Canareggio area, Venice
When you arrive to St. Stae you can see in front of you a nice view over the Canal Grande with some nice examples of architecture: Palazzo Gussoni Grimani & Palazzo Boldu.
Palazzo Gussoni Grimani gave its name by the owner Antonio Grimani (a Dodge). It was built in 1509 on a project of Michele Sanmicheli. Nowdays it is owned by the Regione Veneto.
Palazzo Boldu built in the 16th century is nowdays a cultural centre.
If you want to avoid the the tourist crowds, there is an area in walking distance from the train station that has a lot to offer, it is the Jewish Ghetto.
We crossed the ponte delle Guglie and we walked inside calle de Ghetto(pic 1), a narrow alley that lead inside the area where during the medival times the jewish or Venice were forced to lived. Geto was a foundry at this area at the late 14th century but the name ghetto was used since them for every similar area all over Europe. The jewish people were forced to live here and the two gates were always guard by Christians during nighttime while during they day they have specific badges. Although their population rised up to 5000 (the area expanded into Ghetto Vechio in 1541 and in Ghetto Nuovo in 1633) there are only about 50 jewish people still living here in our days. I was lucky enough to capture one orthodox jew with my camera (pic 2) at campo Ghetto Nuovo where the Museo Ebraico lies.
There are daily(except saturday) guided tours from the museum from 10.00 am on the half hour for a cost about 9 euros. On the side wall of the square there are some bronze reliefs with scenes from the holocaust (pic 3). They are made by Arbit Blatas, a jew from Lithuania that survived from Nazis in NY and a small sign says next to the Memorial Of the Holocaust:
Men, women, children, masses for the gas chambers advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the executioner. Your sad holocaust is engraved in history and nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories. For our memories are your only grave. The city of Venice remembers the Venetian jews who were deported to the nazi concentration camps on December 5th 1943 and august 17th 1944.
We noticed at least three synagogues (pic 4) in the area (Scola Tadesca is the oldest, dates back from 1528, Scola al Canton (1532), Scola Levantina(1538), Scola Spagnola, Scola Italiania(1575). We also saw jewish bakeries (I tried but I didn’t like the sweets), bookshops and restaurants.
Most of the tourists know Cannaregio because its where the train station and the cheaper hotels are but it has some really nice (and quiet) corners. I started to walk from campo San Geremia. The church of San Geremia(pic 1) existing since the middle of the 18th century although the first church was erected in 11th century and houses the relics of Saint Lucy of Syracuse (previously at the church of demolished Santa Lucia church). At the same campo you can also see Palazzo Labia. It belonged to a rich family from Catalunya and was built at the end of the 17th century. It has some paintings of Tiepolo but I couldn’t go inside, it seems you need some appointment first.
Then we crossed the nice bridge ponte delle Guglie(pic 2) where we had some extra nice photos of the canale di Cannaregio. The bridge was built in 1580, designed by Michelangelo de Marchesini and has some nice carved masks as decoration. At this canal we saw the most weird boats of all Venice. After checking the Ghetto area (see next tip) we crossed another bridge and we started walk at fondamenta degli Ormesini that turns into fondamenta della Misericordia. Locals were passing by while we were checking the numerous bridges along the way.
When we reached San Marziale church(pic 3) we were tired of walking so it was a good point for a stop. It was first built back in the 9th century but rebuilt several times. There is a legend about a wooden statue of Madona that came in Venice in an empty boat and many miracles happened in the city then. It is made of wood painted but kind of old, its size is big enough and Jesus seems to smile in a strange way. A sign says about the story of the miracles and the date that the Doge brought it to the church, it was back in 1286. The interior is very interesting in general although kind of dark but it gives atmosphere. There are paintings from Tintoretto and S.Ricci while over the altar you can admire an ideal Venetian baroque exable, a baroque fantasy (according to Hugh Honour). The church is open 16.00-18.00 but better to visit it on 9.30 on Sundays.
When we passed from Palasport at Scuola Grande della Misericordia we realized the Biennale di Venezia had the grand opening that weekend so we took a quick look (there were several exhibitions all over the city). The next church was Santa Maria della Misericordia (pic 4) at campo del Abbazia. It dates back from the 10th century but the beautiful façade was restored in 1659. It was closed when I passed by.
We walked a bit, turned into calle dei mori and after crossing ponte de la Madona de l’Orto I saw the beautiful Venetian gothic church of Madona de l’Orto (pic 5). It was built at the 14th century and it was first dedicated to Saint Christopher but later to Virgin Mary because of a miraculous statue of Virgin Mary that was founded in the area. The sculpture of Judas supposed to have inside one of the silver coins of Judas but ok, I know… who knows… You can also see many nice paintings of Tintoretto (that he was also buried here) and Conegliano. We walked a bit at this quiet part of Canneregio and at the end we just got lost at some small alleys before we returned back to Ghetto area.
Since we did only a trip up and down the Grand Canal on the Route one vaporetto, we obviously did not get to walk around any of the six sectors of Venice. When I looked on a map, I found that the Cannaregio district would have been on the side of the railroad station. There were two churches which came to our attention in this stretch. One was San Marcuola Cannaregio (which has the district in the name).
It looked unfinished, and it was. Apparently the architect thought he would cover the surface with white marble but didn't get around tuit. It isn't a new church - it was built between 1728 and 1736 by the architect Giorgio Massari. Giorgio Massari b. Venice 1687 - d. 1766 was Venice's most important architect in the first half of the 18th century. It was not uncommon for facade to be left unfinished in Venice. Finishing them cost a great deal of money and was usually left for last.
The church is dedicated to Saints Ermagora and Fortunato—yet its name is San Marcuola. It is near to the Ghetto Nuovo
The second church had an inscription on it which said
VERGINE DI SIRACUSA
MARTIRE DI CRISTO
IN QUESTO TEMPIO
ALL'ITALIA AL MONDO
Roughly translated, this means
Lucia, Virgin of Syracuse, Martyr of Christ in this Temple Rests
Italy Implores all the World, Light Peace
Chiesa di Santa Lucia has in it the urn containing the relics of Santa Lucia. Actually there are two St. Lucias both from Syracuse which makes it confusing. After the death of the Saint in 304 A.D., his body was moved around and in 1204, the Venetian Doge Enrico Dandolo, sent it to Venice where it was put in the church of S. Giorgio Maggiore. On 13 December 1279 some pilgrims to the shrine drowned after the capsizing of boats in a sudden storm so it was decided to take the body of the Saint to the church S. Maria Annunziata or "Nunca" situated in the Cannaregio district, where they were placed the precious relics transferred from S. Giorgio. In 1313 a new church dedicated to St. Lucia, where the relics of saints were placed permanently.
There are regular hours for masses.
My reason for finding Fondamente Nuove, was that this was where I was to get the No 13 vaporetto to Sant' Erasmo, where I had booked accommodation for 2 nights, at the end of my 12 day visit to Italy.
It was quite a bustling area, as this is also where the waterbuses depart to other islands of the North lagoon including Burano, Isola San Michelle (The cemetery island), Torcello and Murano
From the quay across the bridge, night boats to the lagoon islands, and the Alilugana to Marco Polo airport can be boarded.
Waiting for the vaporetto, I had a while to wait, so enjoyed a cool beer on the terrace of Algiubagio, while enjoying the views over the lagoon.
The 'New Quays' are over 400 years old, Before they were constructed in the 1580's, this was a respectable residential area, where Venetians built houses, with attractive gardens, in order to enjoy the clean open air. Artists such as Titian resided here. He entertained European VIPS and friends such as Sansovino and Aretino at his house at No 5179 Calle Larga dei Botteri (No longer here, but a plaque on the flats wall marks the site)
The Quays themselves aren't too attractive, but it has become one of my favourite areas.
For a kilometre, from the Sacca della Misericordia, the Quays stretch easterly to the bridge crossing the Rio di Santa Giustina. This is also the point where you step into the sestieri of Castello
Looking out over the lagoon, with its ever-changing skies, I'm never bored with the view to the islands and beyond. On a clear day, You can even see the Dolomites, with their snow topped peaks.
Approaching Fondamente Nuove by water bus, gives you the chance to see landmarks such as the churches of the Gesuiti, with its red roof tiles and bell tower, and Santi Apostoli, with its onion domed campanile, from a different view.
I've enjoyed eating at the handful of eateries around Fondamente Nuova - Algiubagio has great food and atmosphere, and its sister Pizzeria and Gelateria is a place to grab a slice of fresh hot Pizza for 2 euros, or a delicious ice cream.
I also enjoy wandering around the sleepy narrow streets off the Fondamente, I never know what I'll see, or hear. One sunny afternoon, I'd wandered into a street with a vine growing across it. From a nearby apartment, I could hear a man singing operatic arias, as delicious cooking smells wafted from open windows. There was no one else around - One of those 'Happy Moments' which seemed a million miles away from the bustle of 'Tourist Venice'!
This is the main thorough fare of South East Cannaregio, running parallel to the Grand Canal, it is the widest boulevard between the Rialto Bridge and the Train Station, stretching from the church of Santa Fosca at its west end, to Campo dei Santi Apostoli in an easterly direction.
Although it is called New Street, it was created in 1871 during the Austrian occupancy.
Whereas other Boulevards such as Lista di Spagna and Via Garibaldi were formed by filling in canals, this one was produced by demolishing any buildings that stood along the way. Many old houses and ancient alleyways were destroyed, removing the character of the area around Santa Fosca.
Strada Nova is a busy shopping and socialising area. When I visited at Christmas 07, there were market stalls stretching from near the Ca'd' Ora Vaporetto stop, to Campo dei Santi Apostoli. In the evening there were a few street entertainers and the itinerant bag sellers.
However, this is a street where Venetians come to do their day to day shopping, such as household goods, gifts, flowers, clothes, cakes, wine and spirits etc. There are also plenty of wine bars, cafes, restaurants etc.
I'm afraid that I didn't get to see the buildings in detail - I was usually dashing to/ from the Vaporetto Stop and my nearby hotel.
I wish I'd checked out the antique pharmacy (Farmacia Santa Fosca or Farmacia Ponci) at No 2233- apparently it still has its original dark wood furnishings, including walnut, dating back to the 17th century as well as some majolica ( maiolica ) vases. This is the oldest surviving shop interior in Venice.
Outside the church of Santa Fosca is a statue to Fra Paolo Sarpi - a brilliant academic and scientist,and was also adviser to the Venetian state during the conflict between Venice and the Vatican in the early 17th century. This was the period when Venice was excommunicated due to its refusal to accept the papal jurisdiction in non religious affairs. One night, near the church, he was attacked by 3 men and left for dead, with a dagger protruding from his face. He survived this, and subsequent attempts on his life. Although unproven, it was believed that Pope Paul V was not entirely innocent in this incident.
Ca'd'Ora is reached from Strada Nova by a short dark narrow alley - follow the Vaporetto signs
It was decreed in 1516 that all Venices Jewish citizens should be confined to one area- an islet of Cannaregio, surrounded by wide canals and with 2 gates secured by Christian guards.
A foundry (geto) stood here until 1390, Ghetto Nuovo, (where it was pronounced with a 'hard' G by the German residents) - Ghetto then became the name for similar segregated areas through Europe. In Hebrew the root of the word for 'cut off ' sounds similar to ghetto.
Jews were confined from midnight to dawn, though allowed outside the boundaries during daytime, they were required to wear distinctive badges and caps.
They received some protection - laws prevented preachers from inciting mob rule, this came at a price as blackmail for security was common practice.
Medicine, money lending and the rag trade were the only occupations allowed. Jews weren't allowed to own property - instead paying high rents.
The ghetto had to expand to cope with further arrivals - either through birth or escaping persecution. (In 1541, into the adjacent Ghetto Vecchio, and 1633 to the Ghetto Nuovissimo).
A population of over 5,000 resulted in housing that was unique to Venice, with some 'skyscrapers' reaching upto 7 stories - Looking at these buildings,and the short distance between the windows on each storey, you can only imagine the cramped conditions!
In 1797, Napoleon pulled down the gates, only for Austrian occupation to re contain the population.
In 1866 freedom was eventually granted.
During WW2, 289 Venetian Jews were sent to concentration camps - Only 7 returned.
Today around 500 Jewish citizens live around Venice, with only about 30 living in the Ghetto.
There are Kosher food shops, bakeries, a restaurant (Gam Gam), library, synagogues (5), a museum, bookshops, gift shops and an old peoples home.
On the day that I visited, preparations were being made for an event that evening to 'celebrate'or Educate about the Ghetto.
My next few tips are about things to see and do in The Ghetto area
This Campo is named 'The New Ghetto' and the nearby Ghetto Vecchio - 'The Old Ghetto' this can be misleading.
The word Ghetto is often thought to have originated from the segregated areas of towns and cities, where persecuted Jewish citizens lived under Nazi occupation in the 20th century.
However- In this area of Venice in the 16th Century were foundrys, the Venetian word is geto. So the area was known locally as the geto or 'The Foundry'
Campo Geto Nuovo was The Square of the New Foundry
In 1516, when the Jews were segregated from the rest of Venice, arrivals moved into the houses in and around the Square of the New Foundry. Later as the numbers swelled, a second area was opened up - Campo Ghetto Vacchio - The Square of the Old foundry.
So Campo Ghetto Nuovo is actually the older Ghetto and The Campo Ghetto Vacchio is the newer
Campo Ghetto Nuovo remains the heart of the Jewish community - with reminders of its past - the old buildings, a museum, the original 2 synagogues to be 'built' in 'The Ghetto' and the memorials to victims of the holocaust .
Small shops are stocked with goods for Jewish and Non Jewish Venetians as well as the tourists who find this area whether intentionally or 'accidently' while 'getting lost in Venice'
For me, I had a mix of emotions while visiting - one minute I was bemused to spot on the bridge, a straw hatted gondolier, standing opposite an orthodox Jew wearing a kippa (skullcap), who was standing next to a male tourist in ' traditional costume' of bermuda shorts, trainers, white socks,waterproof blouson and base ball cap (click onto my pics below) - Later, I was quite affected by looking at the memorial plaques and bas reliefs in memory of the Holocaust victims.
There is a pleasant restaurant in the square - a nice place to 'people watch' while enjoying a cool drink or a meal. I had a freshly squeezed orange juice while waiting for the next tour from the museum to begin - (On the half hour from 10.30) There is a cafe in the museum that serves kosher food .
For something a little different to do one evening, try going to the casino. It's the oldest casino in the world, and yes Casanova did play the tables (and the ladies) here. No. This is NOT Las Vegas. The atmosphere is much more reserved and you won't find a neon light in sight. DO NOT forget to bring your passport, otherwise you'll be schlepping back to the hotel to get it. I'm speaking from experience!
Well, when I came to Venezia, it was not only for my own pleasure, I also had a task to do :-) Christine(j) was in Venezia some weeks before and told me about some mysterious ornaments she saw and asked if I could find out more about them. Ornaments, where one animal eats another, but often “illogical”, like a sheep eating a big bird. Those days, she had a photo of these ornaments on her homepage.
When I stepped out of my hotel first morning to start my wandering around, I was very much amazed to see that these ornaments were at the house just next to where I lived ! Haha, this is what I thought then. But while wandering around I found more and more of these ornaments. I think this happens to all of us – we hear or read something, have it in our brain and then start to see this all and everywhere. So I called Christine and told her that I most probably have seen “her” house. Later on I found out a bit more, but she did the whole task of solving the mystery – read all about it on her Venezia page.
This house now is also a palazzo, the Widmann-Rezzonico. It is privately owned and not accessible for public. It was built in 17th century by famous Baldassare Longhena, the one who built chiesa Santa Maria della Salute. Widmann family was originally from Austria, but when money talks – so in 18th century, they were able to access Venetian aristocracy, mixing with families of Foscari and Rezzonico.
I came across this building already on my first evening in Venezia, when I took a brief stroll around “my neighbourhood” and was much fascinated by the details I could see in the dim street lights. Next morning, with the sun shining, it looked even better. The pointed arch windows and the sculptures make a great sight, the lovely little lemon trees on the window-board add to it.
Most fascinating and definitely drawing attention is the statue on the left side: a man, holding a round plate with a sun. I didn’t find much background information, only have read that it might be Chronos who manages the time or Saturn with the sun in his hand and that it is one of the most unusual sculptures to find in the city. So if anyone has more information, I would be very much grateful.
The palazzo’s full name is Bembo e Boldù, not to be confused with Palazzo Bembo at Canal Grande (northern bank, close to Ponte Rialto).
It is easy to find – from the entrance of chiesa dei Miracoli just walk west over the little bridge until you arrive at Campiello di Santa Maria Nova. It is the building at the southwestern end of the little campo.
During my Canaregio walk, I didn’t go that far north to visit this church, as it was closed anyhow. I went to have a peek inside when I came back from one of my island trips, as it is very close to the Fondamenta Nuove vaporetto stop.
I wanted to see it, because I have read about the very controversial interior and I was impressed indeed. The full name of this church is Santa Maria Assunta dei Gesuiti (not to be confused with Gesuati or Santa Maria della Rosario at Zattere in Dorsoduro) and was built only in mid 17th century. Before these days, Jesuits were not allowed to spread their belief in the city, as they were too close to the pope and Rome. The outside is quite simple, compared to other churches. But the inside (photo 3, scan of a postcard) is more like a theatre – in the typical Jesuit Baroque pomp. You have to get very close to the columns and even touch them to realise that this is not brocade but stone – green and white marble make up an interior where one feels tiny and subservient (in contrast to the inside of chiesa Zanipolo in Castello, which we will see later). In one of the chapels left hand side is an altarpiece of Tiziano, the Martyrdom of Laurenzio.
I cannot really say if I liked this church. Certainly not as much as San Zanipolo or San Marco. But it is interesting to visit.
Opening hours are: 10-11 a.m. and 4 – 6 p.m.; no entrance fee, but it would be polite to leave a small donation. Postcards of the interior are available near the entrance, for 0,50 € each.
Originally, this church belonged to the Order of Crociferi. West of the church, there is still a small convent left, but this is only open during a short period on weekends.
East of Campo dei Mori is a very enchanting and picturesque part of Canaregio as well. Just wander eastward along Fondamenta dei Mori or Fondamenta della Misericordia and you’ll see some very tiny streets branching off northward (almost impossible to pass from a certain girth on, lol). One I found especially lovely – Calle di Zoccolo, as I ended up at the water and – viola – saw one of the old squeros (gondola repair stations; photo 5). This one is still in use, I suppose, but more on a private base. The house was lovely as well, plants growing all over – a magic sight. The bridge in photo 4 is between C. Trevisan and Vecchia and gives a very much picturesque motif with grass growing all over the stones.
A bit more to the north, a big “basin” opens up – Sacca del Misericordia (photos 1-3). Apart from the basin of L’Arsenale, this is the only part of historical Venezia where a basin is “cut” or left in the otherwise straight quays. In the old days, wood was stored here and then brought to the places where it was needed to built. And legends say that witches live here and set out on their brooms in the night. I wasn’t here at night, but can very much imagine how these legends came to live – it is a very strange and serene place, nowadays filled with boats which sway in the water and give the typical noises of clinging metal and gargling water. From here, you have a nice view to San Michele, maybe this is also part of a reason for the witches’ legend.
A bit further south of Campo de Mori, and close to the big shopping Strada Nova are two campi close to each other with interesting churches as well.
Campo and chiesa San Marziale (marziale = martial) are in a very much enchanted little area with very lazy atmosphere around. Cats sleep in front of the houses in the sunshine, hardly any noise at all is in the air (photo 3). Some houses have lovely reliefs embedded in the walls (photo 4; this was at the end of Fondamenta Moro). I especially liked the water well with the partly overgrowing grass (photo 1). The church of San Marziale does not belong to the Chorus Group, thus has different opening hours. While I was there, it was closed, unfortunately. But it must be beautiful inside, given the website of closeby Madonna dell’Orto, which has a section about the artwork in San Marziale. Italian Baroque painter Sebastiano Ricci has painted a marvellous vault here. Interesting to read about his other work in Wikipedia – he also has painted an Assumption for Karlskirche in Vienna.
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Two bridges to the southwest is campo and chiesa Santa Fosca (not to be confused with Santa Fosca on Torcello!). The church was rebuilt after a fire in 1733 and holds no noticeable treasures, as far as I know. But on the campo is a statue of an important local hero: Paolo Scarpi, priest of Servite Order, humanist and friend of artist Tiziano (17th century), who was the driving force for independence of Venezia from the church (well, Rome and the pope).
Jacopo Robusto, nickname Tintoretto, is definitely the painter who has the most intense connection with Venezia. His name derives from his father’s profession – a dyer. Hence tintore or tintoretto, the little dyer. Among all the artists that worked in Venezia, he was the most loyal one, he never left the city (except once for a short trip). Being a student of Tiziano, he left us so many marvellous paintings, and his work is a combination of influence from Michelangelo (the drawing) and Tiziano (the colours). For the fraternity Scuola Grande di San Rocco he made a whole cycle of paintings showing scenes of Old and New Testament (again very much typical for Venezia and Italy in general – the work is still there where it was made for and not anonymously hanging in foreign museums). His maybe most famous work is his version of Last Supper in chiesa San Georgio Maggiore and the huge Paradise in Palazzo Ducale’s Sala del Maggior Consiglio.
So it is most natural that we his fans take the pilgrimage to visit the house where he lived and worked. It is just next to the palazzo of Mastelli trading family – a beautiful Gothic building. A little plaque (photo 5) tells about him.