Associazione Guide Turistiche Venezia

Special Visits


Palazzo Querini Stampalia
and Palazzo Grimani at Santa Maria Formosa.

These two palazzi, now museums, so different in style and history, lie close together. They reveal the tastes and interests of two important intellectual noble families, art patrons and collectors of the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries respectively.
It is thanks to the generosity of Giovanni Querini, the last heir of the Santa Maria Formosa branch of the Querini family, that we can now visit this unique Venetian palazzo. Its period furnishings remain intact, in the library, the gallery and in the precious collection of Sevres porcelain that belonged to Alvise, the father of Giovanni and the last Ambassador of the Republic in Paris. Giovanni never married; he established the Fondazione Querini Stampalia and bequeathed his entire estate to it. The terms of his will are still maintained by the Foundation, including the stipulation that the library be open to Venetians, "for the convenience of scholars", to a very late hour (midnight). On the second "piano nobile" we can see the "Presentation of Jesus in the Temple" by Giovanni Bellini, a masterpiece of the Venetian Renaissance. Delightful in their narrative vigour are the Pietro Longhi interiors, and the collection of views of the city and the costumes of its inhabitants by Gabriel Bella, a real slice of Venetian 18th century life. The architect Carlo Scarpa conducted a major restoration and transformation of the ground floor between 1959 and 1963.

Palazzo Grimani at Santa Maria Formosa has only been open since December 2008, after decades of abandonment and neglect followed by 25 years spent in restoration. Now there is revealed the most extraordinary palazzo of the 1500s, rebuilt by the owner Giovanni Grimani, a nephew of Cardinal Domenico Grimani, also a well-known collector and patron of art. Also a cleric, Giovanni became Patriarch of Aquileia. His reconstruction of his palazzo followed his own interpretation of the Roman style, probably advised by Palladio, Sanmicheli and Sebastian Serlio. The "Sala Quadrata", which is unequalled, has a fine coffered ceiling and lantern, below which is suspended a "Rape of Ganymede". In the 16th century this room, and the collection of ancient sculptures displayed here, was an essential visit for kings and princes; the sculptures are now in the Biblioteca Marciana (the first public museum in the world). There are also to be seen significant "grotteschi" (decorative frescos) by Giovanni da Udine, who collaborated with Raphael in the Vatican Loggia, and, in the room dedicated to the Doge Antonio Grimani, the famous altarpiece of "Visions of the Beyond" by Hieronymus Bosch.




(the Vessel's Pavillion is often closed)

Guided tour of the Naval Museum and Hall of Vessels.
The Naval Museum comprises five floors of historical naval finds and models, providing a survey of shipping through ten centuries of Venetian shipbuilding, including the Bucintoro, the Doge's ceremonial barge. The visit is accompanied by readings of a selection from the life of a pilgrim to the Holy Land on board a Venetian galley in the late 15th century. From the 20th century we also see exhibits from the Great War and World War II, models of Armoured Motor Torpedo Boats (MAS) recalling the heroic actions of Luigi Rizzo, Costanzo Ciano and Gabriele D'Annunzio (famous as poet, dramatist and novelist) in the former, and of a "maiale" ("pig", two-man torpedoes) in the latter.

The Naval museum and the Hall of Vessels are open on regular basis every day from 10 to 5pm. Admission 10 euros.

The impressive Hall of Vessels is an integral part of the Naval Historical Museum. It is housed in the extensive Oar Workshops of the old shipyard (Arsenale), where on display are a World War II Motor Torpedo Boat, a 1937 royal launch, a pair of boilers from Gugliemo Marconi's yacht Elettra, and many other traditional Venetian boats, among which are "bragozzi" (sailing barges) from Chioggia, ceremonial and funerary gondolas with traditional "felze" (discretely curtained shelters for the privacy and protection of the passengers) and the 1913 18-oared gondola (Disdotona) of the Querini rowing club. A curiosity is the converted ship's lifeboat Zentime in which Alex Carozzo crossed the Atlantic in 1990.

ARSENALE (The old shipyard)

The Venetian Arsenale dates from the early13th century (and probably earlier) and was a highly organised shipyard, extending to 32 hectares (80 acres) in late 1500. It captured the imagination of visitors from its earliest days, being mentioned in Dante's Inferno (in the Eighth Circle of Hell). It was the first production-line facility in the world, capable of producing in wartime a fully fitted fleet in a few months. It led the Mediterranean area in rope-making (the rope-walk, rarely open, is 317 metres,1040 feet, in length) and in the production of cannons, mortars and small arms. So famous was Venice for its weapons foundry that the Arabic name for Venice is "City of Guns".

We begin the tour amongst the older covered wharves and sheds, amongst which is the distinctive "Gagiandre", perhaps designed by Sansovino in the late 16th century. We will also see a huge blow-up of the ancient ceremonial embarkation of the Doge which hangs in the Casa del Bucintoro (1546) built to house this unique boat by the accomplished architect Michele Sanmicheli.

Since the fall of the Serenissima in 1797 the Arsenale has undergone many changes and upheavals, first by the French (Torre di Porta Nuova) and then by the Austrians who walled up the open-sided sheds. Istrian stone slipways mark the renewal of production at the Arsenale on the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy. On one of these stands the submarine Enrico Dandolo, 1968-1999 (no internal access). The huge Armstrong & Mitchell crane (1883), capable of lifting over 160 tonnes, is now a monument of industrial archaeology.

With the aid of prints and drawings we will turn back time to uncover the secrets of the building of a light galley from the laying of the keel in the shipyard, the arming and the installation of masts, sails and oars along the Rio dell'Arsenale, the supply of ship's biscuit at the San Biagio bakeries, to the final handing-over of the complete ship to the Magistrati all'Armar in Piazza San Marco.

A visit (groups only) to the Arsenale is only possible by application to the Navy, since it is still a military installation. Early booking requested. Please send email for info.


The Arsenale guided tour will begin in the Campo dell'Arsenale near the Lion Gate, a marvellous monument to naval victory, which has experienced various additions over the centuries by some of the best sculptors of the Republic. Recently one of the great classical lions (spoils of war brought to Venice in the 1600s) has revealed an interesting secret guarded for many centuries - it may carry graffiti in Viking runes recording the presence of Harald the Tall, Haakon and Ulf. These were mercenaries in Constantinople; the first-named later died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge against Harold II in 1066, shortly before he was killed at the Battle of Hastings against William the Conqueror. So great histories are strangely wound together.




(In Dorsoduro District)

Anyone with an interest in the Venetian traditional building of wooden boats cannot miss a guided visit to the last of the "squeri" (gondola yards). At Squero Tramontin we will meet Matteo Tamassia, who took over the tradition of gondola building after the last of the Tramontin, Roberto, passed away in november 2018. In this squero Domenico Tramontin after his apprenticeship at the squero Casal developed the modern gondola in 1884. This has a distinct lean to the right, so that when manned by the gondolier it returns to an even keel. To accommodate his rowing of the craft from one side only, the hull is asymmetrical, the left side being around 24 centimetres (10 inches) longer than the right (otherwise it would tend to curve towards the left). The outcome is a swift, light craft that is recognised as the most efficient design of boat for a single rower in the world, measured in terms of muscular force exerted and speed through the water. The sinuous asymmetry of the craft is not its only secret - thousands of details go into its building.

Only a short distance separates us from the picturesque Squero San Trovaso where the accomplished gondola's builder Lorenzo della Toffola works.


Pictures of maestro Roberto Tramontin (1955-2018)



(In Cannaregio District)

To penetrate yet more deeply into the maritime history of Venice, GuideToVenice will take you to another part of the city, the district of Cannaregio, where there still exists a truly special squero. Here the walls are hung with rowlocks and oars of every type, the ceiling with vintage masts and sails, and afloat in the shadow of the squero, in no particular order, a few of the 40 or so different types of boats once built in and around the city. We are in the ancient squero of Casal, the origins of which go back to the mid-15th century and which houses a rare witness to an age now almost gone; this is thanks to a group of Venetians who have formed an association for the study and conservation of traditional Venetian boats, the Arzana. Over the years it has taken on the task of restoring many unique craft, such as the last "bragozzetto", two "caorline", a "batela", and, waiting patiently in the Arsenale for restoration, the last "peata", built in Burano in 1950. These are all workboats of one type or another, but there is also a 19th century "gondola da fresco", essentially a small two-seat gondola as might have been used by a lady and her companion on a summer jaunt. Also on display are various items that serve the world of boats: barrels, lanterns, nets, glass fish-net floats (made in Murano, of course), sails and some models. A small room houses a collection of the many tools used in boat-building and its associated crafts such as might have been used by a shipwright at the beginning of the 20th century. Here you get a sense of the ephemeral labours of the past, which would otherwise have been swept away into the whirlpool of time.

GuideToVenice is actively involved in the work of Arzana, believed by many to be of minor significance! Entrance is by gratuity.


For the first time we present an itinerary which draws together artistic works associated with the Great Plague, including the great votive churches of the Redentore and Santa Maria della Salute and the places where victims were isolated: the islands of Lazzaretto Vecchio and Lazzaretto Nuovo. From April 2015 thanks the active work of GuideToVenice is possible to visit the secluded island of Lazzaretto Vecchio (see also the link 'Lagoon'). Established in 1423 on the advice of St Bernardine of Siena, it was the world's first isolation hospital to occupy an island. The XVI Century sheds, the remains of the cloister and the beautiful Prior's house with its veranda have a sinister beauty and fascination. Sailing a traditional "bragozzo" we will go from the island of Lazzaretto Vecchio to the Giudecca and Dorsoduro to visit the church of Redentore by Palladio and Santa Maria della Salute ('of good health') by Longhena both built after a solemn vow to ask God the end of the plague epidemic. Paintings by Veronese, Vivarini, Titian and Tintoretto. Another different tour by bragozzo but always connected to the plague reaches the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, the siland where the Serenissima Republic established the city's quarantine station for both people and merchandise (see link to "Lagoon", click through "Beyond the City") where we will visit an anthropological exhibition together with various interesting panels displaying the symptoms of plague and the care of its victims (also to be seen in Lazzaretto Vecchio). Majestic is the great storehouse where in the XVI century imports were stored such that fresh air would flow around to purify them of infection.


Beyond the horizon of the largest islands of the northern lagoon there is another world of reedbeds and mysterious channels, unknown to most and little frequented. GuideToVenice and "Terra e acqua" ( have developed two itineraries for the more adventurous by "bragozzo" into the heart of the "Laguna Nord".

1. From Punta Sabbioni to Lio Piccolo and from there to the island of Salina. Mystery surrounds us. Why is the church of Lio Piccolo dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows? What can be discovered about the village of Lio Piccolo, now deserted? Where was the mediaeval Ammiana, and why should it be that two Doges of the Middle Ages wanted to be buried in what is now no more than a hump appearing out of the surface of the lagoon? We are passing into the origins of Venice before the rise of Venice itself. (We shall have lunch on board or perhaps at a family-run Agriturismo in Lio Piccolo). FULL DAY

2. From Torcello to Altino on bragozzo boat. Visit to the NEW ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ALTINO which houses the remains of the ancient Roman city of Altino, amongst others, a Roman roadway not much different from the more famous Via Appia Antica. In those days this was a busy port, and much remains are still to be excavated. We sail with a slow bragozzo amids the high beds of reeds in brackish waters crossing first vast pristine saltmarshes. Interesting birdwatching garanteed in all seasons! Driks and refreshments will be served at the return to Venice; a glorious sunset reward. FULL DAY




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