Titian's Paintings Walk (Self Guided), Venice

One of the greatest painters of all time, Tiziano Vecelli – better known as Titian – was a pioneering figure of the Venetian school of Italian Renaissance painting. His career was successful from the start, and he became sought after by patrons, initially from Venice and its possessions, then joined by the north Italian princes, and finally the Habsburgs and papacy.

Equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects, his methods – particularly in the application and use of colour – exercised a profound influence not only on painters of the late Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art. This self-guided walking tour will guide you through the most important places that have benefited from Titian’s amazing skills.

Because of a devastating fire in the late 16th century, the Doge’s Palace had to be reconstructed – fortunately during the peak of both Venetian wealth and its talents. The result was a massive collaboration among stars like Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and Tiepolo, who filled every room with paintings and sculptures – some of which are so beautiful that each of them could easily be a headliner piece in any major art museum!

Another veritable treasure-chest of exceptional works of art, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari houses perhaps the most famous masterpiece of Titian's early maturity, “Assumption of the Virgin” (1516-18), as well as the painter's tomb. What’s not to be forgotten is also “Pesaro Madonna” (1526), which some critics thought to be the artist’s best work in Venice.

Other precious works by Titian can be admired in the Gallerie dell'Accademia (“Presentation of the Virgin”), the Santa Maria della Salute (“St. Mark Enthroned”, the altarpiece of the sacristy, as well as ceiling paintings of David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac and Cain and Abel), and the San Giovanni Elemosinario (“St. John the Almsgiver”).

Take our self-guided walk to admire Titian’s artistic mastership in Venice as well as the beautiful church where he was laid to rest.

Getting to Sight #1. The first tour stop (Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)) is on San Marco Square or can be reached by: Alilaguna Water Taxi: Blue (B), Rosa (R); Water Bus: 1, 2, 4.1, 10, 7, 4.2, 5.2, 2, 20 + N (Night line).
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Titian's Paintings Walk Map

Guide Name: Titian's Paintings Walk
Guide Location: Italy » Venice (See other walking tours in Venice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: naomi
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)
  • Chiesa San Giovanni Elemosinario
  • Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
  • Gallerie dell'Accademia
  • Santa Maria della Salute
1
Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace)

1) Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) (must see)

Built on the foundations of a 9th-century fortress, this palace is unquestionably the finest secular European building of its time which, in the course of centuries, had served many purposes, including Doge residence, seat of the Venetian government, court of law, civil office, and even a prison.

First built in the 14th century, much of the original palace was destroyed by fire in the 16th century reducing to ashes most of the art treasures held inside. Some of the greatest Venetian masters of the time, such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian, Bellini, and Tiepolo, contributed to restoring the palace to its former glory, recreating gilded stucco, sculptures, frescoes, and canvases.

A blend of Byzantine and Gothic architecture on the outside, inside the palace is all Classical which, in turn, led the art critic John Ruskin to declare it “the central building of the world”.

The interior of the palace – spectacular furnishings and paintings, marvelously adorned ceilings – reveals lavishness on the scale that is hard to match. The most outstanding is the Grand Council chamber, featuring Tintoretto’s “Paradise”, reportedly the world’s largest oil painting. Running up to it, in terms of grandeur, is the Sala dello Scrutinio or the “Voting Hall” embellished with paintings depicting Venice’s glorious past.

A stark contrast to this splendor are the cell-blocks on the opposite side of the canal – grim remnants of the horror of the medieval justice – linked to the outside world by the Bridge of Sighs by which the prisoners were led to their cells. The word “sighs” refers to the laments of the numerous victims forced across the bridge to face certain torture and possibly death at the hands of the state inquisitors appointed by the city.

To get the most of your time at Palazzo Ducale, use the infrared audio guide available at the entrance and hear a fascinating story of the 1,000-year-old maritime republic of Venice and the intricacies of the government that once ruled it.

***CASANOVA TOUR***

On the night of 25 July 1755, aged 30, Casanova was arrested for affront to religion and common decency and was sentenced to five years imprisonment without having had a trial. He was taken to the Doge's Palace and put in a cell under its roof, which was covered with lead plates. In summer, the lead roof absorbed the heat and turned the place into an oven, but prisoners also suffered greatly from the "millions of fleas".

Casanova's physical distance from the opulence of Venice and the center of government was negligible, the psychological distance immeasurable. Eventually, after 15 months of torment and despair, he managed to escape by making a hole in the ceiling and descending his way to freedom with bed sheet ropes. The only person ever to escape from the prison of Doge's Palace, he first sought refuge in Munich, then Strasbourg, and completed the final leg of his journey by coach to Paris, where he would start a new life.

Tip:
Book in advance for the guided "Secret Itinerary" tour that takes you into otherwise restricted quarters and hidden passageways, such as the Doge’s private chambers, the torture chambers where prisoners were interrogated, and the two cells that Casanova occupied.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am–7pm, last admission 6pm (Apr-Oct); 8:30am–5:30pm, last admission 4:30pm (Nov-Mar)
2
Chiesa San Giovanni Elemosinario

2) Chiesa San Giovanni Elemosinario

Founded in 1071 and then rebuilt in the 16th century by Antonio Scarpagnino after a fire that destroyed most of the Rialto market area, this small church is one of the most interesting examples of Renaissance architecture. Its altarpiece is made by Titian, depicting San Giovanni Elemosinario (or St John the Almsgiver, the 7th-century Patriarch of Alexandria), while one of the side chapels has a harmonius altarpiece by Il Pordenone, Titian's great rival, depicting an athletic and monumental San Sebastiano, (splendid in his almost nakedness), a florid and absorbed Santa Caterina with eyes to the sky, and a spontaneous San Rocco, showing a healthy leg that got healed from the bubonic plague. Meanwhile, in the left aisle, there is a fragment of a bas-relief dating from the Middle Ages, representing the Night of the Birth of Christ.
3
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

3) Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (must see)

After Basilica di San Marco, this is probably the second most notable church worth visiting in Venice. Located slightly off the beaten path in a charming area with a great deal of character, the Frari church is rarely, if ever, assailed by visitors. Though the building itself is quite extraordinary and is a true monument to the Venetian history and art combined.

Founded by the Franciscan order in the late 13th century, this gargantuan edifice is one of Venice’s largest, and its brick bell tower is the 2nd tallest after the San Marco's. It is also one of the three Venetian churches to retain Gothic appearance – rather plain on the outside, including the facade. Contrary to its misleadingly dull “mountain of brick” type of exterior, the interior is quite astounding.

Few buildings in Venice can boast multiple first-rate works by Titian, especially the likes of the “Assumption” painting, unprecedented at the time, soaring over the high altar. Another Titian's masterpiece here is “Madonna di Ca' Pésaro” – equally innovative in the displacement of the figure of the Virgin Mary from the center of the picture.

Alongside these and other paintings by Vivarini and Bellini, the church is also home to the wooden statue of St John the Baptist by Donatello, the beautiful 15th-century choir, and the wealth of extravagant tombs. On the right-hand side of the nave stands a 19th-century monument to Titian, marking his grave. The artist died in 1576, aged nearly 90, from a plague. Such high was his esteem, that Titian was the only plague victim to be allowed a church burial during the outbreak. On the opposite side, there's a marble pyramid – mausoleum of sculptor Antonio Canova erected by his students, and a rather controversial, if not say grotesque, tomb of Doge Giovanni Pésaro – the monumental composition supported by gigantic Moors and featuring, among other figures, some decomposing bodies.

To learn more about these and other artworks within the church, feel free to grab a guidebook or a free pamphlet by the ticket office as an aid.

Tip:
Pay cash – no credit cards accepted.
Modest dress code required (covers provided).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun/Holidays: 1-6pm
Visiting hours may vary according to liturgical celebrations, concerts and events.
4
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.

Tip:
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)
5
Santa Maria della Salute

5) 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!

Tip:
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

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