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Venice's lagoon pearls

Churches, palaces, museums, art galleries: the treasures of the city of the doges and the islands of the lagoon

Venice's lagoon pearls

An irresistible concentration of artistic wonders, Venice welcomes its visitors in the great open air drawing room of Piazza San Marco, and accompanies them, spellbound, through the city's enchanting calli and sestieri.

St Mark's Square, the bell tower and the Doge's Palace: Venetian landmarks

A visit to Italy's lagoon city cannot fail to commence anywhere other than the district of San Marco with its piazza of the same name, home to the Basilica, the Doge's Palace, the 18th century cafes and the Procuratie, the latter once serving as the lodgings and offices of the powerful Venetian procurators.

In St Mark's Basilica, the relics of the evangelist are conserved, brought to Venice from Alexandria, Egypt in 828, year of the church's foundation.


Over the centuries, the Basilica has been the subject of numerous alterations, but the Greek cross plan and exquisite mosaics are Byzantine in origin. The bell tower is not connected to the church, but rather occupies an isolated position in the corner of the piazza from where it gazes out to sea.
Undisputed masterpiece of Venetian Gothic, the Doge's Palace, built between the 10th and 11th century was both ducal residence and seat of a number of political institutions.

Coasting the Grand Canal

Following an anti-clockwork, circular itinerary along the Grand Canal, from the piazza we head towards the Fenice Theatre, destroyed by fire in 1996 and reopened in 2003, after having been completely rebuilt according to the plans of the previous 18th century building.
Once beyond the boundary with the Dorsoduro district, in a curious looking palazzo facing the canal, we find the Peggy Gugghenheim museum of modern art.
Venetian art of from the 14th to 19th centuries can be admired in the nearby Accademia galleries, housed within the former Scuola della Carita.

The distinctly asymmetric Palazzo Dario, commissioned by Pietro Lombardo in 1487, has become almost irreversibly associated with the violent deaths to have fallen upon a worrying number of its unfortunate owners.

Getting to the Ghetto

Our tour of Venice continues via the district of San Polo and that of Santa Croce, situated south of the Grand Canal, both of which take their names from the important churches of the respective zones. This was where Venice's flourishing trade in silk and spices was conducted and where we find one of the symbols of city: the Rialto Bridge. Well worthy of visit is the Church of San Zandegolà, constructed in the 10th - 11th century.

The district of Cannaregio, where Venice's Ghetto and the city's five synagogues are located was also famous as important trading post. Our visit to Venice terminates in the district of Castello with visit to the Gothic Basilica of Sts Giovanni and Paolo, burial site of the doges.

Island hopping

Whilst in Venice, a trip to the islands of the lagoon is close to obligatory. The Lido, home to the Casino and Venice's glamorous Film Festival, impresses visitors with its grandeur. Nearby lie the islands of Sacca Fisole and Giudecca, this latter home to the Church of the Redentore, erected with the hope that such an act of devotion to the redeemer would bring an end to the devastating plague of 1575-76.
From here we travel onward to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, dominated by the impressive Benedictine convent complex which gained immense importance in the 12th century, after the relics of St Stefano were brought here in 1109.

The island of Murano is known internationally for its glassworks. A museum celebrates this art and is more than worthy of visit, as is the Church of Sts Maria and Donato, built in Venetian Byzantine style and reconstructed in the 12th century.
The island of Burano, on the other hand, owes its fame to the production of ornate lacework. Whilst on the little island, visitors should take the opportunity to admire the beautiful 16th century Church of St Martino.

For many, the true pearl of the lagoon is Torcello with its splendid Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, rich in Byzantine mosaics and marble.

Not to be forgotten, the enchanting island of San Michele where to visit the Church of San Michele in Isola, the first edifice to be built on the lagoon in renaissance style, and the monumental cemetery; final resting place of Igor Stravinskij and Ezra Pound.

Itineraries

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