|Venice Travel Guide|
Piazza San Marco
A remark often attributed to Napoleon (but perhaps more correctly to Alfred de Musset) calls the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe." It is the only great urban space in a European city where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic, which is confined to Venice's waterways. It is the only urban space called a piazza in Venice; the others, regardless of size, are called campi.
As the central landmark and gathering place for Venice, Piazza San Marco is extremely popular with tourists, photographers and pigeons.
Campo di San Polo
The current palace was largely constructed from 1309 to 1424 on 9th century origins, designed perhaps by Filippo Calendario. Giovanni and Bartolomeo Buon created the so-called Porta della Carta, a monumental late-gothic gate on the Piazzetta side of the palace.
The palace was the residence of the Doge and contained the offices of a number of political institutions. The first floor was occupied by lawyers offices; the Chancellery; the Censors and the Naval Offices. On the second floor were the Grand Council chamber, the Ballot chamber and the Doge's apartments. The third floor boasts the Sala del Collegio (adorned with paintings, including those of several Doges, and Paolo Veronese's Lepanto) where foreign ambassadors were received. There are rooms used by the government bodies like the Council of Ten as well. The building also contains the Bussola chamber, where citizens could submit written complaints; The Sala dei Tre Capi and the State Inquisitor Room.
Perhaps the most spectacular room is the Grand Council chamber or Sala del Maggior Consiglio, originally the meeting place for the legislature. This huge space is lined, walls and ceiling, with paintings, particularly portraits of the Doges, but one of which, Tintoretto's vast Paradise, is reputedly the world's largest painting on canvas.
Another great room is the Sala dello Scrutinio, with some more Doges, and other interesting paintings, including Andrea Vicentino's Lepanto. At the rear of the palace is the Bridge of Sighs, connecting to the prison.
The Palazzo was built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676. Upon election, each new Doge would leave his own palazzo and take residence in the Doge's Palace.
The architects of the Ca' d'Oro were Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo Bon. The work of these two sculptors and architects epitomises the Gothic style in Venice: they are best known for their work on the Doge's Palace and in particular the Porta della Carta with its monumental sculpture of the judgement of Solomon.
The principal façade of Ca' d'Oro facing onto the Grand Canal is built in the Bon's Venetian floral gothic style. Other nearby buildings in this style are Palazzo Barbaro and the Palazzo Giustinian. This elegant linear style favoured by the Venetian architects was not totally superseded by the flourishes of baroque until the end of the 16th century.
The Venetian Gothic style is Byzantine in appearance. On the Ca' d'Oro's ground floor a recessed colonnaded loggia gives access to the entrance hall (portego de mezo) directly from the canal. Above this colonnade is the enclosed balcony of the principal salon on the piano nobile. The columns and arches of this balcony have capitals which in turn support a row of quatrefoil windows of great delicacy; above this balcony is another enclosed balcony or loggia of a similar yet even lighter design. To describe the style of the palazzo simply:- it is a cross between a medieval church and a Moorish temple. This wedding cake exterior gives no hint that the palazzo is in fact built (like most other Palazzi) around a small inner courtyard.
Following the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797 the palazzo changed ownership several times. One 19th century owner, the ballet dancer Marie Taglioni, removed (in what today can be considered an act of vandalism) the Gothic stairway from the inner courtyard and also destroyed the ornate balconies overlooking the court.
In 1922 the palazzo was bequeathed to the State by its last owner and saviour Baron Giorgio Franchetti who had acquired it in 1894. Following extensive restoration to its former glory (including the reconstruction of the stairway), it is now open to the public as a gallery.
The design of the palazzo was of a marble façade facing the canal. The façade was to be on three floors. The ground floor rusticated, containing a central recessed portico of three bays without a pediment, symmetrically flanked by windows in two bays. Above this the first piano nobile of seven bays of arched windows, separated by pilasters, above this the second piano nobile was identical, and above this a mezzanine floor of low oval windows. The slight projection of the two tiers of balconies to the piani nobili accentuate the baroque decoration and design of the building. The palazzo today follows this form, although it was not finished until 1756 by the architect Giorgio Massari, who had been brought in to oversee the completion of the project by the new owners - the Rezzonico Family. Massari however, seems to have followed closely the original ideas and plans of Longhena, with the addition of some concepts of his own which reflected the change in ideals of architecture between the palazzo's conception and its completion 100 years later.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Containing prinicipally the personal art collection of Peggy Guggenheim (1898–1979), a former wife of artist Max Ernst and a niece of mining magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim, this museum houses a somewhat smaller and more idiosyncratic collection than the other Guggenheim Foundation museums. However, the works on display include those of prominent American modernists and Italian futurists. Pieces in the collection embrace Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. These include notable works by Picasso, Dali, Brancusi (including a sculpture from the Bird in Space series) and Pollock.
The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an unfinished 18th century palazzo which was never built past the ground floor level. In one room, the museum also exhibits a few paintings by her daughter Pegeen Vail. In the courtyards between the main buildings are sculpture gardens containing an extensive collection of works.
Its most famous (or notorious) exhibit is the 1948 bronze "The Angel of the City" by Marino Marini, positioned at the front of the palazzo, facing the Grand Canal. It is rumoured that this nude and clearly excited horse rider was originally possessed of a screw-in (sic) demountable penis so that it could be removed in order to avoid offending passing VIPs. So many of the bronze phalluses were stolen (although this may be an urban myth), that the current member has been welded to the Angel's body.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. Philip Rylands is the museum's current director.
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo
Entrance to the Tower is 2-4 Euros; and the Tower is open April to October from 10Am to 4PM. The remainder of the year it is open only on Saturday and Sundays.
Fondaco dei Turchi
Because of the suspicions held for the muslim Turkish traders, despite the commercial allure, the windows of the fondaco were sealed; and rooms were lit only from an interior courtyard. There was an enclosing wall and gates; and the gates, like those in the ghetto were closed at night). The two corner turrets on the landside, which might serve for defence, were razed. Now the building houses the Venetian Museum of Natural history with historical collections of flora and fauna, fossils, and an aquarium.
In a city often likened to a cardboard filmset, the Palazzo is unusual by having not only a canal front, but also a visible and formal facade at its rear, coupled with a decorated side too. In Venice, such design is very rare. The palazzo was designed by the architect Andrea Cominelli, the principal facade is on the Cannaregio Canal; a lesser three bayed facade faces the Grand Canal. A third facade designed by Alessandro Tremignon (1635-1711) is approached from the Campo San Geremia.
St Mark's Basilica
The basilica was consecrated in 1094, the same year as in which the body of Saint Mark was supposedly rediscovered in a pillar by Vitale Falier, doge at the time. The crypt then housed the relics until 1811. The building also incorporates a low tower, believed by some to have been part of the original Doge's Palace.
The spacious interior of the building with its multiple choir lofts was the inspiration for the development of a Venetian polychoral style among the composers appointed maestro di cappella at St Mark's.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
In October 1630, the Senate decreed that if the city was delivered from the currently raging plague that had killed about a third of Venice's population, then a new church would be built and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Baldassare Longhena, then only 26 years old, was selected to design the new church. It was finally completed in 1681, the year before Longhena's death.
Every year, on 21 November, the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, the city's officials processed from San Marco to the Salute for a service of thanksgiving for deliverance from the plague. This involved crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge. The Festa della Madonna della Salute is still a major event in Venice.
The Salute is a vast, octagonal building built on a platform made of 100,000 wooden piles. It is constructed of Istrian stone and marmorino (brick covered with marble dust). While its external decoration and location capture the eye, the internal design itself is quite remarkable. The octagonal church, while ringed by a classic vocabulary, hearkens to Byzantine designs such as the Basilica of San Vitale. The interior has its architectural elements demarcated by the coloration of the material, and the central nave with its ring of saints atop a balustrade is a novel design. It is full of Marian symbolism - the great dome represents her crown, the cavernous interior her womb, the eight sides the eight points on her symbolic star. The Salute is part of the parish of the Gesuati.
The Byzantine-style establishment may have existed as early as the 8th century, though the present structure is usually said to have been begun in 1104, although there is no evidence for such a precise date. It definitely existed by the early thirteenth century and is mentioned in Dante's Inferno. The name probably comes from Arabic Dar al Sina’a ("Dockyard") and the concept was clearly Islamic as much as Byzantine.
Initially the state dockyard worked merely to maintain naval ships built privately, but in 1320 the Arsenal Nuovo was built, much larger than the original. It enabled all the state's navy and the larger merchant ships to be both constructed and maintained in one place. The Arsenal incidentally became an important centre for rope manufacture, while housing for the arsenal workers grew up outside its walls.
Venice developed methods of mass-producing warships in the Arsenal, including the frame-first system to replace the Roman hull-first practice. The new system was much faster and required less wood. At the peak of its efficiency in the early 16th century, the Arsenal employed some 16,000 people who apparently were able to produce nearly one ship each day, and could fit out, arm, and provision a newly-built galley with standardized parts on a production-line basis not seen again until the Industrial Revolution.
The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance.
The development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank increased traffic on the floating bridge. So it was replaced around 1250 by a wooden bridge. This structure had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall ships. The connection with the market eventually led to a change of name for the bridge. During the first half of the 15th century two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the bridge.
Bridge of Sighs
It is connected to the Adriatic Sea by three inlets: Lido Inlet, Malamocco Inlet and Chioggia Inlet. Being at the end of a closed sea, the Lagoon is subject to high variations in water level, the most extreme being the spring tides known as the acqua alta (Italian for "high waters"), which regularly flood much of Venice.
The Lagoon originally provided the security for Romanised people fleeing invaders from the sixth century and the conditions for the growth of the Venetian Republic and its maritime empire. It still provides a base for a seaport, the Venetian Arsenal and for fishing, as well as a limited amount of hunting and the newer industry of fish farming.
Isola di San Michele
San Lazzaro degli Armeni