Prior to embarking on his first long ocean voyage at age 17, Marco Polo enjoyed the life of a wealthy man's son in Venice, Italy. His father, Niccolo Polo, was a well-traveled jewel merchant who spent much time away during Marco's early childhood.
Marco Polo was born in September 1254. His father was on an extended journey at the time of Marco's birth, and his mother died when he was very young. Therefore, Marco was raised by members of his extended family. He attended the finest Venetian schools, where he learned about foreign money exchanges, cargo management and other aspects of the mercantile trade.
When Marco Polo was 17, he set sail from Venice to the Middle East with his father and uncle Maffeo. From there, the trio traveled across land through the countries of Armenia, Afghanistan and Persia. After crossing the Pamir mountains, the Polos traversed the Gobi Desert and made their way into Beijing where Marco, his father and uncles were welcomed by Kublai Khan at his summer palace, Xanadu.
The Polos remained in and around Cathay, also known as modern China, for many years, serving in the court of Kublai Khan. Marco returned to Venice 24 years later where he died at the age of 69 in 1324 A.D.