Magical Venice, yesterday and today

Let's discover an antique and lively Venice, a part of the town that acts as a filter between its two greatest districts (Sestieri), Cannaregio and Castello. The name of the first probably derives from the Canal Regio (Royal Canal), name given to the canal that runs through the district from San Giobbe to San Geremia and links the lagoon with the Grand Canal. That is a fascinating interpretation but more likely the name comes from the alteration of the ancient Cannarecium, a place where reeds (canne) grew in large quantities. The train station of Saint Lucia, as it was built on the area of a church with that name (then suppressed by the Napoleonic edicts of 1806), has the number 1 of the district. The second, the Castello district, was one of the first inhabited areas of the city (V-VI century); it takes its name from the castle that once stood there, with the function of defence against attacks from the sea. In the Castello district stands the impressive Arsenale building, for centuries the largest factory in the world.

Both districts, perhaps because they are still far away from the main tourist streams, maintain the "Venetian way of life" typical of past times, and offer the attentive visitor fascinating and unforgettable stories and sensations.

What we propose is a magical journey that will make you protagonists of the discovery of unexpected views, lights, flavours and sounds, true sensations, accompanied by the craftsmen who continue traditions handed down from generation to generation ... and you will really feel like time has never passed!

It is easy to find the famous Ponte di Rialto: it is the oldest bridge that connects the two banks of the Grand Canal. It probably dates back to 1172, built in wood. In 1557 the Venetian Republic announced a competition to rebuild it in stone. Among the competing architects were Palladio and Sanmicheli. The tender was awarded to the proto Antonio da Ponte and in 1591 the bridge was opened (in 2012 it underwent the most recent intervention by the Tajapiera, the stone cutters of Confartigianato Venezia). From Campo San Bartolomeo, a famous gathering place of the city, in which a monument to Carlo Goldoni stands, by passing through a picturesque porch (Sotoportego de la Bissa), you will reach  Campo San Lio and then your senses will be captured by the homonymous Salizada (street), so alive with typical shops, sounds, colours and flavours. Here, at number 5765, just a few steps away from Calle del Paradiso, you can have a first exhaustive glimpse of it: Scriba is a workshop that originated from the long experience and manual dexterity of its owner Giuseppe Ferlito. Scriba looks like a window onto the past, through which the charm of ancient writing and the art of bookbinding can be rediscovered. This shop is an attraction for calligraphy lovers, collectors or simply curious people that will be tempted by the amazing creations; it offers a wide choice of exclusively hand-made, unique and high quality products. With your mind still in the past, turn right onto Calle delle Bande to visit Itaca Art Studio. It is not easy to succeed in depicting views of Venice with an original approach, but Monica Martin, famous international artist, does it thanks to the slight touch of irony that gives her work an unusual liveliness. The views of the city, the abstract gondolas, the warm colours identify Monica as one of the most peculiar artists of the Venetian area.

After crossing a small bridge, you arrive in Campo Santa Maria Formosa: the homonymous church that dominates the square, which was rebuilt upon a design by Mauro Codussi in the second half of the fifteenth century. It has a Baroque bell tower and two main facades. Inside there are paintings of the school of G. Bellini, a triptych by B. Vivarini and a beautiful altarpiece by J. Palma the Elder, which portrays Saint Barbara, patroness of the Scuola dei Bombardieri, a confraternity and school of artillery that was at the time located next to the church. In the same square you should visit the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the house-museum of the Querini-Stampalia family, which houses a library, a remarkable archive and a collection of paintings and furniture from the sixteenth century. The Foundation is located in a beautiful Renaissance palace. The Picture Gallery that belonged to the Count Querini-Stampalia consists in numerous halls with paintings by Venetian authors of the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth century, including major works such as the Presentazione al Tempio (Presentation in the Temple) by G. Bellini. The renovation of the palace’s ground floor and the garden was designed by the famous architect Carlo Scarpa, who worked there from 1959 to 1963. If you cross the square in the direction of Campo Santa Marina, you can satisfy your sense of taste there: after walking around in Venice you will surely be a bit hungry, therefore the Pasticceria (pastry shop) Italo Didovich is the best that you can encounter. For forty years Italo and Laura Didovich have been running this strictly artisan pastry shop. Here you can enjoy traditional Venetian and Austro-Hungarian sweets, either at the counter or in the comfortable dining room, as well as in the small terrace, which overlooks the square (a priceless view on sunny days). Stop by for a typical Venetian aperitif drink, the Spritz (accompanied by delicious sandwiches or small pizzas), while at lunch time the small kitchen offers a menu of simple and familiar tastes, to eat in or take-out. During traditional feasts the windows are filled with typical sweets of the Venetian tradition. While restoring your body and mind, you will have time to discover that in ancient times a church stood in the place of Campo Santa Marina: you can still see the base of the tower, which overlooks the small square with the same name. In front of the pastry shop, until a few years ago, there was a marble carver’s workshop where Canova had worked.

By taking Calle Scaleta you will reach Corte de la Spechiera: at number 6010 you will have the privilege of entering the Atelier Flavia, created in 1980 by Flavia Zorzo. Here, in addition to the famous masks of the Commedia dell'Arte, all handmade in papier-mâché according to the ancient traditions of the Venetian mascareri, you can find new masks trimmed with feathers, lace and Murano pearls, combined with the gorgeous costumes made by hand for the Carnival of Venice, or for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and masquerade balls. Each costume (available in different sizes for men, women and children) faithfully reproduces the style of the historical period it represents (1500, 1700, 1800), in the colours, fabrics, decorations and accessories. It is an authentic leap into the past, the result of rigorous historical research and attention to detail. Once immersed in the Venice of the past, why not dive into in the atmosphere of the traditional Commedia dell'Arte? You just need to cross a small bridge and you will be at the Teatro Malibran, a real architectural gem, a theatre well known for its operas between the seventeenth and eighteenth century, when it was known as the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo. Designed by Tommasi Bezzi upon request of the Grimani brothers, it was inaugurated during the Carnival of 1678. Immediately it became the largest, most luxurious and most extravagant Venetian stage, thanks to the sumptuous operas therein arranged, performed by the best singers at that time. In 1737, when Carlo Goldoni was placed at the direction of this Venetian stage, prose works as well began to be represented (among them were many of his plays). The current theatre was completely restored in 1992 by the City of Venice.


Still not satisfied with the beauty of this timeless part of Venice? Here's one last precious jewel: go across a bridge and a street, and here's the magical Campiello dei Miracoli. It is common belief that around 1400 an extraordinary event occurred there: a sacred image of the Madonna in an altar was seen crying. For this reason the church of Santa Maria Formosa (which we first visited) was built thanks to the offerings of the Venetians. From here, looking up, you will lose yourself in the beautiful polychrome marble of the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a perfect and complete example of Renaissance architecture in Venice. Designed by Pietro Lombardo, it was begun in 1481 and completed in 1489; the whole project, from the construction to the decoration, is the work of a single artist and his workshop. Very small compared to other Venetian churches, it is a real treasure trove, an object of total decoration: coloured marbles, sculptures, reliefs of exceptional workmanship adorn every corner, inside and out, with an absolutely astounding result. The interior has a single nave and presents, above the main entrance, the raised choir of the Franciscan nuns of Santa Chiara. Both the ceiling of the choir and the vault are decorated with gilded coffers; inside the fifty squares are small panel paintings in the style of Titian, executed in the early years of the sixteenth century.

After such a unique historical tale, it is worth it to end your little journey in the laboratory Antichità (antiques) Lachin in Calle Giacinto Gallina at number 5401/D. Here, for over twenty years, the young craftsman Marco Lachin has been dealing with restoration of furniture of any age: he carries out restorations with traditional techniques and materials, with a minimum use of mechanical instruments. In addition to visiting the restoration workshop, you can buy antique and modern items and furniture, with particular attention to Murano Glass chandeliers, vases, sculptures and various other objects: a shop full of exquisite Venetian charm.

Points of interest

Scriba is a craftsman workshop located in the heart of Venice, that originated from the long experience and manual dexterity of its owner Giuseppe Ferlito....

Venice is the most depicted town in the world. It is not easy to succeed in depicting views of Venice with an original approach, but Monica Martin, famous ...

For forty years Italo and Laura Didovich have been running this strictly artisan pastry shop. Here you can enjoy traditional Venetian and Austro-Hungarian ...

The Atelier Flavia, created by Flavia Zorzo, was opened in 1980 in the heart of Venice. Here, in addition to the famous masks of the Commedia dell'Arte, al...