By 1796, the Republic of Venice could no longer defend itself since its war fleet numbered only four galleys and seven galliots. In spring 1796, Piedmont fell and the Austrians were beaten from Montenotte to Lodi. The army under Bonaparte crossed the frontiers of neutral Venice in pursuit of the enemy. By the end of the year the French troops were occupying the Venetian state up to the Adige. Vicenza, Cadore and Friuli were held by the Austrians.
With the campaigns of the next year, Napoleon aimed for the Austrian possessions across the Alps. In the preliminaries to the Peace of Leoben, the terms of which remained secret, the Austrians were to take the Venetian possessions in the Balkans as the price of peace (18 April 1797), while France required the Lombard part of the State. After Napoleon's ultimatum, Doge Ludovico Manin surrendered unconditionally on 12 May, and abdicated himself, while the Major Council declared the end of the Republic. According to Bonaparte's orders, the public powers passed to a Provisional Municipality under the French Military Governor. On 17 October, France and Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio, according the sharing of all the territory of the ancient republic, with a new border just west of the Adige River. Italian democrats, especially poet Ugo Foscolo, viewed the treaty as a betrayal. The metropolitan part of the disbanded republic became an Austrian territory, under the name of Venetian Province (Provincia Veneta in Italian, Venedig Provinz in German).