Associazione Guide Turistiche Venezia

Venice offers a wealth of possibilities. These six 'classical' walking tours cover most of the city. All the itineraries are of about two hours each and do not include the visits inside churches, museums etc. To visit the museums or churches you need to book for extra time or curtail part of the walking tour. Ask Guidetovenice for the fee. Remember that meeting in hotels outside the Saint Mark/Rialto area incur an extra charge of 20 Euros . Please note that the cost of entry to museums and any other incidental expenses are not included in the fee for the tour.

 1. RIALTO: MARKETS and MERCHANTS. From Campo San Bartolomeo (St Bartholemew's Square) we walk to the ancient houses of the Corte del Milion. The Malibran Theatre stands were archaeologists think was the house of Marco Polo. Just around the corner in the small renaissance church of San Giovanni Crisostomo we find some masterworks by Giovanni Bellini and Sebastiano del Piombo, two of the most important painters of the XVI century Venice. From here we move on to the Campiello del Remer, a little-frequented and secluded spot by the side of the Grand Canal, where the ancient Palazzo Lion still bears Venetian-Byzantine friezes and the rare medieval "altinelle" brickwork characteristic of 12th and 13th century Venetian buildings.
After a quick look inside the Fontego dei Tedeschi, we cross the Rialto Bridge to visit the commercial heart of Venice: the Banco Giro (which has given its name, the 'giro', to a particular sort of cheque in Britain), the old church of San Giacometto and the leaning facades of Palazzo dei Camerlenghi. Al last we will mingle with the crowd of Venetians shopping in the lively fruit and vegetable and fish market of the Rialto. The colours of the fruit, the variety of the fish from the Adriatic and the fragrance from a florist shop stuck amongst the stalls make the visit something not to be missed. (Closed in the afternoon.) From here we take the gondola ferry (50 cents) back across the Grand Canal, enjoying, this time from the water, the sight of what was, and still is, the very heart of the city. The tour might end in the Campo Santa Sofia. To extend this tour we might visit the magnificent 15th century Ca' D'Oro Gallery or perhaps to walk on to Cannaregio (see the next tour).

2. CANNAREGIO DISTRICT AND GHETTO. Cannaregio occupies the north-western area of the city; along the peaceful Canale di Sant'Alvise or 'della Sensa' one can get away from the hustle and bustle of the overcrowded Saint Mark's area. The walk can begin either from the railway station or from Rialto. From the station we can visit the baroque church of Santa Maria di Nazareth 'of the Discalced' (the barefooted), named so because it belongs to the Carmelite Order. Passed daily by crowds of commuters making for the station, the church is a triumph of Venetian baroque architecture; stepping inside one has the impression of entering a cool grotto decorated with friezes, frescos and pinnacles, amongst which are sculptures and paintings by some of the great Venetian masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. Across the Ponte delle Guglie we pass into Cannaregio and stroll along the canal, busy with the ordinary trades of the city, but in barges rather than trucks. From there we enter the Ghetto and the urban island of the Ghetto Novo, named for the ironworks that once occupied it. Although there had been Jewish quarters all over Europe for a long time, it is from here that the name was taken that became synonymous with the oppression and segregation that reached its climax in the last century. The Ghetto was established as the Jewish quarter in 1516, and survived until the end of the Republic of Venice in 1797. After centuries of peaceful coexistence, in 1943 250 or so Venetians of the Jewish faith were deported and murdered by the Nazi regime. Some remnant of the ancient community still live here, and five synagogues can be visited through the Jewish Museum tours. Going on with our walking tour we head along the Fondamenta degli Ormesini, the Calle del Forno and Calle Loredan to a veritable jewel of a church, that of the Madonna dell'Orto (Madonna 'of the Garden'). Dedicated from its foundation in the 14th century to Saint Lawrence, a stocky little statue of the Virgin in the sacristy gave its popular name to the church. This was the parish church of the great painter Jacopo Tintoretto, and here you can see some of his more daring (and huge) compositions -- the 'Adoration of the Golden Calf' and the 'Last Judgement'; each measure 47 x 19 feet (!). He wanted to compete with the Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings. Leaving the church we pass Palazzo Mastelli, 'of the camel' for an attractive relief of a camel high on its wall, and cross a bridge onto the Campo dei Mori (Moors), so called by the Venetians for the four 12th century sculptures, on Roman pedestals, of Arabic merchants. On the Campo is the house of the painter Tintoretto. Continuing along the lonely and romantic Fondamenta dell'Abbazia, with a pause at the imposing Scuola Grande della Misericordia, we finish the walk at the Chiesa dei Gesuiti and the Fondamente Nuove where we can enjoy the view towards the cemetery island of San Michele and, beyond it, Murano.

3. CROSSING THE CITY. On this route, we cross a good part of the city. From the car park (or the railway station) we head for Campo San Giovanni e Paolo. Along calli (alleyways) and campi (squares) we will come across the two great gothic churches of the Frari and San Giovanni e Paolo, treasuries of Venetian history (both of them keep an outstanding series of funerary monuments of Doges) and some of its greatest paintings. During our walk we will pass the church of San Nicolò dei Tolentini, the Scuola di San Rocco, the Frari, the Campo San Polo, the Campiello dei Meloni, the Riva del Vin, the Rialto Bridge, the Fontego dei Tedeschi, the Corte del Milion (Marco Polo's home) and finally the great conventual church of San Giovanni e Paolo with the adjoining Scuola di San Marco whose facade is one of the most beautiful examples of early Renaissance architecture in Venice. Last but not least the imposing monument to Bartolomeo Colleoni dated 1488. However, we could not part without setting foot in an ancient and magical spot nearby - the fascinating but tucked-away Corte Bottera, or "the mysterious courtyard" as Hugo Pratt used to call it. (The walking tour - 2 hours - does not include the interiors of the churches. Extra time is needed to visit them).

4. DORSODURO DISTRICT. Leaving St Mark's Square by the gondola ferry (50 cent, only in the morning), we cross the Grand Canal from Vallaresso (by Harry's Bar) to reach the Punta della Dogana (the old Custom-House Quay). Accompanied only by the soft swish of the oars of the gondolieri, we are amidst the most stunning views that Venice affords. One of the great landmarks of Venice opens before us, the church of La Salute, a masterpiece of Venetian baroque architecture by Baldassarre Longhena, commanded by the Senate after the great plague of 1630. After the bustle of St Mark's, Dorsoduro is an oasis of quiet, but offers some of the most magnificent views. From our landing stage we stroll towards the Accademia through narrow calli and tiny campi. It is interesting to note the contrasting styles of the Palazzo Dario, half gothic, half renaissance (famous in Venice for its dark stories and its evil reputation), or the beautiful garden of the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni (the 'unfinished palazzo'), from 1949 the home of Peggy Guggenheim and from her death in 1979 a prestigious museum of modern art. You might, however choose to make a full visit to the Museum of the Accademia and to its galleries of five centuries of the finest Venetian painting from the 14th to the 18th century. There is so much to be seen, from Bellini to Giorgione, from Tiziano to Tintoretto. (the visit might take up to 2 hours in addition to the walking tour). From the Accademia we take the Rio Terrà Foscarini to the Zattere, from where we can look over the wide waterway (perhaps to see some great liner heading for the docks) and beyond to the wide waterfront of the Giudecca. Finally we will visit the Chiesa dei Gesuati, its Tiepolo's frescoes and two dramatic canvasses by Gianbattista Piazzetta. Our tour ends by the beautiful quayside of the Zattere but for those more interested in the contemporary pursuit of an ancient Venetian craft, we could visit the Squero Tramontin, where Roberto, master boatbuilder of Venice, will explain the mysteries of the construction of a gondola.

5. CASTELLO DISTRICT. Perhaps between the six 'quarters' into which Venice is divided, Castello is the largest and yet the least visited. The walk begins from the mercantile area, and along the Osmarin waterfont we come to the church of San Giorgio dei Greci, the centre of the Greek community since 1497. Continuing in the same direction we visit the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni with the extraordinary series of paintings by Vittore Carpaccio, miraculous survivors of five centuries in the care of the confraternity. A few steps take us to the Campo della Bragora, where, shadowed by a great tree, we find ourselves in a typical Venetian square dominated by the powerful 14th century Palazzo Gritti-Badoer. The Chiesa di San Giovanni in Bragora, gothic (although on earlier foundations) is one of the better preserved Venetian churches of the 1400s. A pleasant, welcoming church, it shelters one of the masterpieces of the city, 'The Baptism of Christ' by Gianbattista Cima da Conegliano. A short distance, past San Martino, we come to the Campo dell'Arsenale. The Arsenale of Venice, founded in 1104 and supplying ships and their armament, was vital to the military power and commerce of the Republic. Of great interest are the gates the (the so-called 'Gateway to the World') with the four ancient lions. The first on the left has on its flank a runic inscription which was only identified in mid 19th century. One theory of its origin suggests that it is graffiti signed by Harald Hardrada, who later invaded Britain in 1066 to distract King Harold from the danger of the imminent Norman invasion. A must for English historians. We might end the tour here, but at the expense of missing the Naval Museum and its many ship models of craft built at the Arsenal since the 12th century. (Open only in the morning. Closed on Sunday.)

6. PALLADIO in VENICE. Andrea Palladio, the most important architect of the Venetian renaissance, built the city's three most noteworthy churches of the 16th century: S.Giorgio Maggiore (from the tower of which you can see the best panorama of Venice to be found) and, on the nearby Giudecca island, the Zitelle and the Redentore. From San Giorgio Maggiore we cross to the Giudecca, and enjoy one of the most pleasant walks in Venice, the stroll along the waterfront to the Redentore, and the view back across the basin to Piazza San Marco. Two hours tour.


The most important museums and galleries of Venice: Doge's Palace (see the link "Classical Venice" tour) Museo Correr in Piazza San Marco (paintings, sculpture and Venetian history) Museo del Settecento di Ca' Rezzonico (18th century art and culture) Gallerie dell'Accademia (14th to 18th century paintings) Collezione Franchetti at the Ca' d'Oro (sculptures, paintings) Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia (paintings) Scuole Grandi di San Rocco (Tintoretto's masterpieces) Scuola dei Dalmati o Schiavoni (Carpaccio masterworks) Museo del Ghetto (Jewish life in Venice) Museo del Tessuto (Palazzo Mocenigo's clothing museum) Storico Navale (naval history) Museo di Ca' Pesaro (modern art) The Guggenheim Collection


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