By Land & Sea
Mile for mile, transport by sea was much easier and less expensive than hauling goods over land. This was especially true prior to the employment of fossil fuel engines. Hence the especial importance of Mediterranean seaborne trade, and the necessity of access, if not control, of the best shipping lanes.
Trade between southern and northern Europe was the exception to water transport. Before technological advances in shipbuilding and navigation in the late 13th century the sea route between the Mediterranean and North sea was hazardous and largely unprofitable. Despite their jeopardy the Alpine passes were more heavily trafficked than the Straits of Gibraltar.
In the 2nd decade of the 14th century both Venice and Genoa organized annual seagoing convoys from Mediterranean ports directly to the great perennial market in Bruges, and later Antwerp. This undercut the Champagne fairs somewhat, but the fairs’ historic significance was much greater.