“Nothing in the world that you ever heard of Venice, is equal to the magnificent and stupendous reality” (C. Dickens)
Venice is not a city, it is a world. If every bridge, every stone, every corner could speak, it would have an immense story to tell. Venice is the whole and at the same time. It is the contrast between a glorious past and an enigmatic present. Fragility is inside its being. It is the reason why when we think of her, we tremble a little and we are aware of how much this fragility has a magnetic effect on our minds. It always feels a bit lost on arrival and melancholy on departure, because not an image nor a story can explain so much beauty.
When I fell in love with Venice…
I fell in love with Venice especially in recent years, discovering it little by little at night, as if we were lovers who are not given the goodwill of the day, when a large part of the crowd, stunned by too much beauty, withdraws and the lady becomes silent and finally rests. I rediscovered in this way: arriving in the evening, watching the last rays of the sun reflect on the Laguna, closing my eyes and listening to the notes of a concert sitting in the very last row at the Fenice, wandering through its bridges and its calli to get me finally embrace by Piazza San Marco, wonderfully desert.
The slow lockdown “awakening”, however, drew me back to her with the light of day, leaving me the chance to experience her at a slow and surprisingly relaxed pace. It is during this day of grace that, while wandering, I came across these places. I already knew some of them but all deserve to be told.
1. Ghetto Ebraico
Jewish ghetto, the oldest ghetto in Europe. The word ghetto, widespread in all languages, owe its origin from the Venetian word “geto”. In the early Middle Ages in this part of the city there was in fact an ancient foundry (a “geto”, in Venetian dialect) where the small cannons of Venetian ships were forged. In 1516 the Republic of the Serenissima established by law that all Jews should reside here and the Venetian term “geto” was later crippled in “gheto” (read in German).
Obliged to a humiliating segregation, the Venetian Jews were nevertheless promoters of numerous cultural activities, including those related to the press. The area of the ghetto as we know it has now remained unchanged over time: even today, in fact, you can access the small island surrounded by canals on which it is located only through two bridges.
2. Ponte del Chiodo
It is the last still visible example of a stone arch which testifies how the ancient Venetian bridges were: without balustrades. You will notice that the steps are also different from those of the other bridges, less close together than usual.
3. Palazzo Tetta
Is located in the Castello district, where the Santa Marina stream forks, forming the Rio Tetta and the Rio de San Giovanni Laterano. The peculiarity of this building is to be surrounded on three sides by water. Where do the inhabitants of this building come from? From a small fondamenta that starts directly from the Tetta bridge.
4. Libreria “Acqua Alta”
A real must for romantic spirits, book lovers and vintage lovers (even better if you are all three!) Is this bookshop in Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa. Impossible to resist the timeless charm of this place… The books are not only placed on the shelves, but also in gondolas, canoes and boats. The exits to the outside are real gems, and a staircase made entirely of books (you read that right!) will give you the opportunity to enjoy a splendid view of the Venetian canals.
5. Chiesa di San Zaccaria
In this church eight Doges of the Serenissima have been buried. It is also known as the homicide church, because at least two doges were murdered inside. From the right nave you can access the underground crypt, a space with three naves with two chapels (entrance € 2). This crypt is what remains of the first Gothic church, and is famous for being almost always flooded (except the day we visited it!).
A place full of charm where, for centuries, specialized workers produced the boats that made the Republic of Venice great. The position of the Arsenale was strategic to ensure the retrieval of timber transported on rafts that descended the rivers of the region and flowed into the lagoon. Once they reached their destination, the trunks were processed following a production process so well organized as to allow the launch of even three vessels per day.
Visits to the Arsenal can only be made by reservation (to be done at least one month in advance) or, alternatively, on the days of 24 and 25 April when it is open to the public. On the occasion of the Biennale, some areas of the Arsenale are opened for exhibition purposes or for the preparation of shows.
7. Giardini della Biennale
They are the largest green area in Venice since the Napoleonic era. Crossed by pleasant avenues, they are used as a public park and today host the Art Biennale. The important international contemporary art exhibition takes place in pavilions, each dedicated to a different nation, which in many cases represent interesting examples of modern architecture. Why to go there? Because it is the ideal place to relax after so much walking! Even your children – having fun on the rides – will thank you!
8. San Pantalon
Near Campo Santa Margherita, the center of Venetian nightlife, there is a church with an incomplete facade: the Church of San Pantalon. Entering it and looking upwards you will find yourself in front of the largest painting on canvas in the world, which depicts the Martyrdom and the glory of San Pantalon, and which covers the entire ceiling of the church.
The work has an area of 443 square meters: the characters depicted (very numerous) occupy the space in a game of masterful perspectives. The painter who created it, Giovanni Antonio Fumiani, was specialized in the creation of theatrical scenographies and took more than 20 years (1680 – 1704) to make this colossal work. One more reason to go and see it? In the immediate nearbt of the church of San Pantalon there is a palace that overlooks a bridge, there you will notice a mural: this is “The shipwreck migrant child” made by Banksy.
9. Squero di San Torvaso
It is one of the very few squeri still in operation in Venice, that is, a shipyard for the construction and repair of gondolas. The building that houses it has the typical shape of mountain houses, which is strange considering that we are in Venice. The reason? Both the carpenters who built it and the wood used to do it came from the Cadore area. The large wooden shed is useful in case of rain to repair work tools; the typical boats are still built completely by hand and the gondoliers personalize them with personal decorative details.
10. Punta della dogana
It is the watershed between the Grand Canal and the Giudecca canal and, viewed from above, it has the shape of the bow of a ship. It once carried out the centuries-old function of customs port for goods coming from the sea. Since 2009, following a rehabilitation project under the guidance of the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, it has become a center of contemporary art. Why do I love this place? Because from here the view overlooking the San Marco basin, San Giorgio Maggiore, the Redeemer and Giudecca island is unmatched. Waiting here for sunset (or sunrise) is an unforgettable experience.
11. Getting lost in Venice
I know, I said ten. But perhaps this is the most important point: getting lost in the calli (streets) of Venice. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly, sit and contemplate the life that flows around listening to the Venetian dialect, let yourself be intrigued by the possible origin of the names of the sotoporteghi, the calli and bridges (I read with great interest why the Ponte dei Pugni is so called )… You must not expect to discover it all at once: Venice is a dream and, like every beautiful dream, you must always leave it promising to return.
- In recent years Venice has been carrying out a campaign to promote slow and sustainable tourism. Consult this page to collect the necessary indications and to discover off-route itineraries. I recommend you: behave gracefully in front of so much elegance!
- The cheapest way to visit Venice is to buy the city pass on the Venezia Unica website. You will be able to “create” the card tailored for you, by loading tickets for public transport, entrance to churches and museums and also the parking in Piazzale Roma.
- In the autumn and winter months, the risk of “high water” is more likely: to find out how to organize yourself, consult this website.
- Carnival, il Redentore, (the third Sunday of July), the Regata storica (the first Sunday of September) are the best known celebrations. But if you go to Venice on November 11th you could meet groups of children on the street with paper hats that happily beat on pots and make a racket: do not worry! They are celebrating the summer of San Martino, a celebration that has deep historical roots. For the peasant world it was a sort of New Year Eve, during which they ate and drank long before the penance and fasting that preceded the Christmas period.
- You cannot leave Venice without drinking an aperitif accompanied by a cicchetto in a bacaro (typical Venetian osteria). My favorite? Without taking anything away from others, Al Paradiso Perduto (Canareggio).
- From north to south Italy exudes history and culture: after the wonders of the Serenissima put on your bicycle with Gloria Sonda to wander the streets of Rome and let yourself be seduced by the crossroads of cultures that have enchanted Nadia Bravo in her stay in Palermo.