Castello District - Sestiere Castello, Venice
This most famous of Venetian promenades which forms the southern edge of the Castello sestiere literally teems with people (mainly us tourists) and is a spectacular introduction to the city if you arrive by water.
This quayside was named after the traders from Dalmatia in modern day Croatia (Schiavonia) who used to come ashore here. It seems only right that the multicultural buzz of the place has been maintained up to this day as tourists rush between elegant palazzi, hotels, restaurants, vaporetto stops and souvenir stalls. The promenade is also home to the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, who was the first king of a united Italy. The statue was sculpted in 1887 by Ettore Ferrari.
Scuola Grande di San Marco was built in 1260 by Confraternity of San Marco to act as its seat. The building, however, was destroyed by a big fire in 1485 and rebuilt in the very beginnings of the 16th century under the design of Pietro Lombardo. Its facade is a masterwork with nicely decorated niches and pilasters and adorned with white marble statues completed by Mauro Codussi. Three of the greatest Italian explorers of the 15th century; Barbaro, da Mosto e Contarini were members of this Scuola.
In the beginning of the 19th century, after fall of Napoleon, Habsburgs took the controll over the Venetian Republic and the Scuola became a military hospital. Nowadays it is a civil hospital of Venice.
When I approached Venezia from the northern side, first I was mislead by a belltower which I thought was the Campanile, but it wasn’t. It was the campanile of chiesa San Franceso della Vigna, in Castellos northeast. I never heard of this church before but my walk through Castello’s north lead me there. I was amazed by its façade, which looks a bit like a greek temple (see photo in the link below; somehow I forgot to take a photo of the whole façade), Palladio’s first work in Venezia. This church has a quite interesting story. Legends say that San Marco (St. Mark the Evangelist, Venezia’s patron saint) once landed here in a stormy night and an angel appeared and greeted him with the words Pax tibi Marce Evangelista meus (peace with you, o Mark, my Evangelist), which we all know from the countless depictions of San Marco lion – it is written on the book he holds in his paws. Once a vinyard stood here, hence the name “della vigna”.
Inside, it is filled with rich artwork, as I have read: Veronese paintings, a madonna by Giovanni Bellini and relief work of Pietro Lombardo. I didn’t go inside in May (obviously didn’t make my homework properly), so I cannot say anthing about opening times. It is not included in the Chorus Pass.
But if you go, you should also look at the cloister in the north of the church. It is said to to be overgrown with plants and tendrils, and given the view on GoogleEarth it must indeed look nice. It seems that there is still a vineyard and a garden (Google Earth) but it is not accessible from the outside.
Next to the church is a building which is easily been overlooked, but all fans of the TV series of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti will immediately recognise it as the Questura, where he works. But this is another story, for the off path section (and not yet done).
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACCARIA
Retracing your steps along the Riva degli Schiavoni, look for the Hotel Danieli. This is the largest and possibly one of the most famous hotels in Venice, and one of the top hotels in the world.
Originally built as a Palace for the ducal Dandolo family in the 14th century, it became a hotel in 1822, named after its owner Joseph Da Niel. Newer wings were added in the 1940's Apparently its opulent interior is crammed with marble, stained glass, crystal chandeliers, silk covered walls, gilt mirrors and oriental carpets. It also has the uninterrupted view over the lagoon - but this comes with the accompanying noise from the pavement below!
Between the 2 buildings of the hotel is a narrow street, Calle delle Rasse. Walking along here, you'll see many fish restaurants, bars and shops. When I visited at Christmas, small twinkling white lights decorated the street.
This street was originally a hive of industry- Rasse (Rascia or Rassa) was a black strong canvas- like material, (or a woolen cloth) that was used to cover the gondolas, to protect their ornate furnishings and fabrics. It originated in Servia (Rascia)
So manufacturing, selling and sewing of this material took place all along the street, and led to its name.
Doge Vitale Michiel 1 was murdered by Marco Cassuolo at the entrance to this Calle on September 13th 1102, while he was on his way to pay his traditional annual visit to the nearby church of San Zaccaria.
Cassuolo, was caught, after attempting to hide in one of the nearby houses at the Calles entrance, and hung.
These houses were then destroyed. They were rebuilt, but not permitted to be constructed in stone. They were then destroyed to enable the extension of the Hotel Danieli.
Apparently, Doge Vitale Michiel 11 was also murdered near this Calle, again on his way to San Zaccaria on 27th March 1172 - an Easter visit!! Hmmmm....
Don't worry, the worst that is likely to happen today is that you'll be accosted by street entertainers along this route!!!
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACARRIA or ARSENALE
Popular with local children and teenagers. I understand that this fair is only open December and January.
About half a dozen rides, including dodgem cars, side stalls such as a rifle range/hook a duck/ hoola hoops - with the chance to win bottles of whiskey. money etc- but more likely to be a tacky keyring!
I always find it slightly amusing watching adults desperately trying to win something of less value than the amount of money that they've forked out, in the idea that 'THIS TIME' I'll get it!
An assortment of foodstalls selling the usual fairground fodder - candy floss, hot dogs, burgers, hot and cold drinks, including small bottles of wine.
UPDATE- DECEMBER 08 - The fair had expanded in size since my last visit, though Christmas Eve/ Day some stalls/ rides were closed at night.
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACCARIA
On the Riva degli Schiavoni is this impressive statue to Vittorio Emanuele 11, who was the first king of the united Italy.
The monument was created by the Roman sculpter, Ettore Ferrari. It was inaugurated on 1st May 1887, and illustrates the ripping off of the chains of Austrian dominance. It depicts Vittorio on horseback on a stone plinth. Below are lions and dragons.
Between the statue and the next bridge is Pensione Wilder (No 4161), where Henry James completed 'Portrait of A Lady' in 1887
VAPORETTO - SAN ZACCARIA / SAN MARCO (VALLARESSO)
Crossing over Ponte della Paglia, having taken your photo of The Bridge of Sighs, you arrive onto Riva degli Schiavoni - The Dalmations Quay.
(We have left San Marco sestieri (one of the 6 neighbourhoods of Venice) and are now in Castello sestieri - If You're ever unsure where You are in Venice, the street signs also name the Sestieri - and Yellow signs point to San Marco, Rialto Bridge and other main landmarks)
The name comes from Schiavone-the Italian word for Slav, which in Venice was linked to the word slave. Slave trading was a common occurance in the early life of the city. Most slaves arrived from Dalmatian coastal towns.
Many of these Slavs were Christian, or converted to the faith, so by the 11th century, the slave trade in Venice ended.
The quayside, became the location where merchant ships from the ports of the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and further afield unloaded their goods. Food was sold from their boats, or booths set up along the quayside. There were also quite a few inns just beyond the bridge.
In ancient times, the Riva degli Schiavoni was partly walled-as a defense from invasion.
It was such an important transit port, that the area had to be widened , as it was only the width of its bridges. It was paved in 1324, then widened between 1780-82 by the architect Tommaso Temanza, to accommodate the increasingly busy trade.
Apparently a white stone border marks the original boundary. Canaletto's drawings of the Riva during the 1740's and 1750s show an area busy with gondolas, barges and sailing boats.
The Riva has been one of Venices highly desired addresses, with Petrarch in 1362 (No. 4145) and Henry James (No 4161) residing here. The Hotel Danieli (No 4196) has boasted Dickens, Proust, Wagner and Ruskin as guests. Today it welcomes guests willing to part with 700 Euros for its cheaper rooms - 900 Euro with a lagoon view!
Nowadays, this popular promenade still continues its trading history, although this time through the many gift shops and souvenir stalls.
There are also Exchange bureaus, and snack stalls, and You'll no doubt encounter a multitude of street entertainers along your stroll.
This is a pleasant area to stroll at dusk, as the sun sets over the water.
For those preferring a longer walk, and to see some of Venice's less visited areas, with views across the water -
The Riva stretches along the Bacino di San Marco from the Ducal Palace to the Rio Ca'di Dio near the Arsenale Vaporetto stop. Here, the promenade changes its name to Riva Ca' di Dio, until the bridge crossing the Rio dell' Arsenale. The section in front of the Naval museum is The Riva S Biagio, crossing the next bridge you are then on Riva dei Sette Martiri, which is a longer promenade, stretching to near the Giardini Vaporetto stop. Continuing in front of the Giardini Pubblici along the Viale del Giardini Pubblici, then crossing the bridge, you'll find yourself in Sant' Elena at the easternmost end of Venice.
I've heard many people complain about how overcrowded Venice can get at certain times. While this wasn't the case during our visit in late May, we still enjoyed discovering the Parco delle Rimembranze in the Castello area. This park, which is dedicated to the memory of soldiers who died during the Second World war, is the perfect place to go to get away from the crowds. With its beautiful trees and numerous park benches, there isn't another place quite like it in Venice to relax, perhaps read for a while, or even have a small picnic with a nice bottle of wine (it's OK to drink wine in public areas in Venice). It's also worth checking out the view of the lagoon from the park, and when you decide to head back to the heart of the city you can either do so on foot, by following the street that goes along the lagoon, or you can catch a vaporetto at the Santa Elena stop, which is great because the boats are practically empty at that point so you can pick a good spot on board and take all the pictures you want!
If you walk past the Palazzo Ducale heading for the Castello area, you'll find yourself on the Riva degli Schiavoni which, together with Piazza San Marco, has for a very long time been one of Venice's most popular high-scale tourist areas. Even if you don't plan on staying at one of the Riva's upscale hotels or have dinner at one of the rather expensive restaurants, it's still fun to go on a lazy stroll in the evening and take in all the sights and atmosphere.
From the Ponte della Paglia, you can first admire the "Bridge of Sighs", which was built at the beginning of the 17th century to connect the Palazzo Ducale with the new prisons. Although it sounds and looks quite romantic, the "Ponte dei Sospiri" actually got its name from the prisoners' laments as they made their was across the bridge and into the prison. Another point of interest on the Riva degli Schiavoni is Hotel Danieli, an upscale hotel established in a 14th century palazzo that has attracted many famous guests throughout the years, including authors such as Marcel Proust and Charles Dickens as well as composers such as Claude Debussy and Richard Wagner - it's definitely worth going inside to take a look at the gorgeous lobby area! Another hotel with a literary connection on the Riva degli Schiavoni that was of interest to me is the Pensione Wildner, where Henry James resided in 1881 as he was putting the final touch to his famous novel "The Portrait of a Lady".
If you walk all the way to the end of Riva degli Schiavoni, you'll eventually end up near Via Garibaldi, which has to be one of the largest streets in all of Venice. It was actually created by Napoleon in 1808 when he gave orders to fill up a large canal that would lead to the public gardens he also planned on establishing. It's actually a little weird to come upon a street that's large enough to accommodate cars after having spent several days walking around Venice's tiny little streets! The very first house on Via Garibaldi once belonged to Giovanni Caboto, or John Cabot as he is better known in Canada. This Venitian explorer landed in Newfoundland in 1497 and became the first European since the Vikings to set foot in what was to become Canada. The entrance to the public gardens can be found a little way further down the street, maked by a beautiful bronze statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. These gardens are home to several pavilions used during the "Biennale di Venezia", one of the world's most famous art festivals.
La Donna Partigiana. That’s her official name. She is one of the most intriguing statues in the world, and one of the best hidden. In high tide this forlorn statue is submerged under the dark green waters of the lagoon. In low tide and sunlight she looks like a large piece of metal seaweed lying on stone steps. Look closer. You will see the shape of a body of a woman. This is a monument to the women killed fighting in WWII. Very few statues were ever erected to women who died during the world wide conflict of WWII. And no statue tells this story of secrecy and sadness better than this.
The Sestiero Castello features the sunny banks of the San Marco canal, with wide quays and overpriced cafés. This is a good spot to stock up on Vitamin D after all those dark walks through narrow and miasmic alleys - although the back of the Dorsoduro is equally sunny while less crowded. The main quay, the Riva Degli Schiavoni, offers great views and bracing fresh air. This is where you will catch the boat service to the Laguna Islands.
The rest of the district feels like "more of the same" after a while, elegant but chilly and none too inviting. The Castello ends at the Arsenale, which is not open to the public.
We started to walk behind La Pieta church to explore Castello. First we saw the church S.Giovanni Batista in Bragova (pic 1) at campo Bandiera e Moro. It was the place where Vivaldi was baptized and he was lived at one of the houses of this campo. The campo has an interesting background because it is named after 2 brothers and one friend that were executed for betrayal to British government. They are buried in the church. The church looks very old and probably is as many guidebooks say that its from 8th century but it was rebuilt in 1475. The interior is very simple but you can see some nice paintings like A.Vivarini’s Resurrected Christ(1498) and Baptism of Christ in Jordan by Cima da Conegliano (1492), a magnificent bright painting. The church is dedicated to St John the Baptist of course but the word Bragora reminded me of the greek word Agora which is the market place.
Then we got lost in almost isolated alleys(pic 2) with names like calle de la Madonna, we came across many dead ends and many old people too! After a big circle we returned to the south part of Castello to see San Giorgio dei Greci (pic 3), a greek church that dates back from 1536 but the most impressive thing to see here in the bell tower that looks like Piza’s tower (it seems the lake will destroy it sooner or later). If you go inside you will notice that the seating places are different for male and females, something very common in Greece and you can also see some typical Byzantine paintings. The orthodox service takes place on Sunday morning. Next to the church is the Scuola di San Nicolo dei Greci that houses the Museo di Icone of the Greek Institute. It is open 9.00-17.00 but it was closed when we passed by. The greek community(mainly merchants and artists) came after 15th century and based around this area.
We took a look at Palazzo Priuli(pic4), a beautiful gothic palace that houses a luxury hotel. It used to have some great fresoces on the façade but they are gone although you can still admire the nice windows.
Last but not least we visited San Zaccaria church (pic 5). It is based on Campo San Zaccaria and the sun tried to kill us but hopefully the near by café saved us. The architecture of this church is a mix of neogothic and renaissance style. It was first built on 9th century and rebuilt in 1515. There was a Benedictine nuunery next to the church that were supposed to show provocative behaviour because most of the nunneries came from high class families! There are many beautiful paintings inside but don’t miss Madonna and Child With Saints (1505) by Giovanni Bellini(1430-1516). Yes, he was old when he made this but what a masterpiece.
Along the waterfront on the Riva degli Schiavoni (after you leave the St. Mark's Square stop) is an equestrian statue to Vittorio Emanuele 11 (1887), modelled by Ettore Ferrari (1848-1929). There is supposed to be a detail of the roaring Lion of Saint Mark but it must be on the other side. People in Venice call it just "The Monument" as you will notice there are not very many statues in Venice.
Victor Emmanuel II was the first king of unified Italy. First he was the Monarch of Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia from 1849 to 1861. On February 18, 1861, he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a Italian unification, a title he held until his death in 1878.
The Castello is the largest district of Venice’s six districts. It is an area situated east of St. Mark’s Square in the former city centre of Venice. Once called Olivolo, it was the center of ecclesiastical power. Nowadays it’s a quiet neighborhood and a large part of the district is covered by the Giardini Pubblici park and the Parco della Rimembranze which provide a green respite from the crowds (photos 3, 4, and 5) that throng the Riva degli Schiavoni.
The Giardini Pubblici (the public gardens) were created by Napoleon who issued a decree in 1807 stating that "the good city of Venice must be equipped with a public space where people can stroll".
The gardens were laid out between 1808 and 1812 according to the landscaping project of Giannantonio Selva. Several churches and monasteries were demolished to make the gardens; the arched doorway to the church of Sant’Antonio (on the left, along the canal) is all that remains of those buildings. The pleasant walking area and playground is next to the gardens of Biennale, the international contemporary art exposition which takes place every other year.
The Parco delle Rimembranze is probably one of the nicest green areas in the city. Located in Sant'Elena, the most Eastern part of Castello district, this park offers plenty of children's play areas and a roller-skating rink.
I don’t claim “copyright” for this tip title, this entirely Christine(j)’s credit for her description of is your pretzel big enough in Heidelberg.
When I was walking from L’Arsenale to Isola di San Pietro, I wanted to find out what is in the backstreets and so I took the little street behind Museo Storico Navale (Campo della Tana). This leads along the very much unapproachable walls of la Cordiere, L’Arsenale’s ropemaker’s complex and then onto Fondamenta della Tana, which is a very quiet part of the city. While I was absorbing this seren atmosphere, I suddenly saw a sign at a house at the end of this street (photo 1) and it immediately reminded me of Christine’s description of the pretzel sign in Heidelberg. Back home I found out that it is indeed a similar sign, meant as a scale to assure that no customer gets betrayed when shopping. This one of course is for fish and shows the minimal length for the different fishes. In Venezia’s glorious past, when the area around L’Arsenale was a hustle and bustle of people going to or coming from work, Fondamenta della Tana was alive with fishermen who sold their fish here. It is said that there are similar signs at Campo Margherita and Rialto, but I didn’t look for them. Next time .-)
Other old measurement standards are in Dornoch (Scotland), cloth size (by Joan, @scotishvisitor), Speyer (Germany), general measuring device and in Norcia, measuring grain.