Castello area, Venice
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.
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 :-)
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.
The Arsenale was once the largest shipyard in the world. At its peak in the 16th century there worked 16.000 people, the so-called Arsenalotti, building and repairing the huge Venetian ships. The Arsenale had one of the first assembly productionlines in the world, which could construct a galley very fast, even within a few hours.
Approaching the Arsenale along the canal, Rio dell' Arsenale, you have a great view at the twin towers, built in the 16th century. Nowadays the Arsenale is a military area with most parts closed for visitors. I could visit the Corderia, used as exhibitionhall during the Biennale.
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 arenale is venice's medieval shipyard. during the crusades 30,000 people worked in the arenale and using a production line process built a warship a day. in 1204 AD a fleet of venecian warships laid seige to constantinople. the venecians were victorious and sacked the city. this defeat much weakened byzantium and later it was over run by the turks. venice's greatest naval victory was the battle of lepanto in 1571. this defeat of the muslems inspired venice's bakers to invent the crecent shaped croissant.
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.
According to tradition the Arsenal of Venice was founded in 1104; it has been enlarged over the centuries, coming to occupy a large part of the northeast area of the city.
The term Arsenale is a corruption of the Arab word darsina’a - a house of industry - and for centuries it was the largest in the world with over 16.000 employees at its peak when there were hundreds of galley ships in its basins, ready for war.
On the wall to the right of the entranceway is a bust depicting Dante Alighieri, recalling a visit the poet made to Venice in 1321. Still mainly closed to tourism, the Arsenale is sometimes used for notably important exhibitions and trade fairs.
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.
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.
The square and the entrance gate of the Arsenale are still the only remains of the glorious past. The imposing gate is built by A. Gambello in 1460 and is the first Renaissance building in Venice. The two stone lions guarding the entrance are stolen by commander A. Gambello from Pyraeus in Greece in 1687.
From the bridge in front of the entrance you can have a look at a part of the former shipyard. You can also take the vaporetto nr. 41 or 42 along the Arsenale to get a glimpse of the place.
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".
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
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.
After this visit we walked back to the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and headed for the Arsenale di Venezia. The low-rise, close clustered buildings of this working-class area housed the employees of the Arsenale, most of which now lies poignantly derelict. The Arsenale, the ship-building yards of the Venetian fleet, is now closed to the public, because the Italian navy have a base in the old complex. It used to be a mighty complex of dockyards, foundries, magazines and workshops for carpenters, sailmakers, ropemakers and blacksmiths, that had the capability of building a ship in a day.
The impressive military construction of the Arsenale was begun in 1104 and was continually extended from the 14th to the 16th century. It is surrounded by high walls with square towers bearing the insignia of the winged lion. During its golden age, over 16.000 people worked at the Arsenale. The Arsenale di Venezia has two docks and lots of huge buildings. What became known as the Arsenale Vecchio (Old Arsenale) is the core of the whole complex. We loved the sight we had at the most notable structure of the Arsenale di Venezia, the Porta dell'Arsenale, the land gateway. We also had a look at the Corderie, where the ropes were made. The Arsenale is trully an amazing structure. But, to get a better understanding of the naval history of Venice visit the closeby Navy Museum.
Sestiere of Castello.
(North) Eastern of Piazza San Marco – a 5 minute walk.