From the Zattere to Piazzale Roma
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Zattere · Gesuati · Santa Maria della Visitazione · Squero di San Trovaso · San Trovaso · Ognissanti · San Sebastiano · Angelo Raffaele · San Nicolò dei Mendicoli · Cotonificio Veneziano (former cotton mill) · Santa Teresa · Case Tron · Palazzo Zenobio · Carmini · Scuola Grande dei Carmini · Campo Santa Margherita · Scuola dei Varoteri · Santa Margherita · San Pantalon · 12C bas-relief Church and Scuoletta di San Rocco · Scuola Grande di San Rocco · Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari · Archivio di Stato (State Archives) · San Giovanni Evangelista · Former monastery of the Theatines · San Nicolò da Tolentino · Giardini di Papadopoli · Piazzale Roma

Click here to view a map of the walk
Red numbers below correspond to numbers on the map

This tour begins in the sestiere of Dorsoduro, the name of which (lit. "hard ridge") probably reflects the nature of the land in this area, slightly higher and more solid than the other portions of land that emerged from the lagoon. The old designation is still visible on the outside wall of the monastery next to the church of the Visitazione at the Zattere. Here, in an inscription placed above the hole in the wall where public denouncements could be "posted", it is possible to read the words "Osso Duro". Today it is one of the most sought-after areas of the city and is especially popular with foreigners.

The tour begins from the long fondamenta, which also functions as a quay; this was one of the important urban renewal schemes of the 16C that were intended to define the borders of this wall-less city. Its name, the Zattere, 1 derives from the boats transporting the wood from the forests of Cadore (the mountainous area belonging to the Venetian Republic), which was used for the buildings in the city. The Zattere, extending from the basin of San Marco to San Basilio, are in a magnificent position, enjoying a panoramic view of the island of San Giorgio and the whole of the Giudecca island, with Palladio's churches, right up to the imposing Mulino Stucky, a former flour mill, now an outstanding example of industrial archaeology. From here, on the vaporetto (water-bus), it is only a few minutes across to the church of the Redentore, which the Senate of the Venetian Republic commissioned Palladio to build in 1576 as an ex-voto made during a terrible plague. The building, which overlooks the canal just as Palladio's villas on the mainland overlook the gardens in front of them, contains a remarkable example of unified program of decoration, with all the paintings adorning the interior illustrating events in the life of Christ. In the adjoining monastery there are important reminders of the presence of the Capuchin friars on this island. On returning to Zattere, the visitor will be struck by the number of people about in this part of the city, especially when the weather is fine. They are, above all, Venetians, who, whenever the sun is shining, at any time of the year, come here to sit in the cafes. Our first port of call here is the church of the Gesuati. 2 The Gesuati were an order dedicated to work in hospitals that was suppressed in the second half of the 17C. Their church and monastery were taken over by the Dominicans, who, in 1724, commissioned the architect Giorgio Massari to build a new church attached to the monastery. Thus, next to the Renaissance complex - of which the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione 3 is visible - the new building was constructed with a Palladian façade; the splendid decoration inside (including paintings by Sebastiano Ricci, Giambattista Tiepolo and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta) is one of the finest examples of Rococo art in Venice.

THE SESTIERI AND THE PARISHES

The city is divided into six districts, known as sestieri. Each sestiere is subdivided into parishes, the smallest administrative and social units of the city as early as the 11C (there were 70 then). They were reduced in number during the Napoleonic occupation, when religious orders were suppressed and churches and monasteries were demolished. Nevertheless, today there are still over a hundred religious buildings distributed over the 38 parishes. Note that the numbering of the houses does not necessarily follow the streets, but is according to the sestiere (hence the high numbers).

Turning from the Zattere into the Fondamenta Nani, the visitor will notice, on the opposite side of the canal, the Squero di San Trovaso. 4 The name squero is given to the boat builders' yard where gondolas are made. In contrast to the rest of the buildings in Venice, these constructions recall mountain dwellings because they were inhabited by the craftsmen from the Cadore area, the source of the wood used to make the boats. Founded in the 17C, this squero still functions today using the traditional techniques.

Just a little further along the fondamenta is the church of San Trovaso; 5 the façade overlooking the canal is the same as the one facing the campo. From the fondamenta it is also possible to see the elegant campanile with its octagonal belfry. The church, with its simple lines recalling the Palladian models, was built in the 16C on the ruins of the pre-existing church, founded in the 9C. "Trovaso" is a contraction of the names of the saints Gervase and Protase, two brothers who were martyred, possible in the 2C A.D. In the interior, there are works by Tintoretto. The campo surrounding the church has no less than three wells from which the local inhabitants drew rainwater that, after being left to settle, was mixed with river water.

The tour now continues along the Fondamenta Bontini, crossing the Rio delle Eremite, to the island (Venice is, in fact, a series of islands separated by canals) where the church of Ognissanti 6 and the former convent, now housing a hospital, are located. Originally the area was sufficiently deserted to induce the groups of Cistercian nuns to move here from the island of Torcello, which had become insalubrious. Although the convent dates from the 15C, the present church was built in 1586 in a severe Renaissance style. The complex was abandoned in the 19C and was later rebuilt by the Giustinian family as an old people's home.


THE HEART OF DORSODURO

BRICOLE AND PALINE

Typical features of the landscape of the Venetian Lagoon, these posts indicate the navigable channels and are used for mooring boats. Some are linked together to make them more stable, others stand alone and, in the canals - especially in front of the palaces - are decorated with the colors of the family owning the building.

The Fondamenta Ognissanti continues to a bridge, from which another squero is visible; after this there is the narrow Calle della Chiesa, the name of which ("Church Street") recalls the existence of the former church of San Basilio (San Basegio in Venetian). At the Fondamenta San Basilio it is necessary to turn right; from here, on the opposite side of the canal, the former monastery of San Sebastiano is visible. Across the bridge on the left, note the recent portal (completed 1980) designed by Carlo Scarpa, forming the entrance to one of the faculties of Venice University.

San Sebastiano Dating from the first half of the 16C, the church of San Sebastiano 7 was built by Antonio Abbondi, called Scarpagnino. This Renaissance building contains a remarkable cycle of paintings by Paolo Veronese, who is buried here. Dedicated to St. Sebastian by the local inhabitants after they had survived the plague of 1464, the church was originally an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the paintings, the salvational role of the Virgin is prefigured by the sort of Esther, the Jewish queen who, in the Old Testament, saved her people from massacre. On the right of the church is the campo leading to the church of the Angelo Raffaele, 8 founded, according to tradition, in the 7C. The present building dates from the 17C, with sculptures of Tobias and the archangel Raphael above the portal welcoming churchgoers. The façade, placed at an oblique angle to the canal, was built in 1735. Inside, the organ loft is decorated with the Story of Tobit by one of the Guardi brothers (Giovanni, Antonio and Francesco); it is, in any case, a masterpiece. On the other side of the church, on the left, is the Fondamenta Pescheria; further along this, a bridge on the right crosses the canal to the Fondamenta Lizza, which leads to the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, 9 traditionally believed to be one of the oldest churches in the city. The church has been rebuilt a number of times on the original basilican plan. Dating from the 16C, the present building has a brick façade, in front of which is the porch typical of Venetian religious buildings, where alms were asked for the poor and penitents prayed. In the interior there are still elements of the 14C building on which architectural and decorative features of the following centuries are superimposed. The attractive campanile, however, appears to be hemmed in by the surrounding buildings. Over the centuries, in fact, this area has undergone various transformations, the most recent of which was the building of numerous factories after the arrival of the railway. Beyond the canal, opposite the church, is an enormous industrial complex, the Cotonificio Veneziano 10 a former cotton mill dating from 1883; it now houses part of the architecture faculty of Venice University.



OLD LOWER-CLASS AREAS

The bridge on the other side of Campo San Nicolò leads to the Fondamenta delle Terese; a few metres to the right stands the church of Santa Teresa. 11 This area, known as Santa Marta, is an old working-class district from which the ferries used to leave for Fusina (on the mainland). The toponym arzene (embankments), found in this area, indicates the presence of the fluvial deposits of the River Brenta before it was diverted from the lagoon. On the reclaimed land behind the factories there are many working-class flats built in the early 20C. Opposite the church, on the other side of the canal, are the Case Tron, 12 18C terraced houses with a picturesque row of seven chimneys.

At the end of the Fondamenta delle Terese, cross the bridge and turn right into Corte Maggiore, after which turn left along the Fondamenta Barbarigo, which then becomes the Fondamenta Briati where the church of the Angelo Raffaele is again visible. At the second bridge cross the canal opposite the Palazzo Zenobio. 13 An outstanding example of Baroque architecture, this late 17C building designed by Antonio Gaspari has been the seat of the Collegio Armeno of the Mekhitarists since 1850. Its name derives from the patrician family who gave hospitality to the artist Luca Carlevaris; he painted many of the pictures now in the palace.

The Fondamenta del Soccorso continues to the church of the Carmini, 14 a huge Gothic building constructed on a basilican plan without a transept, in which the 16C additions, the façade and the polygonal apse are evident. The many paintings in this church include St Nicholas of Bari in Glory by Lorenzo Lotto and the Adoration of the Shepherds by Cima di Conegliano. Next to the church the 14C monastery, with its splendid 16C cloister, now houses an art school. To the left of the church stands the Scuola Grande dei Carmini, 15 the monumental premises of a Venetian confraternity designed by Baldassare Longhena. The other façade of the scuola, facing Campo Santa Margherita, is adorned with two tiers of semi-columns. The interior of the building is embellished with a cycle of paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo. Church of the Carmini

The Rio Terra della Scoazzera then widens towards Campo Santa Margherita, 16 one of the few squares with trees in Venice, it is also one of the liveliest; still used as a market-place, it is busy in the evenings thanks to the numerous cafes and restaurants lining it. Its irregular perimeter includes what remains of the church of Santa Margherita and a series of working-class houses, with several in Byzantine (nos. 2961-2) and gothic styles (nos. 2927-35). It also comprises the isolated building of the former Scuola dei Varoteri 17; dating from 1725, this was the meeting house of the guild of the furriers, one of the many trades ousted from the city center. The former church of Santa Margherita 18 (now used as a lecture hall by Venice University) was dedicated to a saint (Margaret of Antioch) whose cult was particularly widespread in the East. This suggests that this area was inhabited by Byzantine merchants, especially because beyond the canal, at the far end of the campo, there is another church, San Pantalon, 19 dedicated to a saint popular in the eastern church, St. Pantaleon. This saint was a physician in Asia Minor who was martyred in the 4C. His story is recounted by Giovan Antonio Fumiani on the ceiling of the nave in a series of 40 canvases, the perspective effects of which appear to double the building's height. Founded in the 11C, the church was rebuilt in its present form (with an unfinished façade) in the 17C by Francesco Comino, from Treviso. In the chapel of the Sacro Chiodo there is part of an altar frontal with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary by Paolo Veneziano (1333).

In the Calle San Pantalon, to the right of the church, between the houses numbered 3717 and 3718, it is possible to see a 12C bas- relief 20 portraying a Byzantine emperor, further evidence of this district's links with the East. This street then leads to the Calle dello Scalater; at the end of this, a bridge over the Rio della Frescada gives access to the rear of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

THE SCUOLE: RELIGIOUS CONFRATERNITIES AND TRADE GUILDS

These are buildings that from the 13C onwards housed the confraternities, associations of lay persons devoted to charity and the provision of mutual aid that met for devotional purposes. Often linked to a trade guild, the scuole were dedicated to a patron saint and took part in public and private ceremonies. Even on the exterior, the architecture of these meeting houses reveals their functions; religious services on the ground floor and large assemblies of members on the upper one.

In the campo on the opposite side of the scuola it will be noted that the imposing 18C façade of the church of San Rocco 21 is out of scale with the small building on the right, housing the Scuoletta di San Rocco, because it no longer has to relate to the former meeting house of the scuola, but rather to the more recent building opposite dating from the first half of the 16C. The church, however, was built in 1489, and the interior still displays stylistic elements of this period. Belonging to one of the best-known Venetian confraternities, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco 22 is renowned for its splendid premises built by the architects Bartolomeo Bon, Scarpagnino and Sante Lombardo. It contains an outstanding cycle of paintings executed by Jacopo Tintoretto between 1564 and 1588. The apse of the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari 23 also gives onto the same campo. The foundation of this church, austere and rich at the same time, dates from the origins of the Franciscan order. Work on this huge brick building began in 1340, but was only completed in 1433; the campanile, 70 meters in height and dating from the end of the 14C, is the highest in the city after that of San Marco. Although it is built in a simplified Gothic style, the interior is adorned with the tombs of many nobles, making this church - together with the contemporary basilica of Santi Giovanni and Paolo - the pantheon of the Venetians.

In the majestic interior, the elaborate wooden choir stands in the center of the nave, allowing a glimpse of Titian's splendid altarpiece depicting the Assumption of the Virgin (the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary). To the right of the façade is the entrance to the former monastery, the vast size of which reveals the presence in the past of a large community of friars noted for their works of charity. Now the complex houses the Archivio di Stato 24 (State archives), where documents relating to the history of the city and the Venetian Republic are kept.


THE SESTIERE OF SANTA CROCE

On the other side of Rio dei Frari (in front of the church), a second bridge on the left gives access to Campo San Stin. Cross this campo diagonally, and a short calle to the left leads to Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista and its church. 25 Their Renaissance exteriors, designed by Pietro Lombardo, are enclosed by an elegant marble wall; the eagle in the lunette over the portal is the traditional symbol of St. John the Evangelist. The Gothic interior of the church was renovated in 1759, while the 14C scuola was rebuilt in 1512. This building, the premises of the confraternity, was embellished with paintings by Gentile and Jacopo Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio, some of which went to the Gallerie dell'Accademia after the despoliation of 1806. Behind the scuola the Sottoportico della Laca leads to the Calle Campazzo (on the left); at the end of this, on the right, is a bridge over the Rio delle Muneghette, from where the Corte degli Amai skirts the former monastery of the Theatines. 26 This building, now housing the faculty of architecture of Venice University, has a modern portal designed by Carlo Scarpa, a former lecturer here. Inside the monastery there is an elegant cloister built by the Theatines, a congregation of clerks regular that came to Venice after the Sack of Rome in 1527. In front of the façade (dating from 1706) of the church of San Nicolò da Tolentino 27 stands a magnificent portico with eight Corinthian columns. On the other side of the bridge across the Rio dei Tolentini is the Giardino di Papadopoli, 28 forming a barrier between the silence of Venice and the noise of the Traffic in Piazzale Roma, just beyond. Formerly a botanical garden attached to the 16C Palazzo Papadopoli, it was considerably reduced in size when the Rio Nuovo was opened in 1933, and a large area was incorporated in Piazzale Roma. 29 Despite its function as an interchange between the mainland and the city, the latter, created when the road bridge and garage were built in 1931-33, leaves much to be desired from the town-planning point of view.

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