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.
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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
Author: naomi
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 parish of the Gesuati and is the most recent of the so-called plague-churches. In 1630–31 Venice was devastated by a plague that exterminated nearly 100,000 of the lagoon’s population – or roughly one of three people. As a votive offering for the city's deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Good Health (or of Deliverance; Italian: Salute). 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 the 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 (wherein the painter himself appears an an Apostle), along with allegorical ceiling paintings by Titian and a highly symbolic high altar where the Virgin and Child rescue Venice (depicted as a kneeling 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 – an admittedly very scenic one at that, since La Salute stands right at the mouth of the Grand Canal and visitors get great shots all around.

Do get tickets in advance to skip the long lines. Once inside, you will be treated to very special views of the adjoining plaza from the balcony and perhaps also a 30-minute organ recital after some services... so check the listing of events if you can – and enjoy!

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

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-12pm / 3-5:30pm
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 also happens to be 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, and still an enviably prime piece of real estate on the Grand Canal. In the tradition of her family, she was a lifelong patron of contemporary painters and sculptors. In the 1940s, Peggy founded the avant-garde Art of This Century Gallery in New York, impressing critics not only with the high quality of the artists she sponsored but also with her methods of displaying them.

As her private collection increased with more and more masterpieces from the Cubist, Futurist, Metaphysical, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist schools, she decided to find a larger showcase and selected Venice. Her husband, Max Ernst, was one of her early favorites, as was Jackson Pollock, for whom she provided a farmhouse where he could develop his technique. Displayed here are works not only by Pollock and Ernst but also by Picasso, Duchamp, Chagall, Mondrian, Brancusi, and Dalí, plus a garden of modern sculpture with works by Giacometti and Paolozzi surrounding Peggy’s resting place.

Since her death in 1979, the collection has been administered by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which also operates the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Visitors can wander through and enjoy top-quality 20th-century art in an informal and relaxed way, or even arrange for a 90-minute private tour to get a 'behind-the-scenes' scoop on all the art and Peggy's history. The well versed multilingual people found mostly throughout the property are bubbling with free information and are fascinating in their own right.

In the new wing are a museum shop and a cafe overlooking the sculpture garden that allows for breaking one's visit in order to reflect on what has been seen and heard.

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.

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

3) Palazzo Barbarigo (must see)

Originally built in the 16th century, Palazzo Barbarigo is distinguished by its mosaics of Murano glass applied in 1886. Owned at the time by the proprietors of one of the city's largest glass factories, it is said that they drew inspiration by the exterior mosaics on the facade of St Mark's Basilica to apply similar ones to their palace.

When the mosaic front was completed, it did not impress Palazzo Barbarigo’s more aristocratic neighbors at all. The then-new owners were accused of being the “nouveau riches” with a garish taste that was out of keeping with the genteel decay of the neighboring buildings. This was an 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 which added to their splendor.

On the central frieze, the mosaic scenes show 35 cherubs pursuing various artistic endeavors including painting, drawing, sculpture and architecture. The two individual murals commemorate 16th-century royal visits to Venice including Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne speaking to Titian on the scaffolding of St Mark's Basilica. The second mural shows the future French King Henry III in 1574 on the Doge's barge along with a team of glass-makers.

Portraits of arguably the two most famous Venetian painters – Titian and Tintoretto – are located above each scene. St Mark's lion – the symbol of Venice – tops one of the two individual portraits, while the back rooster – the symbol of Murano – crowns the other.

Today Palazzo Barbarigo stands as one of the more opulent palazzi on Venice's Grand Canal.
Gallerie dell'Accademia

4) Gallerie dell'Accademia (must see)

The pomp and glory that was Venice live on in the Accademia's remarkably extensive collection of paintings spanning from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The hallmark of the Venetian school is color and more color. From Giorgione to Veronese, from Titian to Tintoretto, with a Carpaccio cycle thrown in, the Accademia has some of the best work of its most famous sons.

Among the highlights, you will first see works by such 14th-century artists as Paolo and Lorenzo Veneziano, who bridged the gap from Byzantine art to Gothic. Next comes Giovanni Bellini’s “Madonna and Saint” and Carpaccio’s fascinating yet gruesome work of mass crucifixion. The Madonnas and bambini of Giovanni Bellini, an expert in color blending, are the focus of another room, while Giorgione’s “Tempest”, displayed nearby, is the single most famous painting at the galleries, depicting a baby suckling from the breast of its mother, while a man with a staff looks on. The tempest seems to be in the background, far away from the foreground figures, who are unaware of the approaching danger.

Rooms 6 to 8 mark the entry of Tintoretto, Titian, Veronese and Lotto, the heavyweights of the Venetian High Renaissance. These works would be the prize of many other collections, but here they are just appetizers for what’s to come in the huge room 10, one whole wall of which is needed for “Christ in the House of Levi” by Paolo Veronese.

In room 11 a major shift into the 18th century occurs, with pieces by Giambattista Tiepolo, but also Giambattista Piazzetta’s extraordinary “The Fortune-Teller”, as well as Guardi’s impressionistic views of Venice, and a series of portraits by Rosalba Carriera, one of the very few women shown in the collection.

Also displayed is the cycle of narrative paintings that Vittore Carpaccio did of St. Ursula, especially fascinating to the modern viewer as a meticulous record of domestic architecture, costume and the decorative arts in Venice at the close of the 15th century. Finally, on the way out, look for Titian’s wonderful “Presentation of the Virgin” – a fitting farewell to this galaxy of great Venetian art.

Why You Should Visit:
Vast amount of early masterpieces! The collection is the best in town for Venetian art from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
Beautiful, large, spacious and clean – the rooms are well planned and the layout beautiful.

The charge for entry is reasonable, however it is free for some of the major festivals happening in Venice.
If you do buy a ticket, hold on to it as it also allows access to the recently renovated Palazzo Grimani located a short distance away.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 8:15am-2pm; Tue-Sun: 8:15am-7:15pm
Santa Maria del Rosario

5) Santa Maria del Rosario (must see)

The Záttere, a broad quay running along the Giudecca Canal, is one of Venice’s most intriguing promenades, with cafes, trattorie, and pensioni abounding in the area. It was formerly the place where most of the bulky goods coming into Venice were unloaded onto floating rafts called záttere; nowadays the quay is accessible either on foot or by a ride on vaporettos.

The first building to break your stride for in the Záttere is the church of the Gesuati, also known as Santa Maria del Rosario. Rebuilt in the first half of the 18th century, after it was taken over from the order of the Gesuati by the Dominicans, this was the first church designed by Giorgio Massari, an architect who often worked with Giambattista Tiepolo. It should come as no surprise, then, that Tiepolo painted the first altarpiece on the right and the three exquisite ceiling panels of "Scenes from the Life of St Dominic", which are seen to best effect in the afternoon. There is a lot of interesting detail to look at – from outstretched arms and legs and body positions, to facial expressions, to clothing details – and a floor mirror is available to view these. Visitors can also gaze at a tragically intense "Crucifixion" by Tintoretto on the third altar, which is the oldest painting inside the church, and "The Martyrdom of St Laurence", another masterpiece by Titian.

Farther into the district is one of Venice’s more fascinating elements, Squero di San Trovaso, a small 17th-century shipyard where passersby can watch workers construct and repair gondolas in their open workshop. One of the few still in existence in Venice today, this workshop includes a small wooden house typical of the Cadore area in Belluno, not seen anywhere else in the city.

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; Sunday & holidays: 10am-6:30pm
Cantinone Già Schiavi

6) Cantinone Già 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 grants a rare opportunity to see one of the most magnificent Grand Canal palaces. Most of its interior was carefully and meticulously renovated and is filled with a fascinating collection of 18th-century paintings and decorative art, including works by Tiepolo, Tintoretto and Canaletto in addition to tapestries, porcelain, and period furnishings. This 17th- and 18th-century palace was bought in 1934 specifically to display objects designed for great palaces; thus, the contents and the container harmonize in a way not experienced elsewhere.

First, you enter the enormous Ballroom with chandeliers and paintings on the ceiling that have a genuine 3D effect, then proceeding through lavishly embellished rooms with brocaded walls, tapestries, gilded furnishings, and touches of chinoiserie. Eventually, you come to the Throne Room, with its allegorical ceilings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

On the first floor, you can walk out onto a balcony for a view of the Grand Canal as the aristocratic tenants of the 18th century saw it. Another group of salons follows, including the library with some curious drawings to marvel at. Some of the artwork in the rooms may come as downright bizarre; one, for example, depicts half-clothed women beating up a defenseless naked man, while in a different painting, another woman is hammering a spike through a man’s skull.

The low-ceiling rooms of the 3rd and 4th floors house a private donation of Venetian art from the 15th century onward, but the main point of clambering upstairs is to see the pharmacy, a sequence of wood-paneled rooms heavily stocked with glass bottles and ceramic jars. Plus, of course, there is a tremendous view across the rooftops to enjoy.

Not too large or too small, and not too crowded either, this palace is the place to go to after you've hit the main Venice highlights, especially if wanting to get a taste of how the city's lords lived back in the day. The audio guide is good, and you would be able to make use of the on-site bookshop, as well as the café with a terrace directly facing onto the Grand Canal. Moreover, the quiet little side garden is free to access and has some shade with seats for a welcome break from walking Venice.

Advance tickets can be purchased from Ca' Rezzonico's website.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm (Apr-Oct); 10am-5pm (Nov-Mar)
Closed on Tuesdays, December 25th, January 1st
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 (must see)

Located right in the center of Dorso Duro district, Campo Santa Margherita is one of the liveliest corners of Venice. It has a high concentration of clubs that are frequented both in winter and in summertime thanks to the tables placed outside the bars, pubs, restaurants, and pizzerias. You can still see Venetians minding their daily lives, as well as watch the children playing in the afternoon and on Sundays.

Santa Margherita is one of the larger open places in Venice after St. Mark's Square and Campo San Polo. This square is celebrated for its nightlife, with plenty of 'spritz' (a local drink) being consumed during happy hour and beyond. For this reason, along with Campo San Giacometto at Rialto, it is the favorite place in Venice for young people, but also for many tourists that appreciate its friendly atmosphere.

Why You Should Visit:
If Piazza San Marco is the tourists center of Venice, then Campo Santa Margherita may be the local's center!
Due to it being away from the popular Rialto-San Marco route, you won't find many tourists and many shops here are catered for locals.
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'll need food late at night.

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