holds the record for caves in Italy. Fossil deposits are also abundant here.
The hills of the Garda, the Lessini, Berici, Euganei, the Montello and the hills of Treviso which arise to separate the mountainous regions from the plains provide many aspects. Particularly adapted for viniculture, the hills are covered with vineyards which produce wines of high quality and renown. Dotted with castles and aristocratic houses, witnesses to the level of appreciation in past times for the exquisite countryside, climate and, in certain zones, the thermal spas.
The Veneto plain is divided into two distinct zones: the higher plain, gravel-strewn and not very fertile, and the lower plain, rich in water sources and arable terrain. This plain is simultaneously the mainstay of agricultural production and the urban magnet of the region. Its cities and villages have successfully wedded economic and social development with the safeguarding of traditional culture and the rich historic and artistic heritage, to the effect that tourism in the Veneto plays a role of prime importance.
Along the coast the terrain is flat, with ponds, marshes and islands which are formed due to the flatness of the land and the richness of water. The Po Delta, formed of recently reclaimed land, contains large expanses of sandbars and dunes along the coastline. These lands have been gained for cultivation thanks to a system of canals and dykes and water-scooping machines. Some areas have been transformed into valleys for fish. The entire territory is a stopping-point for migratory birds.