Places And Charm
The most charming places that can be discovered walking around the city: from Piazza San Marco to the Ghetto...
Piazza San Marco is the only “Piazza” in Venice, as all the other square are given the name “Campo”. From the very beginning, Piazza San Marco was designed and built as an extension of Palazzo Ducale and the San Marco Basilica, the true centers of political and social life in Venice. The space originally taken up by the square was rather narrow and had a canal running through it: the Rio Batario. In 1172, the Doge Sebastiano Ziani bought the whole area and reclaimed the canal. He then had extension work started which ended in the Piazza San Marco that we now know today.
Opposite the Palazzo Ducale, and in place of the old wharf, a small square was created where two tall columns coming from Constantinople were installed. A winged lion was placed on one column, which is the symbol of Venice, and on the other column there was a statue of San Teodoro, the old patron saint of Venice, who was then replaced by San Marco.
The larger part of the square that stretches out in front of the Basilica, is 170 meters long and is trapezium shaped. The edge of the square is bordered by the old and new Procuratie, and the Napoleonic Wing which is now the home of the Correr Museum.
This is one of the most popular tourist sights in Venice. The bridge connects the Palazzo Ducale, where prisoners were tried, to the prisons known as the Piombi. The bridge was built on the orders of the Doge Mario Grimani and was made in stone from Istria. It was decorated on the outside with Baroque patterns. The beauty of the structure has given the bridge a romantic connotation in complete contrast to its actual use. The sighs that the bridge inspired were definitely not sighs from people in love, but from the prisoners who had just been sentenced to years in jail in the terrible “piombi”.
The Venice Ghetto was the first to be set up in Europe and was founded in 1516, further to laws issued by the Serenissima: The Venetian Jews had to live inside the area bordered by the Ghetto Bridge, and could not leave the area from dusk until dawn. Guards were placed at the Ghetto boundaries to control the Jews’ movements and the Ghetto was closed at night with gates. The hinges of those gates can still be seen today. The word “ghetto” comes from the word “getto”, the noun coming from the Italian verb “gettare”: before the area was made into a residence for Jews, the copper foundries were based here and “gettare” is the dialect word used to explain the work carried out in the foundries.
There are 5 synagogues that look out onto Campo del Ghetto: the Canton Synagogue, the Italian Synagogue, the German Synagogue, the Levantine Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue. The Campo is also surrounded by tall buildings that have up to 8 floors: This is a unique aspect of the buildings compared to all the others in Venice.
The Zattere walk is one of the most romantic and prettiest in Venice. Fondamenta delle Zattere begins at San Basilio and continues alongside the Giudecca Canal, which runs parallel to the Grand Canal, and ends at the Punta della Salute where the old Sea Customs house is located, a truly charming, panoramic place from where you can see the whole of San Marco bay and San Giorgio island as far as the Lido.
The famous Rialto Market has two parts to it: Erbaria and Pescaria. Erbaria is the fruit and vegetable market which is right under the Rialto Bridge, on the opposite side to Campo San Bortolo. Pescaria is the fish market and is just a short walk away, under the porticoes of a neo-Gothic building that looks out on the Grand Canal.
The Mercerie cut the old city center into two parts, connecting Piazza San Marco to Rialto. This is Venice's main throughway, the heart of the city's commercial trade since ancient times when the precious fabric shops stayed open until late. The mercerie are divided into three parts: mercerie dell'oroloio (that starts from Piazza San Marco), Mercerie de San Zulian and Mercerie di San Salvador, that come out right on Campo San Salvador, next to campo San Bortolo. Mercerie are full of shops of all kinds, from luxury jeweliers to fashion boutiques.