This splendid 10-room gallery on the Grand Canal - inexplicably absent from many online Venice guides - houses a delightful collection of 19th and 20th century art (as well as a smaller Oriental Art Museum on the top floor). While the great majority of the works are by Italian artists possibly less well-known to a general audience, some big international names are also represented, with fine pieces by Bonnard, Chagall, de Chirico, Kandinsky, Klimt, Mirò, Tanguy.
We wandered round the streets alleyways and canals. Venice is a great city to get lost in. Taking in the history and architecture while listening to the sound of opera coming from the shops. Stopping now and then for chicheti (bar snacks) or to share a deliciously thick Italian hot chocolate.
We eventually got to our destination, Rialto, and then it started to snow. Venice is romantic at anytime but in the winter it’s never bettered.
The Venice Carnival is a photographer's dream with figures dressed in costumes ranging from the absolutely beautiful to the bizarre.
Most people go to St Mark's Square to take pictures on the last days of Carnival. There are many fantastic images to be found but the square gets incredibly crowded and shots have to be taken quickly and often onlookers get in the way. My tip therefore is to move away from the square to other, quieter locations where you will encounter some of the more professional models who will be prepared to give you much more time to pose them and to compose your pictures.
The best time to try is late morning and promising locations are outside the Salute Church, the walk between Accademia and S. Toma vaporetto stops (taking in Campo S. Baranaba) and the walk between San Marco and Campo Santo Stefano. Indeed, many of the main piazzas and campos are a good bet. This is a great opportunity to get away from the crowds and work with some good amateur models.
To take photographs simply ask politely and if language is a problem, indicating the camera is usually enough to start taking pictures.
Beautiful, romantic folk take note, the Rialto Bridge is an iconic pedestrian bridge that belongs to the medieval era. It spans over the Grand Canal and is acknowledged as the hub for commercial activities for centuries. You can even find the old stores, jewelry shops and various small counters still running their business. Lots of shops to buy your loved one a special present.
The enticing Rialto Bridge is the oldest and the most fascinating bridge in this beautiful city. The overpass consists of magnificent pillars and amazingly crafted arches. You can witness the stunning view of the Grand Canal while shopping and snuggling up to your lovely partner.
All for walking a few hundred metres, you (1) bypass the huge queue for the Doge's Palace (2) get a joint ticket for both places, cheaper than separate.
52 Piazza San Marco, other end of St.Mark's square from the Doge's Palace
The Art Academy B&B in Dorsoduro, Venice is a truly wonderful little gem. Tucked away by the side of the Accademia bridge you couldn't wish for a nicer to stay whilst exploring the marvels of Venice. The hosts Barbara and Mara were friendly and welcoming - despite our delayed 1 am appearance due to fog and an un-expected route via Trieste!
The rooms are immaculately clean and bright and spacious with simple furnishings. Some rooms have views of the Grand Canal..... the thrill of opening the shutters in the morning and seeing it all before you cannot be beaten.Rooms are available with en-suite or shared bathrooms, we opted for the latter and it was all perfectly fine.No queues or drama, perfectly nice bathroom with all the usual facilities. A lovely Italian breakfast is served in a room with views of the Grand Canal - so not much talking over breakfast but plenty of gawping!
Trust me, I have been to Venice before and places to stay that are as good as this, as centrally located and with such friendly & helpful hosts can be counted on the fingers of one hand. If flashy and fancy is your thing, then this isn't for you, but if you want to see and experience the friendlier side of Venice then do go and stay! Tell them Emma sent you!
I would definitely recommend a look when you visit Venice. It's inside the Church of St Mark (Basilica di San Marco) and as well as the fantastic ceiling mosaics, offers has a great view of the piazza.
Go up the (steep!) staircase on the right as you go from the narthex into the main body of the church. It's worth the effort, though.
The real horses of San Marco are up here too – the other ones are only modern replicas.
San Marco, Piazza San Marco
Venice is my most favourite city in the entire world, but when you are fed up of being jostled and barged into, when you become invisible to the ocean liner troupe let loose in the city for a few hours, where can you go?
Take the vaporetto or ferry from the Fondamente Nouve stop on Venice’s northern shore and travel 10km north-west across the lagoon to the tiny, windswept island of Torcello.
Deep channels run between the mud-banks and are marked by bricole, wooden poles lashed together and emerging from the water. The channels are busy with all sorts of craft - rushing water taxis, vaporetto ploughing along full of city workers, huge dredgers keeping channels clear and fishermen looking for shrimp.
The landscape opens out as you enter the lagoon. It’s often misty, often mysterious. The sky and water merge. Brine laden winds caress you. All at once the quiet of the lagoon becomes unearthly. A feeling of deep relaxation is within you, which can be strangely energising.
This silent island was the first in the lagoon to be settled by Veneti after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and Germanic invasion. It was virtually impregnable and became an attractive refuge for merchants and tradesmen. The population once exceeded 20,000 but by the 12th century the lagoon had silted up and Torcello became inaccessible and malarial. The inhabitants left, and literally took their fine residences with them, leaving a littering of architectural debris.
Just a handful of residents remain in this tranquil backwater. The two churches of Torcello stand in magnificent isolation around the overgrown piazza - the church of Santa Fosca alongside the oldest building in the lagoon, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta founded in the 7th century. Its exterior is devoid of splendour, yet within are Byzantine treasures - the 13th century Madonna in the apse and the west wall decorated with a huge 12th century mosaic depicting the Last Judgement. The massive stone shutters of the windows turning on huge rings of stone cause the whole building to resemble a retreat from the enemy rather than a house of God.
The roughly crafted campanile is to be climbed in the early evening, up strangely sloping ramps. The throat catching beauty and loneliness of the lagoon becomes apparent. John Ruskin called it, “a waste of wild sea moor of a lurid ashen grey”. The mudflats and marshes are choked. The silted-up waterways are now homes to herons and egrets. Trees, reeds and broom grow over what was once a settlement. With imagination, this place is timeless. Just rest and sigh. Enjoy this place with an open mind and a willingness to get lost.
As you speed back to Venice for your evening meal, take a moment, turn, and catch that ‘Turneresque’ light. Watch the buildings of the island melt into the lagoon.
Torcello is the perfect antidote to glamorous Venice. There’s time for quiet contemplation, which too often nowadays can elude you in Serenissima.
The island of Torcello, 45 minutes from Venice by Vaporetto, is where Venice began. A perfect antidote to palaces and high renaissance art.
This tiny windswept island in the marshes was the place where the first settlers, fleeing from Attila the Hun, found refuge and laid the foundations for the mighty Venetian republic. Incredibly it once had 20,000 inhabitants before malaria took hold. Now all that's left is a wonderful church with fantastic 11th century mosaics and a bell tower which gives stunning views over allotments, marshes and the distant towers and domes of Venice.
There's also a rather fine restaurant Al Ponte del Diavolo, serving (very) local rabbit and fine pasta with wild fennel sauce (on the day we went). A perfect place for a spring lunch and to reflect on the beginnings and end of the Venetian republic!
Take the Vaporetto (LN route) from Fondamente Nuove stop. Change at Burano for shuttle to Torcello.
Beautiful frescos and ambience. Step back in time. Opened in 1720. If it was good enough for Casanova, Lord Byron, Proust and Rousseau, its good enough for me!
Piazza San Marco, facing the Basilica, it is on the right hand side about half way along;
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In Venice itself, it is worth visiting the Ghetto, originally the name for the tip where rubble and cinders from the foundry were dumped. Here, the Jews came in the early 1500s to escape persecution. Hemmed in on all sides, taxed severely, forced to wear distinctive clothing and subject to a curfew, they continued to live in an increasingly hostile world.
Today the Ghetto is a poor and shabby remnant with only a few dozen of the Jewish faith living there, but it is the poignant series of reliefs in the square commemorating the deportation of Venetian Jews to the Nazi death camps that is worth seeing. If anywhere is a place of peace in Venice, then this is it.
Although there are around 450 bridges in Venice, only four cross the Grand Canal. The most famous is the Rialto, the district around it once the most important financial centre in Europe when the Republic was at the height of its power. Although the banks and bordellos of the renaissance have gone, what makes the Rialto worth visiting, apart from the bridge itself, is the market concentrated around a few tiny alleys and on the quayside. For a thousand years, housewives, servants and chefs have bought their daily supplies here, from a handful of scampi from the lagoon to fresh fruit from the Veneto. This colourful and animated spectacle has to be the best free show in Venice and is open every morning apart from Sundays and holidays.
It would be easy to sneer at the crowds of tourists in the Piazza San Marco, but this is a good place from which to start exploring the city. Napoleon’s phrase, “the drawing room of Europe,” is an apt one to describe this most supremely civilized place of elegant proportions with exquisite monuments that echoes to the sound of classical orchestras and is completely devoid of traffic.
The Campanile di San Marco gives the most breathtaking view over the city and with no climbing of steps-the lift will take you up to the top of the 100-metre-high bell tower. The medieval roofscape of terracotta tiles beneath will have changed little from four centuries ago when Galileo brought the Doge to the top of the tower to show off his newly invented telescope. Interestingly, none of the 117 canals can be seen from the top of the Campanile, either with or without a telescope.
Once you've done the classic tour of the Doge's palace, do the extra one of the "hidden" bits, to see the torture chamber and where Casanova was imprisoned (and escaped from). You come out with a very clear idea of how the Venetian state really functioned.
The island of Torcello lies across the lagoon from Venice about 10km north as the crow flies (or halibut swims). There is a regular vaparetto (water bus) leaving from the Paglia Bridge near St Mark’s Square, which makes stately progress by way of Murano and Burano. This is not, although it sounds a bit like it, some kind of skittish homage to a well-known catchphrase of Mr Vic Reeves. It is, in fact, another pair of islets in the lagoon. Murano is famous for its glassware and tourists can readily purchase various knick-knacks and baubles. However these trinkets are - almost without exception - of hideous aspect and exorbitant cost and can safely be left to the Americans.
A convivial night culminating in us making short work of a large bottle of brandy meant that we missed the hourly Sunday morning vaparetto we were aiming for so, with a lunchtime table booked at the splendid Cipriani’s restaurant on Torcello, we hopped on to a water taxi. These little speedboats are, inevitably, a lot more pricey that the water bus but, on a crisp, clear autumn morning, as we bounced across the silver-blue waters of the lagoon, the exhilaration of the ride more than made up for the expense. And certainly did a lot to assuage any cognac-induced greenness around the gills.
Such was our air of wellbeing that we did not mind at all when the water taxi-driver insouciantly handed over control of the speeding craft to his 10-year-old son. The look of benign, paternal content on the father’s face as his nipper hurtled us across the deep brought to mind the dog in the Tom and Jerry cartoons (‘Spike’ was it?) with his indulgent chuckle of “That’s my boy!” as his yapping offspring chased Tom up a tree.
A large cemetery with a very Roman look to it. Apparently, because there is so little space in Venice and so many people they are only buried for ten years (unless they pay for longer), then they are dug up and their remains 'disposed of' so someone else can have their space!
Don't go to the Doge's Palace, the Correr Museum, St Mark's Cathedral, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection or any other place purporting to be any kind of cultural establishment especially the Accademia. If you want culture go to the Biennale or the Film Festival.
Equally, don't bother with Harry's Bar, the Cipriani, the Lido, the Giudecca or Burano.
There is, however, one island I went to years ago. It is a tiny monastery and has a fantastic library with real Egyptian mummies in it. It's called San Lazzaro.
Go to the cemetery island of St Michele, a fascinating place always covered in flowers. After 10 years Venetians' bones are removed to the public ossuary in Mestre because of overcrowding, but there are always a few that stay. Evidence perhaps of backhanders even in the afterlife.
St. Mark’s Square is what everyone thinks is Venice. The ornate icing of the cake of the basilica dominates the square and beckons for yet another photo to be taken. And think of the violent history of the square while sitting outside Florian’s sipping an outrageously expensive latte.
The Venetian society of the renaissance paid little attention to the Vatican and appointed their own priests. Nonconformist priests were hoisted up in cages to the campanile where they could stay for a year or more if someone passed them some food or not, as the case may be.
The island of Torcello, about 10km across the lagoon from Venice, is dominated by the stunning Romanesque cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. The sombre beauty of its exterior contrasts sharply with the startling blaze of colour that hits you as you enter. Its walls and floor are covered with a riot of breathtaking mosaic work: the elegantly curved apse at the eastern end depicts a serene Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus whilst the 12 apostles mooch around, a tad self-consciously, beneath. Things are a lot less tranquil at the opposite, western end which portrays a disconcertingly vivid last judgement scene. Contemplating this you can at least console yourself that, even if you do not deserve to sit with the righteous, your sufferings are as nothing compared to the torments of the damned. With glum resignation these unfortunates endure their kebabing in the inferno: sitting rueful amidst the flames while an avenging angel pokes them with a stick.
Although, of course, it could have been a whole lot worse: at least it’s not Jamie Oliver.
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