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A vademecum to Venice

creato da Dario Morgante ultima modifica 20/06/2008 15:10

From culture to culinary delights and ghosts to ghettos, here is a Venice you have never seen before...

VenicePast masters
Our tour of Venice starts from the train station in the hope that you, our readers, will take our heartfelt advice and come to Venice by train. If you can't bear the thought of leaving your car behind then be wise and park it in Mestre - you'll save money and avoid a lot of hassle. So, once out of the station cross Ponte degli Scalzi to see Chiesa dei Frari, the one-time Cathedral of Venice which gives its name to the area. Take the time to visit the church as it boasts several important paintings, including Titian's dramatic Assumption hanging over the high altar, as well as a recently discovered wooden cross dating from the 1300s and made by Giotto's school and the monumental marble tomb by Canova.

Food for thought
After all that culture you're probably ready for a bite to eat and what better than the fish (Venice after all was a maritime Republic) you'll find at Bentigodi's, on Strada Nova (on your left as you leave the station). Strada Nova, which runs parallel to Grand Canal, was originally a canal but was covered over by Napoleon for a triumphant parade on horseback when he conquered Venice. You then cross Ponte delle Guglie with its four pinnacles and turn to the left. Now take the second turn to the left and we're in the Jewish ghetto . Venice's ghetto is the world's first ghetto - the area where the Jews lived was once a foundry and the Venetian word for foundry is getto. There is only one large square - campiello - in the ghetto and during the second world war it was used as an improvised concentration camp where the Jews were imprisoned before being sent off to the Nazi lagers by train.
Hungry again? Go under the arch at the far side of the square, then over the iron bridge and on your left you should see tables set for dinner - as if they were waiting for you to arrive. Don't worry if you can't find a menu - it changes according to season or the catch of the day. We recommend "sarda in saor" (pickled sardines), a Venetian dish made up of sardines marinated in vinegar and onions, all to be washed down with one of the many delightful wines.

Spirits in the machine
It's now back to the station in search of another of Venice's hidden treasures. We cross Ponte degli Scalzi once more and head right along the Grand Canal towards Tolentini (home of the Faculty of Architecture). Once you get there turn right down a short road which ends with a bridge. Turn left at the Chinese restaurant and walk as far as the "Sole" guesthouse, which you'll recognise thanks to its wrought iron sign. Just before the guesthouse there's a turn into Calle degli Spiriti, a tiny enclosed square. The entrance arch is decorated in marble and terracotta and on one of the walls there are two quite disconcerting marble heads. Legend has it that many people drowned themselves in the square's small well and that their souls still return to haunt the area. They didn't disturb us while we were there but there was something ghostly about the place. Try this, for example . . . go into the middle of the square a walk around in a circle. The entrance arch will seem to disappear - could be you be locked into the square for ever? Is this what drove so many to kill themselves? We'll never know. . . Don't despair as the arch will reopen as you complete your circle but the eery feeling will probably stay with you. And, who knows, if you turn around quickly enough, you may see a spirit in the shadows.

Venezia.net - - Venice online
The Assumption - - Information on and photos of Titian's Assumption. Send e-cards to your friends
Grand Canal - - A webcam on the Grand Canal. The nearest thing to being there.
The Ghetto - - The official site of the world's first ghetto. Informative and well-organised. Lest we ever forget.

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