What to see
Scuola Grande Di San Rocco
The Scuola di San Rocco (Confraternity of St. Roch) was founded in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetian families to protect the city from the plague, as it had already been besieged by the disease twice that century. The buildings themselves, however, weren’t finished until 1560. The name comes from St. Roch, who gained fame during the time of the Black Death. The building itself is magnificent with a stunning façade, and hallways and rooms that are works of art in and of themselves. The paintings and murals adorning the walls and ceilings inside are valuable enough to form the collection of an entire museum, and are comprised of over 50 works by Tintoretto that he completed between 1564 and 1587. For anyone interested in the art of Venice, the Scuola di San Rocco is a must see, simply for Tintoretto’s masterpieces.
Scuola Grande di San Marco
The Scuola Grande di San Marco was originally one of the six major schools (confraternity houses) of Venice and was first built in 1260. After it was devastated by a fire in 1485, reconstruction began in 1488 under the design of famous Italian architect Pietro Lombardo. The building was then completed in 1504 under the guidance of architect Mauro Codussi. The niches and pilasters on the façade bring it to life, and it’s now recognized as a classic work of the Renaissance with a touch of a Byzantine flavor to it. During the Napoleonic era the building was used as a military hospital and has served as a civil hospital since 1819. The building looks out onto one of the most important squares in Venice, Compo San Giovanni e Paolo, which is always full of visitors appreciating the city’s history and classic works.
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni
In the Middle Ages, Venice was one of the most important cities in Europe and was a meeting point between traders, clergymen, workers and immigrants. When Venice conquered Dalmatia (what we call the Balkans today) in the 15th century, immigrants arrived in droves and were referred to as “schiavoni”. They formed a recognized brotherhood in 1451 and in 1502 bought the hospital of St. Catherine. It was rebuilt as a charity hospital and designed to serve this function. When you enter Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, you immediately see the stunning wall paintings of the painter Vittore Carpaccio. Also located in the entrance is a relief of St. George slaying the dragon, painted by Pietro di Salo in 1552.
Punta della Dogana
Any visitors to Venice interested in modern art will need to make sure they visit the Punta della Dogana, a contemporary art museum established in a late 17th-century customs building. It was built on the triangular area in Venice where the Grand Canal meets the Giudecca Canal, with funds and part of the collection of French art-collector François Pinault, who helped restore the building to its current form. The restoration was undertaken by Pritzker-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando. When you visit the Punta della Dogana, you’ll marvel at the 2,500-piece collection as well as its exhibitions as you discover this incredible museum.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
When you’re in Venice, you should make sure you take the time to visit one of Venice’s, and indeed Europe’s greatest collections of modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, just a short walk from St. Mark’s square. It houses some of the most important work of futurists and modernists working in cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism. The works of artists like Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Wassily Kandinsky and Alberto Giacometti are all featured in the museum. Peggy Guggenheim became one of the world’s most important art collectors after her father died in the famous Titanic disaster and now her collection is featured in Guggenheim foundations is New York, Bilbao, and Abu Dhabi as well as Venice. After wandering around the museum, take in the views over the Grand Canal from the balcony and the gardens outside.
The name of the Palazzo Grassi comes from the first owners of the building and was designed by Venetian architect Giorgio Massari between 1748 and 1772. Now it’s owned by famous art collector François Pinault, who houses his personal collection there and has done since 2006. The building’s charming architecture right on the banks of the Grand Canal make it just as appealing from the outside as from its interior.
The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was built between 1309 and 1424 on top of a 9th-century palace, and another 12th-century palace, some of which still remains today. The palace was then heavily damaged by a fire in 1547 and rebuilt according to its original Gothic design. During the height of the Republic of Venice this was the seat from which the Doge ruled, and in 1923 it was turned into a museum. As you wander through the halls of the museum, you’ll walk through the magnificent entrance gate of the Porta della Carta and admire the Golden Staircase (Scala d’Oro). Some of the most famous artworks housed inside include the Departure of Abraham for Canaan by Jacopo da Ponte and Veronese’s The Rape of Europa. You’ll pass through the beautiful rooms of the Sala del Collegio where the Doge’s cabinet met, as well as the Sala del Senato where the senate met and the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci where some of the most important decisions of the republic were made.
In 1830, Venetian aristocrat Teodoro Correr left his art collection to the Correr Museum (Museo Correr) and it’s now one of the most important art museums in the city. It’s a great place to get to know not just the art of Venice, but also its history and the everyday life of the city of the past. The collection includes paintings, sculptures, footwear, maps, armor, weapons, coins, and jewelry. As the museum is located right in St. Mark’s square, it’s a great way to begin your trip to Venice as you’ll get a great sense of the whole city and its history from its most central and most famous square.
The Gallerie dell’Accademia was originally the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia when it was founded by the Venetian Senate in 1750 to provide instruction in the fine arts of painting, sculpture and architecture. The gallery of the academy was founded later to help turn Venice into one of the primary centers of art in Europe. Its collection has been on display to the public since 1817 and houses most of the major names in Venetian art. These names include, of course, Leonardo da Vinci and his famous Vitruvian Man sketch. Other famous artists whose works are featured include Hieronymus Bosch, Titan, Lorenzo Lotto, Jacopo Bassano, Andrea Mantegna and Tintoretto. At the foot of the museum lies the Ponte dell’Accademia, one of the spectacular historic bridges of Venice.
The Ca’ Rezzonico is a museum that was originally the palace of the influential Bon family of Venice, and the building itself was designed by one of the most famous architects of the Venetian Baroque, Baldassarre Longhena. However, neither the head of the family, Filippo Bon, who commissioned the palace, nor Longhena saw its completion. The famous architect passed away and Filippo Bon went bankrupt. It was left abandoned until the Rezzonico family purchased it and chose architect Giorgio Massari to design the new palace. In the 19th century, the palace of Ca’ Rezzonico passed through the hands of a number of important Venetian families, before it was acquired by the City Council of Venice and turned into a museum. It’s now not only the paintings, but also the furniture and collection of objects that gives you the sense that you’re walking through a Venetian palace.
What to eat
Sarde in Saor
Because Venice is a city on the sea, it tends to specialize in seafood more than you’d usually associate with Italian cuisine. Sarde in Saor are sardines made with a sweet and sour sauce and cooked with onions, raisins and pine nuts. It’s especially good in the summer as it’s served cold with bread on the side to soak up the sauce. You’ll find Sarde in Saor in just about every restaurant in the city, and it’s one of the best options for people who want to discover the local cuisine.
Risotto Al Nero Di Seppia
Risotto al nero di seppia, or “squid ink risotto,” is one of the most famous Venetian dishes. The ink gives the risotto its distinctive black coloring, and most restaurants in the city serve their own version. Different shellfish can be added to the squid, and sometimes it’s made with shrimp, mussels or lobster. It’s served with a lemon and olive oil sauce, and it’s one of the more distinctive dishes in the city, and certainly one you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else!
Risi e Bisi
This is a specialty of traditional Venetian cuisine and always made with local produce. Risi e bisi in particular is a creamy mix of rice and peas, though it’s often made with artichokes and radishes as well. The consistency is similar to something between risotto and soup, and it’s one of the oldest dishes local to Venice. As a result, most restaurants in the city will have their own version of the dish on their menus.
Baccala is considered one of the oldest dishes of Venetian cuisine as it was discovered when Venetian sailors in the 1400s were trapped on the Lofoten Islands in Norway. The dish has changed a little bit to become more in tune with the Venetian palate, and now it’s one of the great dishes of the city. It’s made using dried cod from the Baltic Sea, which is then cooked in olive oil and served with parsley.