Dorsoduro, Venice’s southern-most district, is a colorful mélange of celebrated art collections, unfussy fishermen’s homes and palatial monuments.
The copper statue of Fortuna atop a bronze globe crowns the 17th-century Punta della Dogana (customs house) where Dorsoduro’s easternmost territory juts out into the San Marco basin. The splendid church of Santa Maria della Salute dominates its Grand Canal side, while on its opposite side begins the Zattere, a wide promenade established in the 16th century along the Giudecca Canal to unload timber from rafts (zattere) arriving from the Dolomite region’s Cadore zone.
Two highly regarded art galleries are situated along Grand Canal-front property: the Galleria dell’Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim’s collection in the Palazzo dei Leoni.
Farther into the district is one of Venice’s more fascinating elements, Squero di San Trovaso, a small 17th-century shipyard where passersby can watch workers construct and repair gondolas in their open workshop. One of the few still in existence in Venice today, this workshop includes a small wooden house typical of the Cadore zone in Belluno where the boatyard workers (many of whom came from Cadore) once lived.
The quarter’s lively day-to-day activities are centered in Campo Santa Margherita’s cafés and market stalls and in Campo San Barnaba where, near the Ponte dei Pugni, a colorful market barge is filled daily with crates of fruits and vegetables.
Regarded as one of Europe’s most exceptional art galleries, and the world’s most extensive collection of Italian art from the 14th-18th centuries, Venice’s Accademia boasts remarkable works by many of the artistic geniuses who left their imprint on the city during that period, including Giorgione, Bellini, Carpaccio, Tiziano, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiepolo.
Santa Maria della Salute
Both Longhena and Massari have been credited for their involvement in the construction of this Baroque church built on Dorsoduro’s eastern end in the 17th century to give thanks for the city’s deliverance from a devastating plague. Dedicated to the Virgin of Good Health, the sumptuous white Istrian stone exterior dramatically contrasts with a rather understated octagonal interior. Among the works contained within the luminous church are several by Tintoretto and Tiziano. Each year on November 21 the church is the site of a pilgrimage in which Venetians give thanks for having been spared from a plague.
Palazzo Venier dei Leoni
Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection of 20th-century art is housed within her former residence, the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, an enviably prime piece of real estate on the Grand Canal. For reasons unknown, the 18th-century palace purchased by Guggenheim in 1948 was never completed, hence its distinctively contrasting low facade. The American- born patron of the arts adopted Venice as her home later in life where she continued to expand her impressive personal collection of masterpieces from the Cubist, Futurist, Metaphysical, European Abstract, Surrealist, and American Abstract Expressionist schools. The works featured in her collection are by 20th-century artists, including Picasso, Duchamp, Dalì, Kandinsky and Ernst. The museum is occasionally the site of temporary exhibits.
Scuola Grande dei Carmini
The 75,000-member Carmelite confraternity of Santa Maria del Carmelo commissioned Longhena to design this chapter-house beside the Santa Maria dei Carmini church in the 17th century and later commissioned Tiepolo to paint nine canvases in the upper hall’s Sala Capitolare, an undertaking that was begun in 1740 and took several years to complete. Be sure to pick up one of the mirrors to better appreciate the sheer depth and beauty of Tiepolo’s cycle.
Initiated in the 17th century by Baldassare Longhena and later completed on his plans by Giorgio Massari for the patrician Rezzonico family, Ca’ Rezzonico now houses the Museo del Settecento Veneziano, a fascinating collection of 18th-century paintings and decorative art, including works by Tiepolo (below), Tintoretto and Canaletto in addition to tapestries, porcelain and period furnishings. Robert Browning’s son, Pen, acquired the palazzo in 1880 and, while the elder Browning was on an extended stay at the Ca’ Rezzonico, he fell ill and died.
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