Discoveries of Venice: the Rialto Bridge, Canale Grande, the Piazza San Marco and Giudecca Island
The weather was absolutely brilliant on May 17, 2014 when I started my explorations of Venice. I only had one full day in “La Serenissima”, so I had to make the most of my schedule. My local hostess Wilma had suggested that I check out the morning market on Rio Tera Farsigni in Cannaregio and then take the water bus 4 stops to the famous Rialto Bridge, a bridge with a history of more than 800 years whose current version dates from the late 1500s. After walking across one of Venice’s most iconic landmarks I continued my water bus ride on the Canale Grande, which allowed me to view some of the beautiful palaces, testament to Venice’s success as a merchant city between the 13th and 18th centuries.
Duely impressed with the amazing architecture on Venice’s Canale Grande, I exited the water bus at the Piazza San Marco, the true heart of Venice. The medieval masterpieces – the Doge’s Palace, the Church of St. Mark, and the iconic Campanile (originally built between 1156 and 1173) – attract countless thousands of tourists every day. The Torre del Orologio (Clock Tower) leads into the narrow shopping streets north of St. Mark’s Square, towards the Rialto area. After exploring the long arcades of the Procuratie Vecchie and the Procuratie Nuove with their many expensive stores I ducked into the narrow alleyways of the San Polo area which is full of small shops and restaurants. I made a stop in front of the impressive Teatro la Fenice, Venice’s opera house and one of the most important theatres in Europe. Its Italian name translates into “Phoenix”, a suitable name for a theatre that has burnt twice and been rebuilt both times.
After the busy San Marco and San Polo districts in Venice I crossed the Canale Grande via the Ponte dell’Academia and arrived in the Dorsoduro district, a much quieter neighbourhood than its cousins to the north. Located on a peninsula and surrounded on three sides by the Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Basin and the Canale della Giudecca, this district has some stunning sights, first and foremost the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, an impressive marble-clad Baroque masterpiece that was one of the plague churches that were built in the 1600s in gratitude that Venice survived a devastating outbreak of the disastrous epidemic in 1630. Other important sights include the church of Saint Mary of the Rosary (also called “Gesuati”) as well as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a modern art museum on the Grand Canal that opened in 1951. Along the Zattere Quay there are a number of restaurants and gelaterias, a great place for a lunch in the sun. I also visited a free exhibition about historic costumes in Venice.
From the Zattere Quay I took a waterbus across to the island of Giudecca, also part of Venice’s Dorsoduro district. Originally an area that was home to many large palaces, this island was turned into an industrial area in the early 1900s that was home to shipyards and various factories. The industrial heritage can still be seen in the Molino Stucky, a giant former flower mill that was built in 1895 and fell on hard times for most of the 20th century. It was finally purchased by the Hilton hotel chain in the 2000s and restored into a huge luxury hotel and apartment complex. Today, la Giudecca is a quiet residential district with many working-class apartments. Along the long dock area on the northern shore of the island, there are several historic churches, including the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore (the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer) which was designed by Andrea Palladio in the second half of the 16h century. A visit to La Giudecca provides a pleasant escape from the onslaught of tourists that transpires in many other parts of Venice.
Next on my list of Venice discoveries was another ride on the waterbus to Murano, the famous glass-blowing island.