La Serenissima

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Get a new take on Venice

Interesting corners in San Marco, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Cannareggio, Isola San Giorgio Maggiore & Castello

The City of water and light it's a place like no other. A living fairy tale, it speaks to us from it's Byzantine & Gothic facades of times past while it holds us in the present. The Grand Canal curves almost voluptuously around the islands, a timeless floating stage for innumerable water craft - vaporetti, water taxis, gondolas, motoscaffi, private power boats, traghette, delivery barges, kayaks - all vying for a clear run ... And the passengers on these water-born stages are caught in the first or second act of their life's drama, some shouting and gesticulating; many sharing a laugh or telling a story, while some others are quietly meditative or dozing off with the rocking of their boat ...

And shopping for individually designed modern jewelry pieces at Papuni Art in Dorsoduro (more details below).

San Marco

The sestiere of San Marco extends well beyond the Piazza, taking in the area from the Rialto Bridge, down the canal to San Samuele, then around to the Doge's Palace. It has most of the high-end hotels and shops, many of the grand palazzi and famous theatres such as La Fenice (the opera house). Throughout it's history, this part of Venice has witnessed much if the city's regal, political, religious and festive ceremonies. It is also home to many elegant caffés and restaurants, and of course occupies a substantial  portion of the Grand Canal frontage, so it offers some beautiful vistas of Isola San Giorgio Maggiore, Santa Maria de Salute, and the Giudecca, to name a few. San Marco includes many interesting nooks and crannies as well as interesting Campi, such as San Moisé, and San Fantin, behind La Fenice.

A large proportion of the visitors to Venice head to Piazza San Marco to marvel at the church, perhaps have a coffee or a wine at Caffés Florian, Chioggia or Aurora, before going to the Doges Palace. Of course it's fabulous, unique. Of course you must see it. It is pure tonic for the senses, despite the efforts of touts selling all manner of useless objects such as techo coloured squishy blobs that splat onto the ground like fried eggs. To minimise (but sadly not to avoid totally) such assaults on your senses, go to Piazza San Marco early in the morning, between 7 & 8 am, or go at night around 10 pm. If you are visiting at night and are not staying in the San Marco area, then be sure to check the time of the last vaporetto that will take you home. These photos will give you a sense of what you might see.

In the morning, Piazza San Marco almost eerily empty of people save for delivery men pushing carts, retail kiosks setting up for the day, people going to work and other travellers who want to take in the amazing space and architecture without having their experience blocked by the hoards.

At night the crowd thins, with some folk perhaps walking through after dinner somewhere, and most people there just simply taking it all in. The last few customers in the caffés sit
and listen to the last performances of the musicians. The Basilica, the Palace and the ancient buildings that border the piazza seem to hover and shimmer, perhaps resting as they wait for yet another dawn to come.

Campo San Marco holds many interesting corners, so during the day go beyond the square into some of the smaller Calle (small streets) and cross the bridges over the smaller canals. The space immediately behind San Marco, to the north, is surrounded by canals (good photography spots) and has some interesting streets and shops - Calle de Cavaletto, Calle de Fabri and Tera de la Colonne.

But of course you can go a bit further afield. San Angelo is really within Campo San Marco and is a lovely area. It has a large piazza with several caffés and interesting shops, including one that makes handcrafted paper goods. Among the lovely stores is Cristina Linassi's boutique selling hand crafted apparel and bed and table linens made from  natural fibers like silk, satin, muslin and cotton. Her creations are interesting as hey are made using ancient Venetian traditions, which is a lovely thing to see being maintained. Her address is: San Marco 3537, Campo Sant'Angelo. You can take the line 1 Vaporetto to Sant'Angelo

Then there are Campi San Stefano and Francesco Morosini, both worth a wander through. From here you can walk across the Ponte Accademia to the Galleria.

Campo San Moisè is another delight within San Marco. You exit Piazza San Marco at the Correr Museum end, cross Ascensione and turn slightly left to enter Salizzada San Moisè. You will enter a small piazza with the church of San Moisè to your left; it is worth going inside - tranquil and light filled. Keep going and you enter a wider pedestrian space, Larga 22 Marzo, which contains some interesting neighbourhood bars, designer shops such as Gucci, Venetia Studium at San Marco 2403, Calle Larga XXII Marzo Telephone 041 522 9281  and other one off shops, including interior design places. 


This in turn leads to Calle de Stregehe, where you will find Venetia Studium and a hand made paper and glass  shop. This becomes Campo Maria Zobenigo, home to the church of Santa Maria del Giglio and a short stroll to the famous, and often rebuilt, Venetian opera house La Fenice. You can get to this area on the Vaporetto to Santa Maria del Giglio.


It's name means hard spine or back bone. It signifies more solid ground in hubris part of Venice and offers the chance not to be flooded when the "aqua alta" comes as a result of high tides and sea levels.

But Dorsoduro is more than a safe haven from rising water. It is home to many of the city's vast art collection. The Galleria dell'Accademia, founded in 1750, is the biggest collection of Venetian art found anywhere with fine works by the likes of Veneziano,Tiepolo, Tinteretto, Veronese, Bellini. Broadly the sculptures and paintings date from the 15th to the 18th centuries. 

By complete contrast is the modern 20th century collection at the Peggy Guggenheim. 

Originally her home in Venice, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni  has been a gallery for many years and you can see fine examples of the works of Picasso, Ernst, Pollock, Miró and Kandinski. The Palazzo is surrounded by a beautiful garden, with tranquil meditation spaces, and looks out over the Grand Canal.


It's most dominant church, to the eye at least, is Santa Maria della Salute which commands  a forceful position on the Grand Canal. It is beautiful inside and out and is just made for photographing day or night.

Dorsoduro contains lively neighbourhood spaces such as Piazza Margherita, a large piazza with many bars/caffès and osterie. The piazza is literally the living room of its local residents and after school kids play soccer there. There is also a fresh food market, selling fruit, vegetables and fish on certain days do the week. 
Of course there are many other Campi within Dorsoduro, each having market places and bars. Campo San Barnaba is one, with it's own fruit and vegetable boat which is open six days a week. 

Bar/osteria Ai Pugni on Canal San Barnaba, taken from Ponte di Pugni

Another lovely area is the Zattere, a wide Fondamente facing Canale della Giudecca  and Giudecca Island, which boasts the Bauer Palladio Hotel and the Cipriani at it's eastern tip. Giudecca's church, chiesa de Redentore, is a wonderful landmark that can be seen easily from San Marco.


Papuni Art – Contemporary jewelry by Ninfa Salerno

Ninfa's tiny  shop is located on Fondamenta Gherardini at 2834/A. The nearest vaporetto stop is Ca' Rezzonico and you walk diagonally across Piazza San Barnaba to Fondamenta Gherardiniand her shop is on the left two doors after Bar Ai Pugni.

She combines interesting traditional materials, such as silver and pearls, with modern materials such as resin, stainless steel and natural products like bovine horn. The result is imaginative and stylish. She also makes stunning and colourful glass bead necklaces. So, if you are in Venice before Chrstmas, and need to find that perfect gift – or any time really – check out Ninfa's beautiful jewelry. Here are some examples:

San Polo

San Polo faces the head of the Grand Canal at the Ferrovia Santa Lucia, and sweeps down to the Fondamenta di Rio Novo with Palazzo Balbi marking its boundary on the Grand Canal. The enormous church San Simeon, with its copper dome now beautifully aged by verdigris to green, stands at the Ferrovia end along with the bridge, Ponte Scalzi.

The sestiere of Santa Croce nestles to on the western side of San Polo between Ponte de Constituzione and the Banchina de Porto Commerciale. Santa Croce has modern apartments and commercial buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. It also contains the large car park at Piazzale Roma, where you will also find a major hub for vaporetto lines1, 2, 3, 5.1, 5.2, 6, 4.1, 4.2 & the N.

Arguably the Rialto Bridge and Markets are probably the best known places in San Polo. They are indeed worthy of attention. The bridge dates back to the late 1500s. The Mercati, open since the 11th century, are a treat for the senses - sight, smell, sound and taste. A visit is definitely recommended, before 10/11 am as many stalls are packed up by midday. The Riva del Vin, which borders the Grand Canal, is very busy but affords great views in either direction down the canal.

The Rialto area was the first part of Venice to be developed, and it soon became a centre for commerce. The town's principal market was transferred here at the end of the eleventh century. Trading of all kinds took place, and this would be where Venetians and merchants
could buy and sell exotic imported goods just unloaded from ships. In the sixteenth century, after a destructive fire, a complex of squares and porticoes was constructed to the west of the Rialto Bridge, with areas dedicated to different products. 

These are still recorded in the names of the local lanes and squares: Erberia (fruit and vegetable market), Naranzeria (oranges), Speziali (spices) and Pescaria (fish). Fish, fruit and vegetables are still sold here, from a colourful array of stalls where you can buy provisions or just admire the spectacle. 

The fish market is housed in a covered hall, the Pescheria, with fishy decorative features. 

Since the year 1097, Venetians have depended on the Rialto markets for their daily supplies of fish, vegetables, fruit, and other foodstuffs. The markets are open to the public, and there's no better show in town. Stevedores unload crates of produce from barges; vendors hawk their wares; restaurant chefs examine the daily supply of fish, crustaceans, and bivalves; delivery men push handcarts laden with fruit and vegetables. (Source:

The Rialto Bridge history

The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance.[2]

The development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank increased traffic on the floating bridge, so it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge.[2] This structure had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall ships. The connection with the market eventually led to a change of name for the bridge. During the first half of the 15th century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the bridge.

Maintenance was vital for the timber bridge. It was partly burnt in the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo in 1310. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade and it collapsed again in 1524.

The idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed in 1503. Several projects were considered over the following decades. In 1551, the authorities requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge, among other things. Plans were offered by famous architects, such as Jacopo Sansovino, Palladio and Vignola, but all involved a Classical approach with several arches, which was judged inappropriate to the situation. Michelangelo also was considered as designer of the bridge.

The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. Two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico, the covered ramps carry rows of shops. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. The bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.

The area also holds many works by the great painters Titian and Tintoretto. Titian painted The Assumption of the Virgin, behind the altar at The Frari (Campo di Frari) in 1518; there are works by Bellini and Donatello there also. His Annunciation is in the Upper Hall of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Tintoretto's Crucifiction is also there in the Sala Dell'Albergo
and he carved the altar at San Cassiano. The Frari also holds the incredible monument to Titian, built by Luigi and Pietro Zandomeneghi, the grandfather and father of Federico Zandomeneghi, the Italian Impressionist painter – the Maacchiaioli.

Isola de San Giorgio Maggiore

The Palazzo Cini is beside San Giorgio Maggiore in San Vio. The  Cini Foundation, established in the fifties by Count Vittorio Cini, during the restoration of San Giorgio Maggiore, which he funded.  It is worth checking out if the Cini collection is open when you visit, as it is often closed. It has a fabulous collection of Tuscan Renaissance art by people such as Botticelli, Filippo Lippi,and Piero della Francesca.

When we were there earlier this year and in 2014 we saw a fabulous exhibition of modern Venetian glass. For information about events and exhibitions see and for general information.


The view from the campanile of  San Giorgio Maggiore is unsurpassed – except if you are on the top level of a large cruise ship. You have spectacular panoramas in every direction. The admission cost is modest and the rewards are high.


Maybe you are drawn to Cannareggio, which sweeps in an arc from the Ferrovia (railway station) to Calle della Testa. It has both grand Canal frontage and the other side of the lagoon, facing out towards the islands, including Murano and Burano. If you are an Inspetore Brunetti fan, you'll know that the lovely church of Madonna dei Orto is in this area. It also has the world's oldest ghetto, established in 1516, around Campo de Mori. Such a dedicated residential area was not thought at the time to be discriminatory, but rather a privilege. Jews were a vital part of the Venetian economy, albeit on Venetian terms; for instance, the Jews paid very high taxes. The authorities were concerned for their safety, as they were vulnerable to attack in their location on the island of Spiralunga, renamed Giudecca to reflect their presence. Hence the move to the ghetto.

As for every neighbourhood, there are interesting little canals and streets, a good sprinkling of piazzas, small markets selling fish, fruit and vegetables. It's all quite lovely. There are also many art treasures to see, including at Ca'd'Oro on the Grand Canal and Palazzo Labia, which has a wonderful collection by Tiepolo.


When you look at a map of Venice, Arsenale looks quite big. Actually seeing it - it is huge! And no wonder. Established in the 12 th century, Arsenale went on to become the biggest and most influential naval machine in the world between the 14th and 16th centuries. It employed what must have been seen as an enormous workforce - some 16,000 people - in the 16th century. If you thought Henry Ford invented the production assembly line - forget it! The Venetian master ship builders, arsenalotti, developed an assembly line that at its peak, could produce a fully equipped and functioning Venetian Galley in one day.  As it is mostly closed to the public but you want to see the Arsenale, check opening times before visiting. If it's shut, you can sneak a peak, as it were, from the 4.1 or 4.2 vaporetti. Of course you can visit the Museo Storico Navale, to see boats, objects from Venetian galleys and naval exhibits from World War II. Museo Storico Navale is at Riva S. Biasio Castello, 2148 - 30122 Venezia, +39 041 244 1399; open Monday - Saturday 8:45 am - 1:30 pm.

An interesting development for the Arsenale is "SECOND CHANCE From Industrial Use to Creative Impulse. This slogan encapsulates the vision of five European cities to bring new life to former industrial sites and transform them into vital, creative and successful cultural spaces." Venice is on of the five cities.

Jürgen Markwirth is Head of the Department for Culture and Leisure, City of Nuremberg and Head of the SECOND CHANCE project. He makes the observation that "since the 
1990s, thousands of factories have been shut down and more than 50 % of the manufacturing jobs in Europe have been lost".  Second Chance, through public and private investment, enables "innovative concepts and strategies to transform derelict sites into cultural linchpins of their cities, while at the same time enhancing the attractiveness of the neighbourhoods where the sites are located and spurring urban regeneration in these areas."  See for more information or download a pdf about the project at


Walking further east from Arsenale, you come to Giardini (where many of the Biennale exhibits and p are located). This is a real neighbourhood, despite the many tourists visiting the Biennale. It is dotted with lots of interesting small canals and tiny laneways. Viale Garibaldi is a wide tree-lined street, unusual for Venice, and a legacy of Napoleon's rule in the early 1800's. 

Via Garibaldi runs at right angles to this and leads to the lagoon and a small bridge over a canal, which you can cross and enjoy a walk back in the direction of San Marco. There are wonderful views just along from the Giardini vaporetto stop looking towards San Marco, Dorsoduro and Isola Maggiore.