One of my favorite sestieri (neighborhoods) in Venice is its backbone – the beautiful
Dorsoduro. From here you can not only get perfect views of San Marco across the Grand Canal, but you can also wander through its picturesque calle and rios (little streets and mini canals) without being stuck in a crush of tourists, and there is so much to see and do!
To me this is Venice’s most gorgeous neighborhood, resplendent with historic buildings, amazing churches, picturesque little squares and canals. Walking around in the Dorsoduro you get the concept of what Venice is
really all about. It is just the most wonderful experience, so incredibly beautiful, and compared to the manic tourist explosion surrounding Piazza San Marco just across the grand Canal, it even feels quite peaceful.
There are major art attractions such as the Galleria dell’ Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and plenty of beautiful churches to visit. In fcat one of Venice’s most iconographic churches, the huge, white Santa Maria della Salute is in Dorsoduro, looking across the Grand Canal to San Marco and the Doge’s palace.
On the other side the wide, restaurant filled fondamenta of the Zattere stretches the length of Dorsoduro. It has endless options for lovely places to sit along the waterfront enjoying an apertivo with a view of the Giudecca island and the canal in between. And unlike San Marco it is calm, peaceful and doesn’t have crowds.
One of my favorite museum palaces on the Dorsoduro is the majestic Ca’ Rezzonico.
This luxurious palazzo built in 1667 for the Bon family is now a “house museum”.
When the Bon family ran out of money the palazzo was bought by the newly rich banking family, the Rezzonicos. At that time the building was two separate homes, both in complete disrepair. The Rezzonicos bankrolled a glorious restoration that included Tiepolo frescoes and Flemish tapestries, gilt and pilasters and a level of opulence that is hard to wrap your mind around!
This mind bendingly ostentatious palazzo is not only a museum, it gives you a peek into the lavish life of upper class 18th century Venice.
Restored again in the 1990’s Ca’ Rezzonico is known as “the museum of 18th century Venice”,
famous for it’s interior decor. From the ground floor the graceful staircase sweeps you up to the piano nobile with its huge ballroom, so ornate it quite literally stops you in your tracks.
The chandeliers! The ceilings! During the never ending cycles of parties and mad displays of wealth in 18th century Venice, this was the ultimate party room, the place you absoltuely wanted to both be invited and be seen. Standing in this incredible ballroom you begin to understand the vastness of the wealth and power that was centered in Venice for centuries. And it is just overwhelming.
Meandering through the staterooms you have to remind yourself that this wasn’t a royal palace, it was a private
home. The opulence doesn’t stop there – two more floors hold artworks including Tiepolos and the only Canaletto’s in Venice.
Before you leave make sure you visit the lovely courtyard garden.
A Campo (Piazza) You Musn’t Miss
Another must see in the Dorsoduro is Campo Santa Margherita.
This is the neighborhood’s main square, and may be the liveliest in Venice. By day it is busy with shoppers, locals, families, the daily market, interesting shops, bars and restaurants. It is a lovely place to sit on tree shaded benches and watch local life taking place. By night this is the social center of the city. While most of Venice goes quiet, Campo Santa Margherita is where the nightlife happens, populated with students from the nearby university, and all the bright young things from every part of the city. The bars and restaurants are fun, and it is most definitely a great night out.
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