Dorsoduro Walking Tour (Self Guided), Venice

Dorsoduro is one of the six districts of Venice, whose name translates as “hard bridge” from Italian, due to the area's relatively high terrain. The city's highest spots, along with Giudecca Island and Isola Sacca Fisola, are found here. Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice's most picturesque canals, historic locations and cultural venues, including Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Campo San Barnaba and Campo Santa Margherita. If modern art and historic architecture combined sounds like your kind of fun, this Dorsoduro self guided walking tour is for you.

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Santa Maria della Salute ) can be reached by: Water Bus: 1.
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Dorsoduro Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Dorsoduro Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Venice (See other walking tours in Venice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: naomi
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Santa Maria della Salute
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  • Palazzo Barbarigo
  • Gallerie dell'Accademia
  • Santa Maria del Rosario
  • Cantinone Gia Schiavi
  • Campo San Barnaba
  • Signor Blum
  • Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice
  • L'Angolo del Passato
  • Campo Santa Margherita
Santa Maria della Salute

1) Santa Maria della Salute (must see)

San Marco may be Venice's most famous church by name, but Santa Maria della Salute may well be its most famous by image and silhouette! Commonly known simply as La Salute, this grand historic church is largely recognized as the pinnacle of the city's Baroque movement.

La Salute is part of the Gesuati parish and is the most recent of the so-called “plague” churches. In the early 1630s, Venice was devastated by a plague that exterminated nearly 100,000 people, roughly one-third of the lagoon’s population. As a votive offering for deliverance from this pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Good Health (or Deliverance) which means “Salute” in Italian. Resting on a platform of more than 100,000 wooden piles, the church was designed in the then fashionable Baroque style by Baldassare Longhena, who dedicated half a century to working on this project and lived just long enough to see it finished in 1681.

Surmounted by a great dome that soon became emblematic of the city, the basilica makes for an interesting visit: it houses a small art gallery in its sacristy, which includes a Marriage Feast of Cana by Tintoretto, along with the allegorical ceiling paintings by Titian and a highly symbolic high altar where the Virgin and Child rescue Venice (depicted as a kneeling young woman) from the plague (depicted as an old woman).

Each year on November 21st, a pontoon bridge spans the Grand Canal to the church for a religious procession commemorating the deliverance of Venice from the plague. Far from a minor event in the Venetian calendar, this procession turns the church into a pilgrimage site – and admittedly very scenic one at that, since the La Salute stands right at the mouth of the Grand Canal and the visitors can get great shots all around.

Whenever you choose to visit, do get your tickets in advance to skip the long lines. Once inside, you can treat yourself to a unique view of the adjoining plaza from the balcony and, perhaps, also a 30-minute organ recital after the service... so do check the events program in advance – and enjoy!

Bring a drink with you as there are hardly any cafes around.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm / 3-5:30pm
During festive Masses, times may be subject to change
Peggy Guggenheim Collection

2) Peggy Guggenheim Collection (must see)

Described as one of the most comprehensive and brilliant modern-art collections in the Western world, this is also one of Venice’s glossiest museums – the second most popular after the Accademia and a prime venue for touring exhibitions. The collection is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, the former Venetian home of Peggy Guggenheim on the Grand Canal. Pursuant to her family tradition, Peggy was a lifelong patron of contemporary artists, impressing critics not only with the high quality of their works but also with the ways she presented them.

As her private collection continued to grow with more and more masterpieces from the Cubist, Futurist, Metaphysical, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist schools, Peggy Guggenheim decided to find a larger showcase and, for that purpose, selected Venice. Her husband, Max Ernst, was one of her early favorite artists, as was Jackson Pollock, for whom she provided a farmhouse where he could develop his technique. Displayed here are the works not only by Pollock and Ernst, but also those by Picasso, Duchamp, Chagall, Mondrian, Brancusi and Dalí, plus the modern sculpture works by Giacometti and Paolozzi placed in the garden in which Peggy’s own ashes are laid to rest.

Since her death in 1979, the collection has been administered by the same foundation operating Guggenheim Museum in New York. Visitors are free to wander around and explore the collection in an informal, relaxed way, or to take a 90-minute private tour for a 'behind-the-scenes' scoop on all the art and Peggy's history. The regular multilingual crowd of well-versed individuals bubbling around the property with free information are quite fascinating in their own right.

Why You Should Visit:
To see a treasure trove of works up close and personal – all in one fabulous mansion on the toniest stretch of the Grand Canal.

In a new wing of the museum, there is a shop and a cafe in case you want to take a break and reflect on what has been seen and heard.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm
Closed Tuesdays and December 25
Last ticket issued 30 minutes before closing time
Palazzo Barbarigo

3) Palazzo Barbarigo

Once owned by the proprietors of one of Venice's largest glass factories, Palazzo Barbarigo, originally built in the 16th century, is distinguished for its exterior clad in Murano glass mosaics. The mosaics were added in 1886 and are said to have been inspired by the similarly adorned facade of St Mark's Basilica.

Nonetheless, when the front mosaic was completed, it didn't quite impress the aristocratic neighbors who accused the then-new owners of the palace of being “nouveau riches” with a garish taste completely out of touch with the genteel decay of the neighboring buildings. Needless to say that this was unfair criticism as many of the Renaissance palazzi on the Grand Canal were once also covered in polychrome and gilt decorations, with elaborate plaster and stucco work that only added to their splendor.

Today, Palazzo Barbarigo stands as one of the most opulent pieces of architecture on the Grand Canal. The mosaic on its central frieze depicts 35 cherubs actively engaged in various artistic activities, such as painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture. Two separate murals commemorate royal visits to Venice: one in the 16th century by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne during which he is depicted speaking to Titian on the scaffold of St Mark's Basilica; and the other one by the French King Henry III, in 1574, arriving on the Doge's barge along with a team of glass-makers.

The portraits of two most famous Venetian painters – Titian and Tintoretto – are found right above these scenes. The lion of St Mark – symbol of Venice – tops one of the portraits, while the back rooster – symbol of Murano – crowns the other.
Gallerie dell'Accademia

4) Gallerie dell'Accademia

The pomp and glory of Venice live on in the remarkably extensive collection of paintings, known as Accademia, spanning from the Middle Age to the Renaissance periods. The hallmark of the Venetian painting school is color and more color. From Veronese to Titian to Tintoretto, the Accademia gallery houses the best of Venice's glorious sons.

Also among its highlights are the works of 14th-century masters like Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano who bridged the gap between the Byzantine and Gothic art; Giovanni Bellini – author of the “Madonna and Saint” and “Madonnas and Bambini” paintings; Vittore Carpaccio’s gruesome yet fascinating depiction of mass crucifixion and narrative paintings of St Ursula – amazing to a modern eye with the meticulous detailing of domestic architecture, costumes and decorative arts of Venice at the end of the 15th century; as well as Giorgione’s most famous painting “The Tempest” depicting a baby suckling from its mother's breast overlooked by a man with a staff.

Rooms 6 to 8 are all dedicated to the heavyweights of the Venetian High Renaissance such as Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese, and Lotto. Although fit to embellish any art collection in the world, these works are mere “appetizers” to what awaits visitors in the huge room #10 one of whose walls is fully taken by a single canvas, called “Christ in the House of Levi” by Paolo Veronese.

Finally, on your way out, make sure to see Titian’s “Presentation of the Virgin” – a fitting farewell to the galaxy of great Venetian artists.

Why You Should Visit:
Large, spacious and clean – the rooms are well planned and the layout beautiful.

The entry charge to the gallery is reasonable or none at all if you happen to visit during a major local festival. However, if you buy a ticket, be aware that you can also use it for the recently renovated Palazzo Grimani, just a short walk away.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 8:15am-6:50pm (all year round); Tue, Thu: 7-10pm (Jun 4–Sep 26)
Santa Maria del Rosario

5) Santa Maria del Rosario

Záttere, a broad quay stretching along the Giudecca Canal, is one of Venice’s most popular promenades lined with numerous cafes, trattorias, and guest-houses. Back in the day, this was the place where most of the bulky cargoes coming into Venice were unloaded onto floating rafts, called záttere. Today, the quay is accessible either on foot or by vaporetto – Venetian public waterbus.

The first sight in the Záttere worth breaking a stride for is the Santa Maria del Rosario church, commonly known as Gesuati. Named so after the Jesuit order it was once part of, this church was later taken over by the Dominican order and rebuilt in the first half of the 18th century by Giorgio Massari, an architect who often worked with Giambattista Tiepolo. Ensued from their collaboration are the first altarpiece on the right and three ceiling panels depicting Scenes from the Life of St Dominic painted by Tiepolo, best viewed in the afternoon when they are particularly impressive. For visitors' convenience, there's a mirror on the floor allowing to study the figures, facial expressions, and clothing of the characters without having to crane one's neck. Visitors also take interest in the exploring of the tragically intense “Crucifixion” by Tintoretto, on the third altar, the oldest painting inside the church.

Further into the district there is another local landmark – Squero di San Trovaso, a small shipyard specialized in building and repairing gondolas. Operational since the 17th century, this is one of the few remaining workshops of this kind in Venice. Its main attraction, perhaps, is the small wooden house featuring a style unseen anywhere else in the city, typical of the Cadore region in the northern province of Belluno.

This is one of about 20 churches that can be visited by purchasing the Chorus Pass available at any of the churches or online. The churches on the Chorus Pass, like the Santa Maria del Rosario, often hold wonderful works of art in their original setting.
The five bells of Santa Maria del Rosario's bell tower play together on Saturday at 5pm and have an impressive evocative sound.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10:30am-4:30pm; (last admission: 4:20pm)
Cantinone Gia Schiavi

6) Cantinone Gia Schiavi

Cantinone Già Schiavi is both a bar and a wine store. It is a popular place where locals stop by for a quick meal and the price here is cheaper comparing to other places to eat in Venice. It offers a wide selection of cicchetti and their vegetables of mortadella served with tiny peperoncini and shredded leeks are the house specialties.
Campo San Barnaba

7) Campo San Barnaba

Campo San Barnaba is a square in Venice. The most famous sites on the square are the church with the same name and the bridge opposite to the church. You may recognize Church San Barnaba which appeared in the 1989 film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". A scene in that film was shot in the Campo San Barnaba in front of the church, with the church's façade as an imaginary library.

Church San Barnaba was built in the ninth century, but destroyed by fire in 1105. Rebuilt in 1350, it was reconstructed in its present form in 1776. The church is now deconsecrated and used for exhibitions.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Signor Blum

8) Signor Blum

Before leaving Venice, take a part of this marvelous town with you. It's possible with a wooden puzzle which depicts some of the typical buildings of Venice, like the Rialto Bridge, the Doge's Palace, one of the wonderful palaces you can see when riding a gondola-tour on the Grand Canal.

You can buy this in the shop called "Signor Blum". The owner is making (and painting) these puzzles by hand and each one of them is really unique. You even have the opportunity to buy a puzzle just made for you, showing a motive of the town you personally like most. The owner is creating his puzzles with very much care and attention and they can even be called art works.

The shop is situated between two of the most beautiful places in Venice: the "Campo San Barnaba" and the "Campo San Margherita". In the shop you can also find small and very nice wooden objects showing typical venetian impressions. The address is: Campo San Barnaba, Dorsoduro 2840. It's opened daily from 10 up to 19. The price range for a wooden puzzle is from 20 EU up to 70 EU. But you can also buy some smaller wooden objects (they are not puzzles) such as gondolas, typical venetian houses, fish or even frogs for about 8 EU.
Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice

9) Ca' Rezzonico – Museum of 18th-century Venice (must see)

Visiting Ca' Rezzonico offers a rare opportunity to see one of the most magnificent Grand Canal palaces. Meticulously renovated, the building houses a fascinating collection of 18th-century art, including Tiepolo and Tintoretto paintings, tapestries, porcelain, and period furnishings. In fact, the palace was acquired specifically to hold the collection and, as such, its contents are in perfect harmony with the outside appearance that is rarely seen anywhere else.

Upon entering, the first thing you see is the enormous Ballroom with chandeliers and ceiling paintings with a genuine 3D effect, followed by a range of other lavishly embellished rooms en route to the Throne Hall with the allegorical ceilings painted by Tiepolo. From the first floor balcony, you get a view of the Grand Canal similar to that the aristocratic residents of the palace had a privilege to enjoy back in the 18th century.

The low-ceiling 3rd and 4th floors house a Venetian art collection received from a private donator, dating back to the 15th century, but the main highlight there is the pharmacy – a sequence of wood-paneled rooms heavily stocked with glass bottles and ceramic jars. Complementing this is a tremendous view opening to the rooftops of Venice below.

Neither large nor small, and not too crowded either, this palace is a place to go after you have had your share of Venice's main highlights and have a taste for lavish living that the local high society afforded themselves back in the day. Advance tickets can be purchased from the official website.

The on-site audio guide is quite good, much as the bookshop and terraced cafe directly facing onto the Grand Canal. Further to that, there's a quiet little side garden free to walk in with some seats in the shade that you may want to use for a welcome break after long hours of walking in Venice.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed-Sun: 10:30am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 10:30am-4pm (Nov-Mar)
Last entry: 30mins before closing time; closed on Tuesdays
L'Angolo del Passato

10) L'Angolo del Passato

L'Angolo del Passato, located in Venetian district of Dorsoduro, specializes in antique and contemporary glassware. Here you can find a large collection of “goti de fornasa,” vases, and other glass souvenirs from the 1920s and 1930s.
Campo Santa Margherita

11) Campo Santa Margherita

If Piazza San Marco is a tourist center of Venice, then Campo Santa Margherita may well be regarded as the main gathering spot for locals and hip young crowd. Ringed by 14th-century buildings, this vast, elongated square is a social heart of the Dorsoduro district, many of whose inhabitants come here in the morning to stock up on vital provisions at a local farm and fish market. As such, this is a great place to see Venetians go about their daily lives. Due to its remoteness from the popular Rialto-San Marco route, you won't find many tourists around and the shops here cater mostly to the locals.

Students from the nearby university hang out at the numerous bars scattered in the vicinity, and the whole area has quite a bit of an alternative culture feel. There is also a high concentration of clubs frequented all year round. Especially at night, local restaurants offer good value for money, as compared to the more touristy spots, with plenty of Venetian Spritz being drunk at outdoor terraces.

Why You Should Visit:
Even if you do not intend to eat/drink here, take a detour to people-watch – fortunately, there are many benches for you to enjoy the scene.

Keep this place in mind for when you will need food late at night. One of the best eateries and watering holes around is Al Bocon DiVino, sitting on the corner of Calle de Magazen, serving small fish snacks, called “cicchetti,” plus a good choice of desserts and spritz in a relaxed atmosphere.
To the south are a bunch of lively bars offering music to various tastes and genres, not least of which is the Venice Jazz Club hosting live shows by the in-house quartet, as well as guest acts.

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