Places to see in Dorsoduro: Dorsoduro Palaces, Squares, Monuments and Streets:
From the imposing palaces on the Grand Canal to the many churches with their wealth of sculptures and paintings, there is much to see and do in Dorsoduro. This sestiere is generally less touristy than some parts of Venice and has always been a popular district with wealthy Venetians and expatriates living in Venice. Shaded squares, narrow streets, quiet canal channels and pretty neighbourhoods are characteristic of Dorsoduro, making this sestiere a pleasure to explore. Dorsoduro is also home to major art collections which can be seen in the Accademia Gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
The places to see in Dorsoduro below cover the palaces, monuments, squares and interesting streets. The many churches in Dorsoduro are listed on the next page.
Squero di San Trovaso
Located next to the church of San Trovaso is the unusual and interesting sight of the Squero di San Trovaso, a small boatyard for the repair and making of gondolas. Surrounding the boatyard are Tyrolean-looking wooden structures, similar to the houses of the Cadore area on the mainland.
These were the old dwelling for the workers of the Squero. The fact that the workers often came from Cadore is the reason why the house is in the style of this mountainous area. The boatyard dates back to the 17th century and has always been in operation. This workshop is not open to the public but it is possible to catch sight of gondolas being given a new lease of life from the far side of Rio San Trovaso.
Originally built in Gothic style, it was completely renovated in the 17th century when it was sold to the Zenobio family. The interior is decorated with stuccoes by the Swiss plasterer Abbondio Stazio and with frescoes by Luigi Dorigny. The sumptuous ballroom still contains the stand for the orchestra above the central door. The small portico is decorated with paintings by Carlevaris and overlooks the vast French style garden. Palazzo Zenobiohas been a college for the Armenian community since 1850, but recently it opened its doors to scholars and guests for a nominal fee.
Said to be one of the most beautiful palaces in Venice. Longhena was commissioned by the Bartolomeo Bon family to build this palazzo in 1667, but they ran out of funds before the second floor was started. Long after Longhena’s death, the unfinished palazzo was bought and completed by the Rezzonico family. Considerable modifications were made, such as the large staircase and the ballroom, which was decorated with frescoes by Crosato. Today, Ca’ Rezzonico is a museum dedicated to eighteenth century Venice and contains period pieces taken from other palazzi, the most famous of which is the carved furniture by Andrea Brustolon.
Scuola Grande dei Carmini
The Scuola Grande dei Carmini was founded in 1594 and is the headquarters of the Carmelite lay confraternity that provided assistance and charity. Located next to the Chiesa di Santa Maria de Carmini in Campo Santa Margherita, it was the last of the great schools to be recognized in Venice. The current building was built by Longhena in 1667 on pre-existing smaller structures. In 1739 Tiepolo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the albergo (great hall) with symbols of the Virgin Mary and Saint Simeon Stock receiving the scapular of the Carmelite Order from the Virgin. The Carmelites were so impressed with Tiepolo’s work that they made him an honorary member of the brotherhood.
Santa Margherita Square
Campo Santa Margherita is a large and lively square surrounded by old 14th century palaces and the little church Chiesa Santa Margherita, which is today a university auditorium. There are many market stalls, shops, cafes and restaurants in the square. Campo Santa Margherita is the heart of Dorsoduro and some complain that this busy square is a bit touristy now.
San Barnaba Square and Ponte dei Pugni bridge
Campo San Barnaba is a typical canalside Venetian square where the boats selling vegetables coming from the islands moored. Nearby is the Ponte dei Pugni (Bridge of Fists) which takes its name from the spectacular fights that used to take place on the bridge. The brawling Castellanis and the Nicolottis were two opposing Venetian factions that were noted for their fisticuffs on the bridge. There are two pairs of footprints set in stone on top of the bride. These were the markers for the starting positions for the fights. The event was immortalised in the paintings by Bella which are housed in the Fondazione Querini-Stampalia. Campo San Barnaba is also featured in numerous movies, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Other Interesting Squares and Streets
- Rio del Malcanton was once a dangerous place because it seems that one ran the risk of being robbed.
- Sotoportego del Casin dei Nobili – This building was the exclusive haunt of the Venetian nobility. The goings-on inside were certainly not so noble: gambling and ‘ladies of the night’…
- Rio de le Romite – ‘Romite’ is a dialect term for hermit. Pious women known as Augustinian hermits retired here. They were sometimes of very noble birth.
- Campo de le Becarie – There were many different butchers’ shops here. ‘Becaria’ derives from ‘Becco’ or ‘billy goat’, which was meat that was butchered and sold here (‘becher’ is a dialect term for ‘butcher’).
- Fondamenta della Toletta – Before there were bridges in Venice wooden walkways known as ‘tolette’ were used to link one side of the canal to the other.