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".
As early as the 6th century, there was a small fortress built on the island of San Pietro and it's from this fortress - which no longer exists - that the entire area (or sestiere) got its name. A church was also built on the island early in the 7th century. San Pietro di Castello became the first official seat of the Bishop of Venice, and it remained the city's main basilica until the seat was transferred to St. Mark's Basilica in 1807. The current church of San Pietro di Castello dates back to the 16th century, and access is included in the Chorus Pass. Among the church's many treasures, there is a carved stone seat known as "St. Peter's throne", which probably dates back to the 13th century - the back of the seat was actually made using an Arab funeral stele. Other than the church, its white campanile and its lovely quiet campo, the island is also home to a small convent. There are two bridges connecting San Pietro di Castello to the rest of the city, and both offer really nice views of the surrounding area.
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.
The military shipyard of Venice was once the most important in the world, contributing for the reinforcement of Venice military and economic power.
Nowadays, the area is a quiet escape from all the confusion and crowds around the St. Mark Square and the lagoon.
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.
This Gateway is in the style of a triumphal arch. It was designed by Antonio Gambello in 1460 and is considered to be Venices first Renaissance construction. It gives some idea of the wealth generated by the naval shipyard
An early example of re-cycling too! Older pieces were used - Greek Columns (4), Veneto-Byzantine capitals, floral reliefs and entablature.
Following the Battle of Lepanto, 2 more statues were re-sited here.
In 1682, a drawbridge over the narrow canal fronting the gate, was replaced by the Terrace seen today
The old lion statues 'rescued' from classical Greek sites were re-housed here.
The 2 largest lions guarding the entrance arrived in 1687, after being removed from Athens' port of Piraeus by Admiral Francesco Morosini.
The bald lion sitting upright, is believed to be the 'Lion of Pireus' has runic inscriptions on its haunches, which are thought to have been carved by a Norseman, fighting as a mercenary for the Byzantine Emperor's Varangian Guard against Greek rebels in 1040. Harold Hardrada was their leader- he later became King of Norway. (I forgot to look for these!).
Its neighbour is thought to have come from the sacred road to Eleusis
The 2 lions on the right (if facing the Gateway) were originally from the Lion Terrace on Delos, and were 'rescued', along with the Island of Corfu in 1718. However, the lion on the furthest right looks more like a sheep than a Lion, and its neighbour had the look of being 'bumped on its' head at some stage!!!!
(A game for children could be to count the lions around The Arsenale - or even throughout Venice - some are well disguised though!)
My second visit to the Arsenale was by accident as I was wandering back to my hotel, around 9pm, on Christmas Day -not knowing the exact way, but heading roughly in the right direction.
I'd missed by a couple of streets, but it was worth it - to come across the Great Gateway unexpectedly, and for it to be lit up was quite special.
There was no-one else around, and the illuminated Gateway with its shadows and statues made it very special. I sat on the nearby bridge, enjoying this quiet moment.
More photos to come - having problems downloading them at the moment!
Via Garibaldi was one of my favourite places to wander along - bustling with life, there's plenty to see on this wide street, which has quite a local feel to it. Children playing, old friends chatting, stall holders serving the local customers etc
This was originally the site of a wide canal, which connected the Bacino dei San Marco to the inlet of the Canale de San Pietro. It was filled in in 1808 during Napoleons rule of the city.
Via Garibaldi leads to the island of San Pietro- the first inhabited area of Venice.
From the waterfront Riva dei Sette Martini, the first point of interest is the first house on the right- a plaque indicates this was the home of John (Giovanni) and Sebastiano Cabot - explorers /navigators who discovered Newfoundland.
Continuing along, on the right is a large metal gateway, which takes you past an impressive statue of Garibaldi, along Viale Garibaldi to the Public Gardens - I'll be covering this in another tip
Just before You forget that You're in Venice, Via Garibaldi ends and continues forward as Fondamente Sant' Anna, as a canal (Rio di Sant' Anna) which appears from behind a stone wall.
This was an interesting area to linger.
One barge operated as a floating fruit and veg shop, which was doing a good trade!
Other boats floated along carrying building tools, or boxes of goods. This was very much a working area, a complete contrast to the tourist throngs less than a mile away.
Please click onto my other pics below on this tip for these views
The Arsenale was constructed in the 12th century, and further additions in the 14th and 16th centuries made this the greatest naval shipyard in the world!
During the 16th century 16,000 workers, known as the arsenalotti (Arsenale is a derivision of the arabic darsina'a - a house of industry) were involved in the construction, equipping and repairs of the Venetian galleys. The workshops, factories, foundaries, docks and warehouses were surrounded by a 2 mile long wall, forming a 'city within a city' - it was known as the Iron Garden. The area covered 80 acres It was here that the first production or Assembly lines were established in Europe. All the ships had spare parts that were uniform, with stocks held at each Venetian port, any ship could be boarded by venetian crew, who would immediately know their way around.
A ship could be fully constructed in one day - on one occassion, a banquet for Henry 111 of France in 1574- a galley was produced between the antipasto and dessert courses!!
The Great Gateway of The Arsenale used to be the only part of the Arsenale that the public could view -and You can only see the facade- its still a secured Italian Naval base. As the Biennale has opened much of the old shipyards for a year round exhibition arena for art, music and exhibitions, with adjacent buildings such as the ropeworks being employed . There are also 2 theatres - opened in 2000.
A research team, developing marine and coastal technologies also work in the Arsenale
This square is a great place to visit during the day, given that it has 2 fine churches and interesting statues. At night the area is an area for venetians to socialise and there is always something going on. The locals in the bars are quite friendly and you can enjoy a glass of vino rosso or wine waine with campari, all very reasonably priced.
If you are like me – and you like old industrial sites then this “next step” is one of the most cruel ones in Venezia: it is not allowed to enter the grounds of L’Arsenale and to view and visit the old dockyards. I tried my best but the guard at the entrance smiles and shook his head when I asked. So the only possibility is to walk on the wooden bridge in front of ingresso di mare and bring a good tele lens with you. At least you get a small glimpse of this gorgeous institution. The buildings are still there, at least the walls (but they look quite restored, at least the ones near the entrance) and partly overgrown by shrubs. Nowadays a wooden bridge connects the two guarding towers – in the past, there was a portcullis to close the entrance and maybe also prevent unloyal workers to bring valuables out of the site.
But even if we cannot go inside, we can get a brief impression and an idea about the immense size is through GoogleEarth. Or another good website is the one of Thetis (see below – website). This is a maritime development institution and has moved into some buildings in the northeastern part of the site. They have renovated some buildings and it is fascinating to read about their restoration phase. They also have a map with the several building phases of historic L’Arsenale.
Well, it is not exactly true that we cannot enter the site. During Biennale, some buildings are used as exhibition halls. This is mainly the Cordiere in the eastern part of L’Arsenale. Maybe one day :-)
L’Arsenale’s entrance portal is said to be the first Renaissance building in Venezia. Built by Antonio Gambello in 1460, it is indeed a very pompous one. To demonstrate Venezia’s naval power and justify evangelist San Marco to be the city’s patron, lions have been brought here from all over the mediterrean world (Piräus, Greece, to be precise) and are now flanking the portal. The one at the left has a very interesting and mysterious carving: it is said to be runic inscriptions made by Nordic mercenaries who had been hired in 11th century to support the rulers in the Piräus war (photo 3, it is on the left lions’s left side). The portal itself is really gorgeous and I highly recommend first to step back and look at it from a bit far away – to take in all the details it has. It looks indeed like a triumph arch with the Marco lion on top (note that his book is closed, a signal that L’Arsenale has been built for preparing wars or at least defending the city). Around the fenced stairs statues of mythology gods are grouped: I identified Neptun (photo 4), Fortuna with the cornucopia (in the travelogue), Iustitia, Minerva and for the others I am not sure (oh my, school has been some time ago…). And another statue is here which reminds us that L’Arsenale was even model for a classical piece of literature – Dante has it in mind when he wrote his Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy): his statue is to the right side of the entrance portal (photo 5).
L’Arsenale has 2 entrances – depending on how the people entered: Ingresso di Terra (land entrance), which is this entrance portal and Ingresso di Mare (water entrance), which is just next to it, the only way the ships could leave the building station. And this is where we walk next.