Marco Polo was born in 1254. Some say he was born in Venice, others that that he was born in Korcula, Croatia where the house of his alleged birth still exists.

In 1271 Marco Polo joined his father Niccolo Polo and uncle Maffeo Polo, both wealthy jewel merchants who had already traveled the Silk Road and established trading posts. As they they set out on an trading expedition from Europe  to Asia thay would be 24 years before they returned to Venice in 1295. During those years Marco spent most of his time in China where he became an advisor and special envoy to the Mongol leader Kublai Khan who was the great grandson of Genghis Khan. Marco left China in 1292 to escort a princess to Persia.

A few years after his return to Venice, he was captured in a conflict between Venice and Genoa. Fortunately for the world, his cellmate Rustichello da Pisa was a romance writer. It was during this time that Marco dictated his tales that would become The Travels of Marco Polo.

 The Polos were some of the first Europeans who traveled to China and Mongolia. Others had made that trip but his was the first account that Europeans had of a mysterious customs and countries. His account of Silk Road, the culture and people  of the Orient was a huge success. The book, printed in French, Italian and Latin captured the imaginations of people everywhere including Christopher Columbus . When Columbus sailed to find a new route to the Orient in 1942, he packed along his copy of Marco Polo’s book.

After his release from prison he married Donata Badoer and had three daughters Bellela, Fantina and Moretta. He died on January 8, 1324 at 69 and was buried in the Church of San Lorenzo in Venice.

Some doubted Marco Polo’s stories and people started calling him “Il Milione,” short for “The Million Lies.” In 1324, when Marco Polo was on his deathbed he was asked to recant his tales.

He replied: “I have not told half of what I saw.”

Leaving us all to wonder and explore.

Portrait of Marco Polo

Portrait of Marco Polo

Portrait of Marco Polo.  Unknown artist form the 16th century. Gallery of Monsignor Badia in Rome