Castello area, Venice
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.
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!!!
Scuole, played a major role in Venezia. One of these is the Scuola Grande di San Marco with a marvellous southern façade. Maybe some of you know this building from Canaletto’s painting SS Giovanni e Paolo and the Scuola di San Marco of 1725, which is on exhibit in Dresden’s Gallery of Old Masters. Looking at this painting is fascinating, as it could have been made in todays’ time. Not much has changed, except the clothes of the people of course. However, the magnificent façade cannot be seen in the painting. But it is of a similar style as Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli and some palazzos along Canal Grande (Palazzi Dario and Manzoni for example). Similar as with the Byzantine ornaments, once I have seen this style, I started to see parts of it all over Venezia. he portal has beautiful decoration as well, scenes of San Marco's life.
Only later I learnt that it is indeed of a similar school, Pietro Lombardi and family have also started the work on Scuola San Marco’s façade. It was finished later by Mauro Coducci around 1500. What I mean in decoration are these polychrome dark red and dark green marble discs surrounded by elaborate circles as in photo 1. But the most intriguing is the symmetrical perspective of the façade’s entrance portal decorations. If you stand at one end of the campo and look at the building, the two arches flanking the portal look very much three-dimensional (photo 3 or 5): the lion seems to step out of the arch and the arches’ vault seems to vanish into the rear. But the closer you walk towards it, the more the illusion becomes obvious: these details are worked out in relief and partly in trompe d’œil style (see photos 1 and 2).
Oh, I almost forgot to write that this magnificent building is Venezia’s Ospedale Civile (main hospital) now. Some of the scuola’s magnificent interior can be visited Mondays to Fridays in the morning, this now through the southern entrance.
The main building (15th century) was once the granary of Venice.
The ground floor and the first two floors present the exploits and equipment of the Navy of Venice and of the Italian naval Fleet. The museum is owned by the Italian Navy so that the 19th and 20th century, with the commando raids by human torpedo's, are more represented than the Navy of the Venetian Republic itself.
On the first floor a room is dedicated to the Bucintoro, the ceremonial barge of the Dodge from which every year on Ascension Day he would throw a ring into the lagoon, symbolizing the marriage of Venice to the sea. There are also models of ancient ships as well as a small ceremonial galley. In other rooms are shown models of commercial ships of the 20th century.
The third floor contains models and objects from gondolas, fishing boats and other vessels from the Venetian lagoon.
A room shows models of oriental junks; another one is dedicated to the Swedish navy and finally a room contains a collection of shells. These rooms, obviously, have nothing to do with the "Serenissima"!
Besides the main building the Ship Pavilion houses some Venetian boats among which a parade galley of 18 oars the "Scalea Reale".
Actually this museum disappoints the visitors who came for the navy of Venice, a navy which from the 12th to the 16th century dominated the Adriatic and the Oriental Mediterranean Sea. The navy of the Serenissima and its maritime power is finally not much represented.
It is disappointing all the more as at the time of its glory Venice maintained permanently a hundred galleys plus the merchant ships.
The museum does not show much of this. No battle galley was preserved, you do not find here historic vessels as the "Mary Rose" or "Victory" in Portsmouth, nor a replica like in the Netherlands with the commercial vessel "Amsterdam" of the VOC exposed at the maritime museum of Amsterdam.
The amateur who wants to see galleys will even see more impressive ones in the maritime museums of Barcelona or Lisbon-Belem.
Open: Monday to Friday 8.45 - 13.30 h; Saturday 8.45 - 13h.
Closed on Sundays and Holidays.
Price (2014 has not changed since 2011): 1,55 €, reduced 0,77€.
Photos allowed (belongs to the Marina Militare not to the City of Venice like most other museums).
Of all the campos I saw and stayed in Venezia, Campo San Zanipolo was my favourite. Haha, easy enough, as I lived just around the corner (when staying in the appartment). I still don’t know what it was with this campo, maybe that the hospital is situated here and that the people often stop by in the cafes, restaurants and bàcari during their hospital visits ? And of course there is the church San Zanipolo with mass service. Consequently, on weekends the campo is full with real Veneziano life – just perfect. Now this campo has another advantage: by now it is the only place in Venezia, where the most famous pasticceria of all has a shop: Rosa Salva. They make the best sweets on the planet and their coffee smells…. divine !
The campo’s importance is indicated by the very nice and elaborate well (photo 1) and the famous equestrian sculpture of Bartolomeo Colleoni (photos 2 and 3). This sculpture is famous in several respects: it is one of the first bronze sculptures of that size, and even John Ruskin believed that there is no more glorious work of sculpture in this world. Then, you might ask how does a horse get into a town dominated by canales ? There is an interesting and funny story behind this. Colleoni was one of Venezia’s most famous leaders of armed forces on terra firma back in mid 15th century. In his testament he promised to donate a large sum to Venezia, if he would get immortality with a monument in front of San Marco. Now La Serenissima could not accept a foreigner from Bergamo, despite his triumphs for the city, standing in front of the Basilica of San Marco. But … smart as the Venezianos have always been – the testament did not specifically say “basilica”, so his statue was placed in front of San Marco, but the Scuola Grande di San Marco. Testament fulfilled, the city had the legal right to claim the money :-)
Chiesa San Zanipolo is marvellous inside. I can only highly recommend not to race through her, as you might miss one of the many treasures she holds. I stayed in there for nearly 3 hours and came back to see more. Also, the timing should be considered, as I found it quite fascinating to be inside around noon on a sunny day – the light painted the most marvellous effects on the anyhow fantastic marble grounds (photo 3).
If you come inside the church, take some moments and just stand there and look around: this will give you an idea how big she really is.
On the right hand side there is a big early Renaissance triptych, depicting San Vincenzo Ferrer (photo 3). He was a Spanish Dominican mendicant in 14th century. The triptych is said to be made by Bellini, but some art historicans doubt that.
Further to the right are three side chapels; the most interesting and artistic I found is Cappella di San Domenico with a marvellous ceiling fresco showing the apotheosis of San Domenico (photo 1). In the little side chapel next to it is an icon of Madonna della Pace, which was given to the Domenicans in 14th century and which is said to have miraculous powers. On the left side is the famous Cappella del Rosario (photo 5), which was built in 1582 as a votive chapel to celebrate the famous victory in Battle of Lepanto. Originally, Tintoretto has contributed with paintings, but these were destroyed during a fire in 1867 and have been replaced with paintings by Veronese. Try and go into this chapel during midday or a bit earlier, when the sun paints magic lights & shadows on the magnificent multicoloured marble floor.
While most of Venezia’s churches don’t have that much of stained glass windows, Zanipolo has one, in the southern transept (photo 4). It was of course made in Murano and shows many bible scenes and also St. George killing the dragon.
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
San Zanipolo was my most favourite church in Venezia (well, apart from the Basilica, but this is another world). I still don’t know why, maybe because she is so big and so suffused with light inside. And maybe as there are only a few benches inside, which might make the church seem to be bigger as she is. But on the other hand, she is the biggest in Venezia anyhow. Built between 1330 and 1450, she was the church of Domenican Order and is named after two martyrs of 250 AD (and not, as one would think, after two of the apostles). Oh, I should mention that “Zanipolo” means Santi Giovanni e Paolo, but the short version Zanipolo is very much typical local dialect – contracting and shortening words.
The church’s outside is very simple, brown brick and except the later built entrance portal has almost no decoration – reflecting the Domenicans’ life of privation. Inside, she has two chapels on each side and four apses around the main apse in the east. It is well worth to spend some time inside San Zanipolo, as it was here where the processions ended since 14th century when a doge has died. San Zanipolo is final resting place for 27 doges and nicely shows the development in tomb building – from simple ones to opulently decorated ones of Baroque style.
As space is not enough to describe the glory of this church in only one tip, I’ll expand on the next ones.
Opening hours: daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., except during masses of course.
Admission: 2,50 €, but note that San Zanipolo is not included in the Chorus Pass. Some travel books however metion that she would be included, but she is not on the Chorus Pass list
Holy masses are held on weekdays 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. as well as on Sundays and holidays on 8:30 a.m., 11.00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
I can't repeat it enough, but Venice is so much more than St Mark's Square! Of course, you need to see that if you're in Venice, just don't limit yourself to that area.
My favourite area was Castello. In and around the Via Garibaldi, it is so quiet and you see harldy any tourists. Laundry drying outside, elder people taking a rest on one of the benches, ... : this is my kind of Venice!
Our next destination will be L'Arsenale, Venezia’s huge secret ship building complex. I can only highly recommend to approach L'Arsenale from anywhere else but the south (= not from the south), as only then you get an idea of the immense size of this dockyard. Or look at Google Earth to see how much of Venezia L'Arsenale occupies. I came from northwest (Chiesa San Francesco della Vigna), wandered through the maze of little streets and finally arrived at the western walls of L'Arsenale. It is all very quiet there (well, was, in May 2007), but I believe that not many tourists walk along here. I think, the second photo shows this tranquility very nice. I took it at Rio delle Gorne, which is the canale to L'Arsenale’s west. Here I also found a monument to Piero Foscari (photos 2 and 3). This monument is a bit confusing to me, as I have read somewhere that at the walls of L'Arsenale would be a monument to Doge Ordelafo Falier, the founder of L'Arsenale. But this one clearly had inscriptions to Piero Foscari. And as it was made in 15th century, it must be Piero Foscari the judge and not Piero Foscari the navy captain (who lived 1865-1923). If someone could shed light to this monument and moreover why it is here, at the wall of the marine complex, I’d be very much grateful. However, the Foscari were an important Patrician family in Venezia, Francesco was the doge with the longest governing period (34 years, quite long for Veneciano standards, where doges were often killed following conspirating acts). They are also the family who gave name to Venezia’s University: Università "Ca' Foscari" di Venezia.
But if we continue our walk to the main entrance portal of L'Arsenale, we see more of the marine presence: the little relief/statue on the last photo is a unicorn, which, together with a seaman, flanks the entrance to the Instituto Studi Militari Marittimi, the navy studies school.
The website below is in Italian only, but has nice old photos and scetches to show the size of this area.
And now my most favourite museum of all Venezia – the Museo Storico Navale. If you are interested in the city herself, how she became what she was and is, a visit to this museum is a MUST. But do plan this visit in advance as the museum has very strange opening hours. It is closed on Sundays and on the other days it is only open until 1:30 p.m. And do visit the museum’s website beforehand to know which floors you would like to see. It is in Italian only but quite easy to read: piano = floor and “mouse over” the pink spots shows photos of the exhibits in each floor and section.
The museum is located in La Serenissima’s former granary and belongs to the Italian Navy. On 5 floors it shows literally everything connected to Venezia and her naval past. What I found most fascinating are the old prints with aerial views of the city and of course the old gondolas. But the best of all is the replica of the Bucintoro, the glorious doge’s galley, the one with which the doges sailed out into the sea to celebrate Venezia’s marriage with the sea. The replica is approx. 3-4 m long and sits in a glass cabinet (careful when you take photos! Switch off the flash – I almost got blinded because I forgot) and carved or modelled very much elaborate! I almost forgot to move on, while I kept looking and discovering more details.
On the other floors you will see old ship laterns (ground floor), figureheads and old ships and the Bucintoro (first floor), nautical instruments and clothes (second floor), old gondolas, including Peggy Guggenheim’s and very interesting descriptions and models of how gondolas are built (in English as well, third floor), a collection of all different kinds of sea shells and plants (fourth floor) and the Swedish section with information about Venezia’s connection to Sweden (between third and fourth floor).
But the best of all is the entrance fee: as low as 1,55 € !!!
Opening hours:: Mo-Fri: 8:45 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., Sat: 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Sundays and holidays closed
As this museum fascinated me most, I took tons of photos and have added two more albums about the Bucintoro and the museum in general. Only photos at the moment, and more explanations when I have time :-)
Earlier I already mentioned that San Zanipolo is the final resting place for 27 of Venezia’s doges and thus seen as Venezia’s Pantheon (some sources say 25 tombs, but to be honest, I didn’t count myself, but trust the author of my art guidebook). Since 14th century, all burial ceremonies for the doges ended here and the tombs are somehow a reflection of Venezia’s history and the development in tomb building in the context of architectural styles. While the first tomb (of Giovanni Dolfin, 1361, left hand side at the altar section) is a very much simple sarcophagus, the one of the Valiero family (Silvestro, his wife Elisabetta and his father Bertuccio) is of pompous size and almost theatrelike decoration (photo 4). The tombs are built in a way to show the respective doge’s power: the early tombs are more peaceful with the doges resting = lying on the sarcophagus and the tombs are somehow soaring at the wall. With the tomb of Pietro Mocenigo (main photo) the building style changes to a mausoleumlike style, which is also the start of Venezia’s own High Renaissance period. The doges are now standing on their sarcophagi, some with a very authoritative expression.
The maybe most famous doge, Leonardo Loredan (which most of us know from the portrait) is also buried here, right hand side of the altar.
As already mentioned, 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 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.
Now follow me on my walks through sestiere Castello, which was my favourite area and still is, now half a year later, as I am writing about it. Maybe as this felt more like the real Venezia for me, with many witnesses of her glorious past, even in tiny details. I didn’t see many other tourists there, except at Arsenale and Isola di San Pietro.
The following tips will be about Castello, the sights and places I found charming and interesting during my walks. For a better overview, I made a screenshot of GoogleMaps again and marked the walks with a blue line. Oh, I should mention that the walks started in the northwest and from there clockwise with this little detour to Isola di San Pietro in the east.
In addition, I add a GoogleEarth Screenshot of backstreet Castello in case you want to find the fish scale of Venezia’s old days as a Republic.
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).
And now we are at L’Arsenale, the most important part of Venezia J Yes, of course, there is Piazza San Marco with all the magic buildings and the basilica and Ponte Rialto, and, and, and… But L’Arsenale is special, as it is (or was) Venezia’s core and backbone, the place without which Venezia could never have been the queen of maritime powers as she was in the past. L’Arsenale was the place where ships were built within a day, the biggest dockyard and maybe also employer of the world for centuries. More than 15.000 arsenalotti worked here, each one very much specialised in a skill that was needed for ship building. L’Arsenale was a city within the city, and similar as with Murano and the glass blowers, the arsenalotti were having a high status among the civil people. They were the ones who knew all the secrets about ship building and thus, Venezia’s governors did almost everything to please them: tax reduction, mild processes, life long incomes, and so on. But, this all had a price: the arsenalotti had to work their whole life (= until they died, to get life long payment) and were strictly controlled by their supervisors in fear of sabotage. This all kind of isolated them to a point that they had developed an own language or dialect or lingo.
As we have now 10 travelogues per destination :-)), I will continue to write about L’Arsenale & ship building here.