Venice. Quiet hidden corners, to make you feel Venetian
Venice. Is it possible to live it far from the tourist crowds?
Is it possible to find in Venice nice and quiet places to stroll and sit? To have even for a moment the feeling that you live in this magical city?
With crowds of tourists now flocking all year round to Venice, it seems impossible.
Not that it’s hard to find places without tourists. Basically, all parts outside the main itinerary are quiet. And the basic itinerary is naturally the one leading from the station to St. Mark’s Square.
All along this route and around the square it’s always desperately crowded. And the visitor can sense disappointment. But if you leave them, you may find parts that seem uninhabited.
The problem is however that most of these places do not have even a bench and we are forced to pass them by.
But how can anyone feel Venetian without sitting somewhere? To contemplate a typical Venetian setting and enjoy the food, drink or coffee as if they were locals?
Fortunately, it can still be done in a few quiet squares. They are called campo and campiello (small campo). Because there’s only one piazza: the piazza San Marco. This is THE square.
These beautiful squares I discovered by chance, combing Venice from one end to the other. And I present them to you here.
Campo dei Tolentini, sestiere Santa Croce
It’s the first of these squares you’ll meet when leaving the station. Generally, the sestiere (district) Santa Croce (Holy Cross, a church that no longer exists) is one of the quietest of Venice.
The name of the square is due to the church of San Nicola da Tolentino. Built in the 16th century, according to plans by Vincenzo Scamozzi. He is considered the main successor of the famous Andrea Palladio, the principal architect of the late Renaissance.
The church was part of the monastery of the Theatins, which is next to it. The former monastery now houses the Faculty of Architecture.
Here, of course, we are still very close to the station. So you will see some tourists who arrived here by chance.
Campo Santa Margherita, sestiere Dorsoduro
The next square after the station, going towards the channel of Giudecca. It’s surrounded by houses of the 14th and 15th centuries. Also by little shops, bars, restaurants, a fish market and an open air market that sometimes appear suddenly.
It’s full of life, as many other places in Venice. Only here, this life comes from locals. Very rare today.
It’s not accidental that James Morris (Jan Morris), who wrote the most classic and timeless guide to Venice, sustains that this is the most suitable place to feel Venetian. Don’t forget, then, to sit here at least for a spritz.
Here is the main building of the Ca ‘Foscari University. After the nomination of new graduates, they bring them to the square. Then here are unfolded the traditional jokes at their expense, which constitute a real show and attract crowds of spectators.
At the other end is the famous bridge “Ponte dei Pugni”. This joins the Campo Santa Margherita to Campo San Barnaba. The two pairs of steps, one for each corner, marked the beginning of the battle between rival city groups (suspended in 1705). Once there were no railings, and whoever fell into the water lost.
In one corner of the square is the church of the Carmelites (Santa Maria dei Carmini), of the 15th century.
The bell tower of the former church of St. Margaret, of the 11th century
The bell tower of Santa Maria dei Carmini
Campo San Barnaba, sestiere Dorsoduro
Very close to the previous square. The church of St Barnabas dates from the 18th century. Here you may see the famous shops of fruit and vegetables on typical Venetian boats.
But even if you don’t happen to see them, it’s an ideal place to sit at one of the cafes, like the Bar Ai Artisti.
In the background, the church of San Samuele. On the left, the rear side of Ca ‘Rezzonico. It’s one of the most important palazzi of Venice
Walking in the Fondamenta Alberti, next to Campo San Barnaba. In the background the bell tower of Santa Maria dei Carmini
Campo della Maddalena, sestiere Cannaregio
And we pass on the other side of the Gran Canal, in the Cannaregio district. This is the most peaceful neighbourhood of this bank.
The Church of Mary Magdalene in the homonymous square dates from the 18th century. This is one of the most typical examples of neoclassical architecture in Venice.
The photos speak for themselves about the atmosphere of the square.
Campiello dei Miracoli, sestiere Cannaregio
My favourite spot in Venice, because it has my favourite building. This too is in Cannaregio district.
Santa Maria dei Miracoli (Our Lady of Miracles), also known as the “marble church” is one of the best examples of the early Venetian Renaissance.
It was built in the late 15th century by Pietro Lombardo, as part of the convent of the Clarisses. The purpose was to house what was considered as a miraculous icon of the Virgin. Therefore, as with other churches built to house sacred objects, it reminds of a reliquary. Don’t miss the original interior.
But also the square is the perfect place for relaxation in a beautiful setting.
The first time I got here, from the cafe opposite the church, you could hear Vivaldi. Could the picture become more Venetian?
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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