03/17/2014 11:32 EDT | Updated 03/17/2014 11:59 EDT

Venice Referendum Aims To See City And Region Secede From Italy

This Nov. 9, 2013, photo shows the view looking east from the Academy Bridge in Venice, one of several free sights in the city. On a sunny day, when the Grand Canal is a sparkling ribbon of aquamarine embossed with boats ancient and modern, Venice can steal your heart. (AP Photo/Michelle Locke)

Another region of the world wants independence.

The area around Venice, in northern Italy, is holding an online referendum this week on whether or not to separate from the rest of the country.

Polls suggest two-thirds of the four million voters in Venice and the surrounding area, which encompasses the cities of Treviso, Vincenza and Verona, support secession, the U.K.'s The Week reports.

The Italian media hasn't been paying much attention to the referendum, which is not legally binding, but some voters say if a majority vote yes, they will start withholding taxes and pay them to the local authorities instead, a movement spokesman told the Daily Telegraph.

Supporters of separation want to see the creation of a state called the 'Republic of Veneto'. Their dissatisfaction stems from a broad sentiment that the wealthier northern region doesn't benefit enough from the tax revenue it provides and that a disproportionate amount of that money is wasted by Rome and the poorer south.

While the desire for independence may come as a surprise to many non-Italians, Venice has been a separate state for far longer than it has been part of Italy. It was its own autonomous region for more than a thousand years until 1797, when Napoleon conquered the area and it subsequently became part of Austria. Venice joined Italy in 1866.

But Venetians aren't the only ones in Europe interested in secession. Scotland will hold its own referendum in September on leaving the U.K., and the Spanish region of Catalonia is planning a vote for Nov. 9, although Spain's government has pledged to stop it from happening.

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