Even if you don’t have the time to stroll through Canaregio’s backstreets, a tour with vaporetto No. 41/42 or 51/52 will give you an idea of the lightness that lies over this area. These boats go along the Canale di Canaregio, which is the biggest canale of the city (well, apart from Canal Grande of course). As soon as the boat turns into the canale, the first bridge is already a nice view: Ponte delle Guglie (photo 3). The name derives from the four obeliscs in each corner (la guglia – spire). Note also the many grimacing stoneheads on the bridge’s side. The boat has a stop here, so you can easily hop off, wander around and take the next boat to continue driving along the canal. This would also be the boat stop if you want to visit Venezia’s Ghetto (see what Sandy and Christine wrote about the Ghetto area). The next stop is at Ponte dei Tre Archi (photo 1) – the only bridge in Venezia with 3 arches. In late afternoon it also makes up for good photos.
From here, you can either continue your trip on the boat around the northwest of Canaregio (although it is not the most beautiful area, quite rugged in fact) or back to Canal Grande. On the other hand, the next boat stop will be St. Alvise or Madonna dell’Orto, which saves some walking, if you intend to visit these churches.
To follow my walks, you should take the boat back into Canal Grande and get off at Ca D’Oro and then into Strada Nova (westwards).
One of the reasons that Venezia got so powerful was their extensive trade with the East – spices and silk and all. Surely Marco Polo is the best known Veneziano trader of these days, as he wrote the books about his travels along the silk road. But there have been more traders, one of them being the Mastelli family of Greek origin (they came from Morea – Medieval name of what we call Peleponnes today, thus the name “Mori”). Three traders of the family are immortalised in the façade: Rioba, Sandi and Afani Mastelli (photo 5 – all of them). I don’t know which one is Sandi and Afani (in photos 2 and 4), but Rioba is the one you’ll recognise immediately when you approach this house: he is the one with the iron nose. It is said that this was the place where Venezianos could put their complaints about the republic. Obviously, some people were not satisfied with laws and events those days – at a point in time, Rioba must have been beheaded and punched in his nose. The nose is gone, replaced with an iron one, and his head is hold in place by some iron struttings.
There is a fourth statue right hand side of Rioba (photo 1). First I thought it would belong to Tintoretto’s house, but then I have read that it seems to be one of the loyal servants of the Mastelli family.
I have read that they all were colourfully painted in the past. The paint is faded by now, but the stone carvings are still there.
On the back side of the Palazzo Mastelli must be a beautiful relief with a camel, also showing their power in trading with the East. I did miss it, but Sandy found it :-)
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.
As I already said before, I write about my tours through Venezia not for the ones who plant to visit the city once and race through the neuralgic spots, but for those of you who take their time, want to see more of the charming spots and intend to come back one day. Or simply for those who want to read about the many treasures La Serenissima holds.
I start with sestiere Canaregio and add the sestiere’s sights here, independently if they are campos, churches or bridges. For an overview of some walks around this part of Venezia, I made a screenshot of GoogleMaps and marked the walks or boat tours blue. In addition, I made screenshots of details via GoogleEarth; arrows mark the sights that are closer together – to give you an idea how far they are from each other.
Canaregio is one of my two favourite sestiere. As many locals live here, it has a very much vivid atmosphere, the shops, bars and restaurants are frequented mostly by locals, unless the occasional visitor ends up here. This makes the price levels way lower than in the neuralgic areas of course. I only wish that it will keep this way, and that Canaregio won’t suffer a fate like San Marco and San Polo, where a lot of the famous locals’ shops are gone now, replaced by just another crappy souvenir shop with stuff Made in China.
In addition to Canale di Canaregio, 3 other smaller canales run parallel to each other in a more or less east-west direction. Of these, Fondamenta della Misericordia is nice to stroll along. Many bars and restaurants line up here, and having a seat and sipping prosecco or Spritz is a lovely pastime. Prices are reasonable – as this area is not yet overflown with tourists.
Walking west and then turn north would bring you to Campo dei Mori, Tintoretto’s house and Madonna dell’Orto (next 3 tips). Walking south will bring you to Campo Marziale and Santa Fosca (4th tip down) and back to Strada Nova if you like. Walking east and then turn north will bring you to a very enchanted part of Canaregio with an old gondola dock (5th tip from here) and walking straight east will bring you to the famous bridge without parapets (6th tip from here) and further on in Canaregio’s east.
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.... :-)
Yes, Cannaregio is the home of the "Jewish Ghetto" in Venice. But it is much more. It is one of the few places in Venice where you can see Venetians living and working. Here you will find familys dining at restaurants, non-tourist shops and markets. It is a much less frenzied part of town.
For those wanting to check out the ghetto, Canareggio is home to five synagogues: the Canton Synagogue, the Italian Synagogue, the German Synagogue, the Levantine Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue.
As for the history: The Venice Ghetto was the first to be set up in Europe and was founded in 1516. The Venetian Jews had to live inside the area bordered by the Ghetto Bridge, and could not leave the area from dusk until dawn. Guards were placed at the Ghetto boundaries to control the Jews’ movements and the Ghetto was closed at night with gates. The hinges of those gates can still be seen today. The word “ghetto” comes from the word “getto”, the noun coming from the Italian verb “gettare”. It refers to the foundary work that had been found in this area of town.
Other interesting sights in this area include Madonna dell’ Orto Church, Gesuiti Church, and Ca d’ Oro. Madonna dell’ Orto is known for its Tintoretto paintings as well as a statue of The Virgin Mary, which is said to have miraculous powers. Gesuiti, as it is referred to in Venice, is the first monastery of the Jesuits established in this region. Its facade is covered in green and white limestone. Ca’ d’ Oro, or Pallazzo Labia, faces the Grand Canale and is known for its spectacular façade which is adorned with gold leaf, vermillion, and ultramarine. Within you can find paintings and carvings by greats such as Titian, Bellini, and Lombardo.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.