Things to Do in Venice
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was one of the many “Scuole Grandi” in Venice, typically established by the church for charitable purposes. The “Great School” of San Rocco was founded in the 15th century by a group of Venetian aristocrats, although other schools in Venice at the time were more egalitarian - there was no rule against lower classes joining.
The structure of these “Great Schools” was similar from building to building, with a large meeting hall on the main floor and more private meeting rooms on the upper floor. The Scuola di San Rocco was founded in 1478, but the building to house the confraternity wasn’t complete until 1560. The building that is still known as the Scuola of San Rocco is next to the church of San Rocco, from which the society took its name.
The main draw of a visit to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is to see the many paintings by the master Tintoretto.
The most famous square in Venice is that of St Mark, but if you're in the Dorsoduro sestiere, you should head for the Campo Santa Margherita—one of Venice's largest public squares.
The Campo was named for a church on the square, although that building is now used as a university lecture theater. It’s still worth a visit, though, and so is the “scuola” of Santa Maria dei Carmini. There is a regular outdoor market held in the square, as well as a supermarket that opens for visitors to wander through. But the Campo Santa Margherita is primarily known as a lovely place to relax during the day and as a hub of Venetian nightlife after the sun sets. There are several bars and cafes lining the streets.
In the Castello neighborhood of Venice is Campo Santa Maria Formosa, a lively piazza named after the 15-century church that sits in the area. The structure has two facades, each representing two different architectural styles, with its more ornate Baroque façade opening up onto the square.
The large square also includes the 13th-century Palazzo Vitturi and the 17th-century Palazzo Ruzzini, both of which are now hotels that have largely kept many of their original elements. Visitors are likely to see locals shopping in the area, as well as children playing in the square.
The Church of the Madonna dell’Orto is a small church in Venice, built in the 14th century by a religious order that no longer exists. Roughly 100 years after it was built, it was taken over by a different congregation. After another 200 years, the church was again taken over by another religious order, and in 1787 the church fell under public administration.
The Madonna dell’Orto church was reopened in 1868 and has undergone several restorations in the 20th century. While the church is officially dedicated to Saint Christopher, it’s most commonly known by its nickname, “Madonna dell’Orto” - “Madonna of the Orchard.” The name comes from a statue of the Virgin Mary that was commissioned for a different church in the 15th century, rejected by that church, and left in a nearby orchard. The supposedly miraculous statue was brought to the church that would later bear its name, and the statue is still on display in the St. Mauro Chapel.
Santa Croce is one of the six districts of Venice, Italy, and it's the only district where cars are allowed to drive. It is connected to the mainland by the Ponte della Libertà bridge, which stretches across the lagoon. The smallest of Venice's districts, Santa Croce is a mix of chaos at Piazzale Roma, where there is a big bus station and ferry hub, and quiet charm from Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio, one of the city's prettiest squares. Visitors can also see the historic church San Giacomo dell'Orio here.
Other interesting sights in the area include Ca' Pesaro, which is a Baroque palace that is now home to Venice's Museum of Modern Art with pieces from the 19th century to today. Along the Grand Canal is the Natural History Museum at Fodaco dei Turchi and a church dedicated to Sant'Eustachio called San Stae. Palazzo Mocenigo is a palace that is open to the public and has historic costumes on display.
Frari Church, whose official name is Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, is one of the grandest churches in Venice. It sits in the San Polo district on the Campo dei Frari and is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The church contains many Renaissance masterpieces and monuments to Renaissance artists and sculptors. It was built in an Italian Gothic style, and visitors will notice the plain exterior. This was intentional as it emphasizes the Franciscan values of poverty and austerity.
Inside you can see Titian's Madonna di Ca' Pesaro in the left aisle, which was modeled after his wife who died in childbirth. Over the main alter is Titian's Assumption of the Virgin. This piece is famous for its innovative style and bright colors, though at the time, the church was hesitant to accept the piece because of these features. Titian's tomb is in the church. Other notable artwork that can be seen in Frari Church includes Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child with Saints.
Those arriving in Venice from other Italian cities or elsewhere in Europe will likely find themselves pulling into Santa Lucia Station, the city’s main train station and the principal transport hub of the historic city. Dating back to the 20th century, the striking modernist building is the work of architects Mazzoni and Vallot, and occupies a prime position on the north bank of the Grand Canal, with more than 80,000 passengers passing through daily.
There are a number of options for reaching the city from Santa Lucia Station, but the most atmospheric choice is to take a water taxi along the canal.
Sitting at the southeastern end of the steps leading up to the Rialto Bridge, the lively Campo San Bartolomeo is named after one of the Apostles; at its southwestern end is the church of San Bartolomeo, which was formerly the place of worship for German traders in the city. The long, narrow piazza is dominated by a flamboyant bronze statue of comic Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707–93), created in 1883 by sculptor Antonio Dal Zotto. Thanks to its location near the Rialto, it is nearly always crowded and is a popular meeting point for visitors and locals alike. It is lined with smart boutiques and restaurants fronting elegant, ocher-tinged Venetian townhouses and just a step away from the city’s upmarket shopping district of Mercerie, whose narrow streets link the Rialto Bridge with Piazza San Marco.
Venice is home to six districts, or sestieri in Italian, and San Polo is the smallest of the bunch. It lies at the heart of the city, hugging one of the big bends in the Grand Canal on one side.
Named for the Church of San Polo, this area is one of the oldest parts of the city, and it is also home to many top sites. Venice's oldest bridge, the Rialto, connects San Polo to the eastern bank of the Grand Canal, and Venice's primary market sits near the base of the Rialto on the San Polo side. The Campo San Polo is Venice's largest public square after St Mark's Square, and the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto is said to be the oldest church in Venice. Although the area around the Rialto is always busy, the quieter streets of San Polo can be found if you walk away from the Grand Canal, deeper into this charming neighborhood.
More Things to Do in Venice
When floating down Venice's Grand Canal, there's one palace that will surely inspire you to do a double take: the Palazzo Santa Sofia. This 14th-century waterside mansion is more commonly known as Ca' d'Oro given that gilt details once adorned its Gothic-style exterior. Other palace features have changed over the years as well, including the inner courtyard stairway and balconies, which were infamously destroyed by a previous owner.
But the Palazzo Santa Sofia's most recent landlord, Baron Giorgio Franchetti, had different plans, bequeathing the palace to the Italian State, along with his collection of art, furniture, medals, tapestries and more, thus ensuring a better future for the palace and its treasures (save for the threat of rising waters). Meanwhile, visitors now have the fortune to explore its interior, a gallery packed with the baron's collection, and the opportunity to relish in the building's impressive canal views.
Straddling the south-western flank of Venice’s Grand Canal, work on the flamboyant Ca’ Rezzonico was first started in 1649 by Baroque architect Baldassare Longhena, but was never completed. More than a century later, the wealthy Rezzonico clan bought the empty shell in 1751 and handed over completion of their palazzo to master craftsman Giorgio Massari, who was given a remit to create the most opulent residence in Venice. It has an exterior of extreme intricacy, with arcades, porticos and arched recessed windows; while inside all is marble staircases, gilded apartments and mammoth ballrooms covered in intricate frescoes and trompe l’oeil paintings by great Venetian artists such as Tiepolo and Visconti. Over the years the three-story palazzo changed hands several times and at one point was owned by English Romantic poet Robert Browning, who died there in 1889 and today it hosts the Museum of 18th-century Venice.
Founded in the ninth century, the church of Santa Maria del Giglio (which translates into English as ‘St Mary of the Lily’) is more often known by Venetian locals as Santa Maria Zobenigo. It was rebuilt in its present form by Italian architect Giuseppe Sardi in 1681, at the behest of Antonio Barbaro, who was a renowned military leader and scion of a wealthy Venetian dynasty. The church has the most ornate Baroque façade of any in Venice, which appears grafted on to an otherwise perfectly plain exterior, and is unusual in that it is bristling with secular imagery. Santa Maria is topped with marble statues of the Barbaro family and adorned with figures of the Four Virtues, all executed by sculptor Flemish architect Giusto Le Court, who also worked on Santa Maria della Salute. Maps of the regions where Barbaro served on his campaigns, including Crete and Albania, battle scenes and his coat of arms are inscribed across the façade.
Palazzo Mocenigo in Venice was built in the late Renaissance period and was extensively rebuilt in a Gothic style in the early 17th century. It was once the home of the Mocenigo family, a prestigious family in Venice, and seven members of the family became doges between 1414 and 1778. The last descendent of the Mocenigo family left the palace to the city in order for it to become a museum, which opened in 1985 and became the Study Center of the History of Fabrics and Costumes.
Aside from large collections of ancient fabrics and clothes, the museum also has a library that houses books on the history of fabrics, costumes, and fashion. The exhibition area shows different aspects of the life and activities of a Venetian nobleman during the 17th and 18th centuries. There is also a new exhibit focusing on the history of perfumes and essences.
A bustling square at the heart of Venice’s historic center, Campo San Luca has long been a popular meeting point for locals, and its constant stream of visitors make it a lively hub both day and night.Home to a cluster of shops, cafés and restaurants, Campo San Luca makes a good spot for people-watching, but it’s also an important navigational landmark, just a short stroll from the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, en route to Piazza San Marco.
Approximately 20,000 people call this 11-kilometer stretch of sand stationed off the coast of northern Italy home. But despite the sandbar’s small size, it attracts some pretty major travelers.
The island’s northern tip—the actual Lido—is home to the Film Festival, a couple of stylish hotels, the Venice Casino and a host of delicious restaurants and nightlife spots. Travelers can also find two large public beaches perfect for relaxing under the sun alongside the Adriatic. An impressive golf course welcomes visitors looking to get out on the green towards the island’s south and the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, a wide street at the island’s center, proves a popular destination for shopping, entertainment and uninterrupted ocean views.
A short walk from the banks of the Grand Canal, the elegant Church of San Vidal is one of Venice’s lesser-visited churches, now best known as a concert venue. The church dates back as early as the 11th-century, but its remarkable classical façade is the result of a 17th-century reconstruction by architect Antonio Gaspari.
For most visitors, the main reason to visit is to attend one of the regular Baroque music concerts performed by the acclaimed Interpreti Veneziani ensemble, but additional highlights include impressive artworks by Piazzetta, Carpaccio and Pallegrini.
An ancient waterway connecting the Italian cities of Padua and Venice, the channel of the Brenta Riviera dates back to the 16th century and was built to flow directly into the lagoon of Venice. The green space lining the canal inspired many wealthy Venetians to build villas along its waterfront, and some still remain open for exploration today. These country homes often served as second residences for Venice’s noble families — far enough away to enjoy a countryside atmosphere but close enough to return quickly to Venice. Not just any second home, many of the Brenta Riviera villas are more like monuments or palaces complete with exquisite works of art and large frescoes. The amount of villas, gardens, and residences lining the canals built up to a point where it was nearly considered an extension of Venice’s Grand Canal. Many of the villas can be visited still today, including the Villa Foscari and the Villa Pisani — which has gardens, an art collection, and a famous maze.
A fascinating nod to Venice’s rich classical musical heritage, the small but impressive Music Museum (Museo della Musica) is one of the city’s little-visited gems. Housed in the beautifully restored church of Chiesa di San Maurizio, the museum is devoted to the art of violin making and the preservation of rare and unique musical instruments, dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Visitors can learn more about Venice’s most famous composer, Antonio Vivaldi, through information boards, and gain an insight into the city’s violin-making legacy, but most compelling are the instruments themselves. The collection includes a wide variety of string instruments, including violins, cellos and harps, with highlights including a 19th-century lyre and an exquisite mandolin inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
The Scuola of San Giovanni Evangelista is a confraternity of the church of San Giovanni Evangelista. This was an association of lay people dedicated to Christian beliefs and linked with the church. It was originally established in the church of San Aponal in 1261, making it the oldest of the six Great Schools of the former Republic of Venice, but it 1307 it was moved. The Scuola became famous in 1369 when the confraternity's Guardian Grande received the Relic of the Cross as a present. Many artists depicted this relic in paintings at the time.
During the 19th century, the Austrian government threatened to take the Scuola's beautiful marble floor. The Venetians organized to raise enough money to buy the building, saving it from being picked apart. They donated it to the world of art, and today it is an art museum where visitors can view its Hall of Columns, Monumental Staircase, the atrium, a variety of marble, and the works of art that decorate the walls.
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