Hidden Venice

    A Backwater near San Pantalon - MR

A Backwater near San Pantalon – MR

Get Away from the Crowds and Cliches

Been there, done that. What next? Each tiny corner of Venice has something new to offer if you only know where to look. Here are a few original suggestions

All the guide books recommend that you reach Venice by boat. So do I, but here’s the difference. Go from the fishing port of Chioggia (pronounced Keyojia). There are regular boats (vaporetti) which sail across the lagoon from there to Venice and you approach the city from the most beautiful side, a breathtaking view, instead of approaching by the back door, so to speak. Venice is rather like an onion. Peel off a layer, and there’s always another intriguing layer underneath.

The Unknown Church

The main churches in Venice usually charge an entrance fee. They are worth seeing for the great art they contain, (buy a combined ticket), but some equally great churches are free. Be bowled over by the ceiling in San Pantalon church in Dorsodouro (one of the 6 districts of Venice). The trompe l’oeil ceiling shows the saint ascending to heaven through clouds and cherubs which appear to be miles away. Round the edges, there are figures half painted on the walls, and half thrusting arms and legs into the space of the church. Poor Fumiani the artist spent the last years of his life painting this masterpiece, only to fall off the scaffolding to his death when it was completed.

The Museum less Visited:

The Fortuny museum was the home of the textiles designer famous for his pleated silk. How he came to live in Venice is an interesting story. Fortuny originally lived in Paris, the fashion capital of the world, but his terrible fear of horses drove him to the only city which didn’t rely on horse transport, Venice. To enter the museum is to time-travel to an art nouveau world of rich wall hangings, dark furniture and early sepia photographs. On the top floor there’s a fascinating view of dozens of strangely-shaped chimney pots.

The Gondola Ride for 50 Cents:

Most tourists want to experience a ride in a gondola, even if it costs a fortune, but you should try what the locals do: take a ferry (traghetto) across the Grand Canal. These are large gondolas rowed by two gondoliers in their familiar striped shirts. (More for your money!) It can be quite exciting at busy times when they are crowded and you have to stand up, clutching your fellow passengers when a vaporetto chugs past creating big waves!

The Last Boat Yard in Venice:

At San Trovaso you will see the only surviving squero, a workshop for making and repairing gondolas. It was on the point of closing when an American revived it, and now it’s a picturesque flourishing place in a forgotten corner of the city.

The Cemetery Island:

Many tourists visit the islands of Murano and Burano, but the island of St Michele is where the Venetians bury their dead, and it’s peaceful and fascinating. When the vaporetto drops you off, you may even be the only people there, unless a water hearse is sailing in, covered with wreaths for a burial. The word unique is overused, but in the case of Venice you never tire of discovering the new, the amazing, and the completely original.

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