Making your journey easier


June 2015

Venice and the Egyptian mummy: #SanLazzarodegliArmeni

Apart from the usual islands tour – Murano, Burano, Torcello – there’s one small island you might want to visit. It’s San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a stone’s throw from Lido. There’s a vaporetto – number 20 – leaving each day from San Zaccaria at 3.10 p.m. in coincidence with the guided tours held by the Meckitarist monks.

In the 15th century the place was a leper colony, hence the name Lazzaro, the patron saint of lepers. The hospital was moved in the 16th century and the island was abandoned. It became Armenian in 1717. The monastery was and remains an important centre for Armenian culture. Lord Byron studied in the library, helping the monks to prepare the first English-Armenian dictionary. The ancient library contains 150,000 volumes, beautiful illuminated manuscripts, oriental artefacts and an Egyptian mummy (450-430 BC) attributed to Namenkhet Amun, a priest at the Amon Temple in Karnak.

For those visiting the Venice Biennale there’s a special discount on the entrance ticket for the show Armenity. More info here.

Don’t forget to ask for Vartanush (literally sweet rose), a special jam made from rose petal around May.


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Venetian toponymy

A campo (field) is a square. The only piazza is Piazza San Marco.

A campiello or a campazzo is a small square.

Rio is a canal.

Rio terà is a canal that has been filled in. You can easily detect this by the different disposition of the pavement slabs.

Piscina is a pool or turning basin that has been filled in to become a square.

Calle is the name of a street.

Ruga is an important street, usually lined with shops.

Fondamenta and Riva define a wide street running along a canal.

Ramo (branch) is a short street or an extension of another street with the same name.

A salizzada indicates a paved street (once rare).

A sottoportego is an arcade or arched passage under a building.

Walking and talking #2: From Piazza San Marco to the Arsenale

This is an ideal walk if you enjoy the sun and want to admire the cityscape. Leave the piazza behind you and cross the bridge parallel to the bridge of sighs which used to link Palazzo Ducale to the ancient prison – Giacomo Casanova managed to escape from the Piombi prison thanks to a rope and a boat – and stroll along the fondamenta of Riva degli Schiavoni.

On your left-hand side a succession of hotels, the Danieli Excelsior, location of a famous James Bond scene (From Russia with love, Casino Royale), the equestrian sculpture in bronze by Ettore Ferrari dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II just in front of Hotel Londra Palace, a few meters ahead the small palace where the writer Henry James lived, a bridge on rio dei Greci and its leaning bell-tower, and the Chiesa of Santa Maria della Pietà, known to be the site that hosted Antonio Vivaldi’s school of music.

For those interested in the life and works of the red priest, it is worth a visit San Giovanni in Bragora in campo Bandiera e Moro, the church where he was baptised.

Back to the fondamenta after crossing a wide bridge, on your left-hand side the Arsenale. The word derives from the Arabic darsina’a meaning “house of industry”, where the ships saw the light of day, and where Venetians built their fleets.

The ancient corderie (where ropes were made) were re-furbished as the site of one of the two locations of the Venice Biennale, the other one is in the island of Sant’Elena, Giardini. A green oasis in the lagoon.


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Walking and talking #3: A circular tour (only the brave)

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If you enjoy walking, this is the TOUR for you. It will take at least two hours and a half, a little Venice marathon, approximately 7 kilometres. High heels at your own risk!

We start from Piazzale Roma, Venice’s link with the rest of the world and other means of transport, a brief glance at the famous Calatrava’s bridge, useful to reach the train station, Santa Lucia, and then proceed towards the Galleries of the Accademia, cross the Grand Canal and reach campo Santo Stefano, calle della Mandola, campo Manin, at this point we are ready to go with the flow and cross one of Venice’s busiest areas, Rialto.

The Rialto stone Bridge was designed by Antonio da Ponte (an Italian surname meaning “bridge”) between 1588 and 1591. The foundations required 12,000 piles and a huge amount of work.

The name rialto derived from rivo alto, literally high banks. The district is a commercial site full of shops and the site of the popular Rialto market. The clock of San Giacomo of Rialto is considered to be the least reliable of the city, so mind your own watch.

We turn left and go towards Campo San Polo, a huge campo with few trees, few bars and loads of children playing. In the vicinity the Faculty of oriental languages.

In the same district we encounter Casa Goldoni, a museum and a library dedicated to the famous Venetian playwright. From there we reach Campo San Tomà, a small campo with the Scoletta of the Scaligeri, (ancient co-orporation of shoemakers with a bas-relief by Pietro Lombardo) and the church with a façade from the 18th century which hosts paintings by Jacopo and Giacomo Guaranà.

Leaving the campo, on our right-hand side the Frari, aka Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Frari is a Venetian corruption of frati, friars. The church is full of famous tombs and paintings (Titian’s “Assumption”), there’s an admission charge in order to visit its inside. The exterior is defined by its red-brick structure, and its gothic portal.

In the immediate neighbourhood the Scuola of San Rocco – the Confraternity of St. Roch, protector against plague, founded in the XVth century by a group of wealthy Venetian citizens, next to the church of San Rocco, from which it takes its name. The scuola has been decorated by Tintoretto.

We then continue till the end of the calle and see on our left-hand side the Tolentini, the administrative site of the University of Architecture, IUAV. The striking entrance hall was designed following a project by Carlo Scarpa, under the supervision of the architect Sergio Los and the engineer Carlo Maschietto.

At this point Piazzale Roma is a few meters away. Full circle.


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Walking and talking: #1 From the Accademia to Piazza San Marco

#From the Accademia to Piazza San Marco

One can walk along the Zattere till the tip of Dorsoduro, the Punta della Dogana, now hosting the Museum of Contemporary Art.

From this privileged location we can admire Saint Mark’s basin and the island of San Giorgio, the homonymous church was designed by Andrea Palladio. The island is the headquarters of the Fondazione Cini.

Round the corner we encounter the Salute, the 16th century’s project was by Baldassarre Longhena, Palladio’s closest follower.

On the way back to Accademia, we spot from afar the famous Palazzo Dario; for those interested in ghost stories, this building has an impressive record of deaths and suicides. Almost all the residents who had the misadventure to live in its magnificent rooms died a violent death.

In the same area the Guggenheim Collection, always worth a visit.

Near the Accademia Bridge, the beautiful Gallerie dell’Accademia, one of the finest collection of ancient and modern paintings in Venice.

Across the bridge on your right-hand side Palazzo Pisani, hosting the school of music Benedetto Marcello.

In the wide campo the unmissable Paolin, if you love ice-cream, an old café with outside tables. Now we talk…

When we leave Campo Santo Stefano on calle del Spezier we can go to Santa Maria del Giglio and then proceed quite smoothly along Calle Larga XXIII Marzo to Piazza San Marco.

In calle Vallaresso the famous Harry’s bar, more than a place a microcosmos..managed by the Cipriani family.

Now, we’re ready to reach the only piazza in Venice: Piazza San Marco.


What are you waiting for?

For more info, you can contact me via e-mail:

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