Venice: off the beaten path is possible – part 2


My second “off the beaten path” tour of Venice took me to Sestriere Dorsoduro, Sestiere San Polo and Sestiere Santa Croce, the 3 city districts on the right side of the Grand Canal.

These areas are commonly less crowded that the others, despite from my point of view they are home to some of the most impressive highlights of the city. Some of the oldest taverns are here as well as some of the most relaxing campi (the name of the squares of Venice).

I left my hotel behind the Basilica of St. Mark, crossed the square and the walkway at the end of it, headed to Salizzada San Moisè and Via XXIII Marzo, the two poshiest streets in town where you find the flagship stores of every fashion designers. These are unfordable streets from me, thus I just walk along and don’t even look at the shops’ windows. I reached Campo Morosini, then took a left until I got on one of the 4 bridges over the Grand Canal: Ponte dell’Accademia, heading straight to the gate of this magnificent museum.

I have been inside the Accademia several times in the past, thus I decided to skip it, but when you visit Venice for the first time Accademia is a must (the famous Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci is kept here). My first destination was the little hidden church of Saint Sebastian (read my post about it here) to admire the masterpieces by Paolo Veronese and on the way there I crossed several bridges over very quiet canal (ops..rii). These are just some of them.

Speedboat in Dorsoduro. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
A qiest Canal in Dorsoduro. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

By turning a corner I also found this beautiful flowery balcony overlooking a bridge.

Flourished corner in Dorsoduro. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Then I got to the Church of St. Sebastian. It might sound crazy having to pay for visiting a church but the small 3 euro fee is definitely necessary in Venice to contribute to the restoration works that are constantly required to keep the immense heritage of the city available for visitors. Thus, I paid and entered into it. The only component of the church of which I didn’t write about in my previous post is the ceiling, thus, please enjoy this picture which provides you with an idea of what you can expect once inside.

St, Sebastian Ceiling. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Just outside the Church of Saint Sebastian is a group of 3 small interconnected campi (squares) called “campazzo San Sebastiano” and “campazzo dietro il cimitero”. As you can see from the picture, to get into the square you have to climb 3 steps, which is pretty uncommon in Venice. The reason is that such city district was built above the previous cemetery, thus the present houses were built over the burials of the Venetians who lived centuries before. This is one of the few areas of the city that is still inhabited by locals.

Campazzo San Sebastiano. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

My next destination was The Great School of St. Rocco (Scuola Grande di San Rocco). Thus, I crossed Campo Santa Margherita and Campo St. Pantalon and got in front of this amazing building, which, beside being a masterpiece of the venetian architecture itself it is also home to the most impressive works of the most popular Venetian master: Jacopo Tintoretto. I paid the ticket, climbed the staircase heading to the first floor and I entered this immense hall whose ceiling is disseminated of wooden rods, covered in gold leaves, framing the paintings by Tintoretto.

Ceiling of Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

When you stop looking at the ceiling and you lay your eyes on the walls, you see an astonishing boiserie of inlayed wood, depicting several scenes, out of which the most intriguing for me is this one.

Wood inlay at Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Next destination is the mighty church of Santa Maria dei Frari, probably the biggest church in Venice and one of the least attended, despite its incredible beauty and the masterpieces it contains. The church looks like a simple late gothic/early renaissance building made with facing bricks and the traditional pointed arch on the ceilings of each nave. Its simplicity is its beauty.

The Facade of Santa Maria dei Frari. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Once inside, a collection of masterpieces opens before your eyes. To the righ, along the side nave is the tomb of the Venetian Painter Titian, one of the masters of the Italian arts, who died in Venice in 1576. Artists were so beloved and appreciated for the contribution they gave to the city splendour, that even their tombs had to be monumental too.  Just opposite, on the left side nave, is the memorial to Antonio Canova, one of the greatest masters of sculpture of all times. His pupils erected the monument following his style and taste: the neoclassic. The monument was under restoration so I could only take a picture of the upper part of it. Hope you can enjoy it anyway.

Tomb of Titian. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
Memorial to Antonio Canova. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Then, in the middle of the Church lies and immense Choir, covered in marble on the side towards the central nave while the seats are in made of inlayed wood. Just in front of the choir is the main altar

The backside of the Choir. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
The wooden seats of the Choir. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
The main Altar. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

I moved on until I got to the famous “ponte de le tette” (the “teets” bridge). This is a very simple and small bridge over “rio di San Cassiano”, not far from Rialto. Legend has it that close to the bridge there was a brothel, thus the prostitutes were used to attract customers by showing them their teets from the bridge.

Ponte de le tette. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

Roaming around in the narrow streets of Sestiere Santa Croce I also found some street art, such as this one

Venetian Street Art. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

It was almost 6.00 pm, thus I had to rush a bit to Rialto because I had scheduled my access to the panoramic terrace on the roof of “Fondaco Dei Tedeschi”, and old XIII century palace built to allow the Germans to trade with Venice, now turned into a very posh mall. By booking on line, you get access for 15 minutes to the panoramic terrace, which allows a complete view over the city. It is not very high but its location right above the Rialto Bridge allows an unparalleled view over the Grand Canal and, in my case, also over a solitary gondola heading to the bridge.

View over the Grand Canal from Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata
A Solitary Gondola over the Grand canal. Photo by Matteo Gazzarata

It was 6.30 pm when I started heading back to the hotel. My day was pretty full but also pretty relaxing. Few visitors around made it possible for me to enjoy every single highlight and forget about maps or smartphones for a while. The risk of getting lost in Venice is among the best thing that may happen to you, but it also is very difficult, provided that almost every corner displays a sign pointing to one of the most important highlights. Follow the signs but especially…follow the beauty.

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