Canareggio area, Venice
The Jewish Ghetto of Venice is home to one of Europe's oldest Jewish populations, and the original ghetto. It is believed that the name ghetto even gets its name from the place the Jewish people were forced to live, the foundries or "getti", close to the modern train station on the north side of the old city.
In this tiny area the entire population was locked in at night, and only allowed out during the day when marked by a yellow circle stitched to their left shoulder. The people were also only allowed a limited number of occupations, including money lending which the Gentiles of Venice were forbidden from practicing by the Catholic Church.
The stigma of being Jews, outsiders and money lenders (a sin for the Christians of the time) meant that the Jewish people were mistreated even though Venice was a relatively liberal European city at this time, during the 16th century. The forced enclosures and cramped living conditions mean that the Jewish ghetto has the tallest buildings in all of old Venice, as people made the most of the limited space available.
Vaporetto - GUGLIE
I quite enjoyed this tour, it gave an insight into how the ghetto originated and also the chance to see inside 3 synagogues, with an explanation of the layout and the differences to be seen between them. We also were taken to see the outside of two other synagogues in the Ghetto. Jews from different countries arrived in Venice, often seeking refuge from persecution, they then set up their own synagogues.
So, The Scola Tadesca was set up by German Jews in 1528, followed by The Scola al Canton in 1531-2, by refuges from Provence. Eastern Mediterranean Jews opened their Scola Levantina in 1538, followed by the Scola Spagnola (Spanish) and lastly, in 1575, The Scola Italiana
These tours leave from the museum daily - except Saturdays and Jewish holidays. June - Sept 10.00 - 1900, October - May 1000 - 1730. Last tour 1 hour before closing time
English speaking tours depart (strictly) on the half hour.
The cost is 8.50 euros and includes the guided tour and entrance to the museum.
You can either look around the museum before or after Your guided tour- this isn't part of the tour (see my previous tip for more info about the museum)
Females must cover their arms (scarves are provided if You don't have clothing with sleeves), skull caps are provided for males on entering each synagogue.
You purchase Your ticket from the kiosk inside the museum. This is a ticket on elastic to be worn around the neck - which I presume is to remind You that the Jews in the Ghetto were forced to wear a similar means of identification.
Our guide was quite formidable at first - she barked orders, and had us all fumbling to detatch the part of our ticket that she needed, without us understanding fully what she meant.
When we reached the first synagogue (The Scola Tadesca) she again bossily insisted we spread out and didn't gather around her too much. However, by the end of the tour I'd warmed to her - she had a lot of information to give us, and after the tour she took us to see where the Spanish and Levantine synagogues were in her own time.
In Campo Ghetto Nuovo there had been posters about an event that evening, and a stage and seating were being arranged. I asked her what this was for - I thought it was a concert of Jewish music - She answered that it was something about the ghetto, She'd seen it last year, but after a day of talking about the ghetto, and 'everything ghetto' she didn't want to have to think anymore ghetto - Can't say that I blamed her!
Sometimes one can dream, even if this dream is one of the most possible surreal and never-ever-to-become-true dreams of all people of this planet. Still, ….. but – hello Ingrid, can you hear me ??? Earth is calling you to come back. Lol. Can someone please bring me back on the planet ?
Ok, so this palazzo was close to where I lived during my stay in Venezia, and when I walked to Piazza San Marco, I passed it quite often. The whole area has something special, I cannot even say what it is. There is this Palazzo with the full name P. Soranzo-Venier-Sanudo-van Axel-Barozzi with the magnificent entrancel portal, a very quiet side canal with beautiful other palazzos around, a Madonna statue at the edge – a place to just sit and let the world pass by. No signs or plates at the entrance that it can be visited or to whom it belongs. Well, as for many of the splendid palazzos.
Then, back home, I checked for more background and found descriptions on the already mentioned Palazzo website. It is one of the best conserved late Gothic palazzi in Venezia, built in late 15th century and all the owners are mentioned in this metre long name. The portal is said to be still the original one, with the wooden door and the coat of arms of one of the owners. Then I did a bit of more research, as I wanted to know who is living in there and found…. guess what – it is for sale !!!! Haha, even if I would start a carreer as bank robber right now (big Swiss banks of course), it would most certainly not be enough. But… well, just look at the website I have added below and maybe you can join me with this dream – so that I don’t need to feel like the biggest idiot on earth, lol.
Make sure you look at all photos on that site, interior and exterior, and each of the photos can be clicked as well for bigger size. Just the courtyard is to die for.
Well, I will consider to check if I might work there as just the cleaning woman :-)
Update, September 2009:
the palazzo is sold, of course! And stupid me forgot to save the website with the interior and courtyard photos :-( But I found another website of a lucky guy who was in Venezia during 52th Biennale where the palazzo's second floor was housing a Mexico exhibition. The guy's blog is written in German, but it is the photos that count. A funny detail at the bottom: obviously, part of the movie Casanova was filmed in the palazzo's courtyard, there is a short youtube video with scenes from the movie and the courtyard.
Oh, there are more websites with photos of the courtyard. This website has bigger and better photos and I ask myself again why I didn't rob these banks.... It would have been only GBP 11 mio, and I would have taken very good care of the magic palazzo... though it would have ruined me moneywise. But if love speaks.... :-)
Jacopo Robusti, better known as Tintoretto (1518-94), was one of the last painters of the Venetian Renaissance. He lived about 20 years with his family and art collection in a 15th century house near Campo dei Mori.
At the Palazzo Mastelli, which is located just next to Tintoretti's house, 4 statues of oriental traders can be seen.
The church of Saint Apostles has been founded in 643, built on a site where St. Magnus saw twelve cranes, after an apparition of the tvelwe apostles told him to look for this sign. The church was rebuilt in 1020 but destroyed in fire in 1105 and rebuilt. It was rebuilt and restored again inthe several times.
The church is dominated by its high bell tower and the domed exterior of the corner chapel. Santi Apostoli has a luminous altarpiece by Gianbatistta Tiepolo.
Just across the canale of Tintoretto’s house is “his” church Madonna dell’Orto. Already built in 1377, but those days she was a church devoted to St. Christopherus, saint of the traders. When a statue of the madonna was discovered in a nearby kichen garden (orto in Italian, hence the name), she was modified and devoted to Maria. This statue is now in Capella San Mauro (right hand side of the altar, where also Tintoretto’s grave is). But there is still a statue of St. Christopherus on the arch over the entrance portal. And also the fraternity Scuola dei Mercanti (photo 5) is next to the church (left hand side; west), as this area of Venezia was home to the traders.
The Gothic front façade is very symmetrical and elaborate. Two pillars left and right have little pinnacles with statues of Maria (photo 3); three ones on top of the central nave part of the portal do show three virtues. And the sides are decorated with the 12 apostles. I liked the long windows most and took several photos – but the main photo shows these best: white marble from Istria and red Veronese one. The campanile has a very strange (well, strange for Venezia) round top, almost like the onion domes in Bavaria, Austria and Russia.
The church does not have an aisle, thus appears quite long. Several paintings of Tintoretto can be admired all over in the church. Photography is not allowed inside (as in most of the churches), but the website below (even if it is in Italian) gives you quite a good idea of the interior. Make sure, you click on vista 2D della chiesa at the top; this is linked to an interactive map and some numbers are linked with the paintings or statues inside.
Website of the parish itself: Parrocchia della Madonna dell’Orto.
Opening hours: Mon – Sat, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: 2,50 €, unless you have the Chorus Pass, in which it is included.
Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli is called the most beautiful example of Italian early Renaissance. And she is very much impressing indeed. As she is “standing free” on all sides, which is unusual for Venezia (most of the churches have buildings attached to at least one side), the whole exterior can be marvelled at and should be. Pietro Lombardo has built her in 1481-1489, and he has carefully selected the pieces of marble for the exterior, so that in a whole it looks more like painted than being of stone. Maybe this “pattern” could have been the origin for the marble paper, for which Venezia is also famous for. In addition to these marble rectangles, he used round ornaments of green and red marble for the façade (photo 1). We will meet these all over Venezia, and they are somehow a sign for this building period (on San Michele, at Scuola di San Marco, at several palazzi along Canal Grande).
Above the entrance portal is a staute of Maria and the child and several other exquisite statues and reliefs are placed carefully (so that it does not “destroy” the appearance) on the outside. Inside the church is breathtaking – the tunnel vault is gold plated and has many paintings of saints embedded in. The altar area is elevated, more than in any other church I saw so far and on the left side is the painting of Maria, the one that gave the church its name: a miraculous madonna. Note the marvellous marble floor and all the other marble and other stone elements !
Photography is not allowed inside (as in most of the churches), but the website below (even if it is in Italian) gives you quite a good idea of the interior.
Opening hours: Mon – Sat, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission: 2,50 €, unless you have the Chorus Pass, in which it is included.
If you think of Venice as the image of two holding hands, then the Cannaregio area would sort of be the knuckles on the top hand. Our hotel was located in that area, and what I enjoyed so much about it is that we only had to take a few steps in any direction other than Strada Nuova (the main street that runs through the area) and we'd find ourselves walking along lovely quiet streets. One evening, we decided to walk up Fondamenta di San Giobbe in search of a restaurant. Unfortunately for me, most restaurants in that area specialize in fish and seafood, which I don't eat. However, we did discover what is perhaps the best spot in all of Venice to watch sunsets: all you need to do is go all the way to the end of the street until you reach the water - trust me, you won't regret making the quick detour!
Going on a guided tour of Venice's old Jewish ghetto is one of the most interesting things we got to do during our trip to Italy. In 1516, at a time when Jews were being driven out of many European cities, the Republic of Venice decided to accept them, but it did so under rather strict conditions: all Jewish people would have to live on a small island which they would not be allowed to leave from nightfall until dawn. During the day, those who had business in the city would have to identify themselves by wearing a bright yellow shirt or hat. Also, their choice of profession was restricted to the following options: doctor, money lender or merchant. Since the area where they lived used to be known as the foundry district, the Italian word for foundry, "geto", eventually became "ghetto" - and thus the world's very first Jewish ghetto was born.
It costs 8.50 Euros to go on a guided tour of the ghetto, which also includes a visit to the small Jewish museum (it mostly includes religious objects and vestments), and a tour of three of the ghetto's five historic synagogues (one of which was featured in the 2004 film adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", starring Al Pacino as Shylock). Our guide spoke excellent English and was very knowledgeable, explaining how life was back when thousands of people lived in the ghetto. Space was so limited on the island that big families had no other option but to live in very close quarters, and this problem actually gave rise to the city's sole "skyscraper". Our guide also gave us some information about the current Jewish community in and around Venice - although most Jewish families moved to other parts of the city when the ghetto was finally abolished in 1866, with a majority of them living in Mestre, the old ghetto remains the community's social and spiritual center. Definitely something to put on your list of things to do in Venice!
In a corner of Campo Ghetto Nuovo, there is a wall on which are 7 black rectangles. Closer inspection reveals that these are bas reliefs depicting 'scenes from the Holocaust'. I initially thought they appeared to have been carved from coal - they are actually bronze.
I found these to be quite harrowing - one shows a blindfolded Jew facing a firing squad, another shows gangs of emaciated Jews working in the mines, yet another shows a train with Jews being transported to concentration camps.
Since my return home I've found that these are the work of Arbit Blatas - who was born to Russian Jewish parents in Kaunas, Lithuania.
He was a gifted artist as well as sculpturer and a designer of Opera stages.
He escaped from the Nazis to New York in 1941, sadly his mother perished in the Holocaust.
Arbit died in 1999 after a lifetime of achievements for his work.
His 'Memorial of the Holocaust' was unveiled in the Campo Ghetto Nuovo in 1979.
It is dedicated to the night in December 1943, when the first 200 Venetian Jews were rounded up for deportation - of 289 that were deported only 7 returned, having escaped death in the concentration camps and gas chambers.
The plaques are named Deportation, The Final Solution, Execution in the Ghetto, Punishment, Crystal Night, The Revolt of the Warsaw Ghetto and The Quarry
Click on this Link to see these in detail.
There is also a poem by Andre Tranc that commemorates the lives of the Venetian Jews that were deported to the Nazi death camps in 1943 and 44
Walking along Calle di Ghetto Vecchio, keep an eye out for this carved stone plaque, above No 1131.
As you can imagine, life in the ghetto was pretty miserable - overcrowded, movement outside restricted, exploitation, financial penalties, not being allowed to own property etc. Although some might consider that the Venetian Jews were safer than some of their community in other parts of Europe (At a cost-security was issued through blackmail) many tried to leave. One way was to convert to Christianity.
This plaque-dating from the 18th century is a warning to converted Jews, setting out a list of punishments , should they attempt to enter the ghetto .
Apparently It translates as "to enter or to practice any activity under any pretext whatsoever in this city....on pain of hanging, imprisonment, whipping or pillory"
I'm not sure who issued this warning though.
In Campo Ghetto Nuova, is this Sottoportego (A passageway under a building)- if you walk under it you'll find two things of interest.
Firstly a doorway with the number 2912. Above the door, on the lintel, the wording Banco Rosso can be seen
Jews in Venice were limited to 3 choices of employment- Medicine, dealing in used/ second hand clothing and Money lending.
The money lenders operated from stalls set up in this Campo- The colours of their receipts being their form of identification- hence Banco Rosso (Red Bank)
At night, the ghetto was sealed by a series of locked gates- it was also located on an island, so was easier to police. Christian watchmen were employed on guard duty-their wages paid by the Jewish community. The only people allowed outside these gates at night were doctors.
In picture 3 you can see the marks left in the stonework by the hinges from the gates.
Lista di Spagna stretches from just after the foot of the Scalzi Bridge/ Scalzi church, to Campo Sant Geremia (in front of the large church of the same name) where it then becomes Saliz. S. Geremia, before the Ponte del Guglie crosses the Canal de Cannaregio.
This area was where the foreign embassies were all located- This wasn't a co-incidence- The Republic, ever fearful of foreign invasion etc stipulated that the embassies should be in one central area, which made it easier to keep control on the 'comings and goings' and for the Republics spies to have an easier job.
One of those embassies was used by the Spanish (Spagna). The word Lista indicates that it is a street leading to an embassy.
The embassy was located at No 168, and is now used as the regional offices of the Veneto. (pics 3 + 4)
In 1618, Venice had acquired a reputation as the European Capital of intrigue and espionage! The Marquis of Bedmar -aka The Spanish Ambassador came up with a 'cunning plan' to smuggle soldiers from the Spanish Army into Venice- They would arrive- a few at a time, in civilian clothing. This plan failed due to a prostitute, whose patriotism ensured that the plot was leaked to the feared Council of Ten. This resulted in around 300 people being arrested and executed.
Nowadays, this thoroughfare is a tourist hotspot, with souvenir shops, Fast food shops, Restaurants, hotels, discount sales and street hawkers- including the notorious handbag sellers.
A Popular area for visitors wanting to stay near to the train or bus station, particularly those on a 'whistle-stop' tour of Europe.
The Sestiero Cannareggio (the Northernmost in Venice proper), is not the most spectacular. The only famous destination there is the Venice Ghetto, a very small neighborhood which is at the origin of the definition of the word Ghetto as we know it.
However, the scarcity of tourists, and the presence of "real people" amidst unrestored, crumbling palaces, make a long walk through the Cannaregio a most pleasurable one. You may want to start your walk around the Civil Hospital and wander about in loops all the way to the train station.
Small and gorgeous, la Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli is considered a favourite by Venetians and is especially popular for weddings. The highly ornate, Renaissance-style design is attributed to the architect, Pietro Lombardo, who built the church in 1489 to house the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary, hence the name of the church. Though compact, the church is of exquisite beauty, particularly in its use of polychrome marble and faux arches in its exterior. The interior has a richly decorated and gilded barrel vaulted ceiling, and contains intricately carved white marble. Santa Maria dei Miracoli is tucked away in one of Venice's little alleys in the Cannaregio sestiere.