Category: Insight Venice Sotheby's Realty (45)

For hundreds of years, Venice has been a popular destination for music lovers; between the early 16th century and the close of the 18th century in particular, the city was world-renowned for its exhilarating operas, extravagant masquerade balls, sublime church choirs and master composers such as Antonio Vivaldi and Claudio Monteverdi. As one Frenchman of the 17th century remarked, “in every home, someone is playing a musical instrument or singing.  There is music everywhere.”

Today, Venice is still very much alive with the sound of music, thanks to the many palaces, churches and theatres that stage regular concerts and performances by home-grown talent as well as top international artists.  We’ve picked out a few of our favourite concert venues around town:

Palazzetto Bru Zane: Built in the 17th century as a pleasure palace for the wealthy Zane family, this architectural gem now houses Venice’s prestigious Centre for French Romantic Music, which organises an annual progamme of concerts dedicated to the musical heritage of 19th century France.  Performances are staged in the intimate first-floor ballroom, richly decorated with enchanting frescoes by Baroque painter Sebastiano Ricci, as well as stucco-work by celebrated craftsman Abbondio Stazio.

Auditorium “Lo Squero”: Situated on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore within the complex of the Giorgio Cini Foundation, this stunning concert hall is one Venice’s best-kept secrets.  Converted from an old boat workshop in 2016, the auditorium now hosts a first-rate programme of concerts by musicians from the Quartetto di Venezia, who perform in front of a vast plate-glass window offering eye-wateringly beautiful views over the Venetian lagoon.

Teatro La Fenice: Described by the great opera singer Luciano Pavarotti as “a jewel and architecturally the most beautiful theatre in Italy”, La Fenice is undoubtedly one of the most iconic music venues on the planet.  Named after the mythical Phoenix, it has coincidentally risen not once but twice from the ashes – having burnt down in 1836 and again in 1996 – before finally reopening in 2003 after a painstaking €90 million restoration project.  As well as opera and ballet, the theatre stages a programme of concerts by the celebrated Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, along with other premier orchestras from around the globe.

Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello: Just off Campo Santo Stefano, in an imposing 17th century palazzo once owned by the powerful Pisani dynasty, sits Venice’s highly respected music conservatory. Attended by 570 students from Italy and around the world, the conservatory also houses a library of around 50,000 musical manuscripts, as well as an important collection of early musical instruments – on view to the public in the palace museum.  Keep an eye on the website for news of performances by award-winning students and visiting musicians, staged within the conservatory’s grand frescoed concert hall.

St George’s Anglican Church: Located on Campo San Vio in a building that was once a warehouse for the Venezia-Murano Glass and Mosaic Company, St George’s now serves as Venice’s only Anglican Church, with weekly services held every Sunday at 10.30am.  In addition, the church also hosts regular evening concerts of Baroque music organized by “Venice Music Project”, featuring performances on original instruments by resident orchestra Venetia Antiqua, as well as renowned international ensembles and guest soloists. A percentage of all ticket sales goes towards the church’s ongoing restoration.

Whilst staying in Venice this Spring, why not consider planning a day-trip to the beautiful city of Vicenza, where you’ll currently find Italy’s largest ever exhibition dedicated to Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), titled “Van Gogh. Between Wheat and Sky”.

Just a short 45-minute train-ride from Venice, this monumental show is staged within the vast Renaissance basilica designed by Andrea Palladio for Vicenza’s Piazza dei Signori.

Bringing together 40 paintings and 85 drawings by the celebrated Dutch artist, the exhibition guides visitors on a chronological itinerary through van Gogh’s career, retracing his remarkable artistic evolution in the years leading up to his tragic death in 1890, aged just 37.

The show begins with five rooms dedicated to Van Gogh’s so-called “Dutch years”, featuring a large series of early works including sombre still lifes and landscapes depicting the suffering and despair of peasant labourers toiling in the fields of Belgium and the Netherlands.  By dramatic contrast, the exhibition then continues with a series of galleries dedicated to the artist’s later French period, when – inspired by the warmth and golden hues of the landscape around Arles and Saint-Rémy – his works became enlivened with energetic brushstrokes and dazzling, vivid colours.

Alongside the many artworks on view, the exhibition also presents a number of Van Gogh’s highly personal and passionate letters to his beloved brother Theo, as well as archive photographs and works by other contemporary artists who influenced Van Gogh’s artistic development.  Additionally, the show features an intriguing 20-square-metre reconstruction of the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole infirmary where Van Gogh was treated for insanity between 1889 to 1890 – a period when he produced some of his most powerful and poignant works.   Finally, the exhibition concludes with a revealing new film – commissioned especially for the current show – that offers a fascinating overview of Van Gogh’s extraordinary life and legacy.

Van Gogh. Between Wheat and Sky” is on view at Basilica Palladiana, Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza until 8th April 2018.

This month we’re celebrating the life of the great Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, who died on 6th February in 1793, and whose works include some of Italy’s best-loved plays – such as Servant of Two Masters, which was recently adapted for the National Theatre as One Man, Two Guvnors.

Over the course of his long career, Goldoni dramatically reformed Italian theatre, moving it away from the clichés of the Commedia dell’arte tradition and turning it into a medium for sharp political observation and light-hearted social subversion of everyday life.  His plays are still performed around the world today, and there’s plenty of material to choose from; in one year alone he wrote sixteen three-act comedies, and between 1734 to 1776, he wrote 250 plays.  Here are a few spots in town to pay homage to his remarkable output and legacy:

Statue of Carlo Goldoni, Campo San Bartolomeo
Carlo Goldoni’s House, Campo San Tomà

Carlo Goldoni’s House: Situated near Campo San Tomà, this beautiful Gothic palazzo was home to the Goldoni family around the turn of the 18th century, and it was here that Goldoni was born on 25th February 1707. Today the palazzo houses a charming museum dedicated to Goldoni’s life, with highlights including a collection of first editions of his plays, a display of eighteenth century marionettes and a delightful miniature puppet theatre.

Goldoni Theatre: Founded in 1622 and rebuilt in the 1720s, the Goldoni Theatre is the oldest extant theatre in Venice.  Originally named Teatro Vendramin or Teatro San Luca, it was renamed Teatro Goldoni in 1875 in honour of the famous playright who worked there for a number of years under the patronage of the Vendramin family.  The theatre remained in the hands of Vendramin descendants until 1957, when it was dispossessed having fallen into disrepair during WW2. After a lengthy restoration, it reopened in 1979 with a performance of Goldoni’s La Locandiera, and it continues to host first-rate productions of plays, concerts, ballets and other events organized by the Teatro Stabile del Veneto “Carlo Goldoni.”  Keep an eye on the website for the upcoming programme.

Statue of Carlo Goldoni, Campo San Bartolomeo: In the centre of Campo San Bartolomeo, just a stone’s throw from the Rialto Bridge, you’ll find a splendid bronze statue of Goldoni himself, created in 1883 by the sculptor A. Dal Zotto.  Once you’ve admired his jovial swagger, head to Piazza San Marco and lose yourself in the Carnival crowds – many of whose costumes hark back to the era of Goldoni’s Venice.

gallery, Grand Canal, Ca Rezzonico, Dorsoduro, Venice, Italy
Exterior of Ca'Rezzonico
Interior view of the domed roof of the Salute church

The domed basilica of Santa Maria della Salute at the mouth of the Grand Canal is one of Venice’s most instantly recognisable buildings; commissioned to celebrate the end of a disastrous plague in 1631, it has since been immortalized on canvas by hundreds of artists from Canaletto to Monet, and continues to be captured on camera thousands of times each day.

The man behind its monumental design was Venetian-born Baldassare Longhena (1598-1682), a pioneering architect who was largely responsible for introducing Venice to the architecture of the Baroque era – a theatrical style characterized by bold explorations of form, light and shadow, gigantic proportions, and dramatic intensity.

Santa Maria della Salute is without doubt Longhena’s most celebrated masterpiece – but when you’re next in Venice, keep an eye out for some of his other architectural gems that can be found in numerous locations around the city:

Ca’ Rezzonico: Situated on the Grand Canal near Rio di San Barnaba, this imposing three-storey palace was originally owned by the Bon family, one of Venice’s patrician dynasties.  During the 19th century it was lived in by various famous residents including artist John Singer Sargent and poet Robert Browing (who died there in 1889), and in the 1920s it was occupied by songwriter Cole Porter, who employed a troupe of 50 gondoliers as footmen.  Today it houses the excellent Museum of 18th Century Venice.

Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore – Grand Staircase: For a glimpse of one of Longhena’s most innovative designs, book a guided tour of the Cini Foundation – a cultural institution housed in an historic monastery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.  Once inside the heavy gates, you’ll be led to Longhena’s ‘Grand Staircase’ (1643-45), where two parallel flights of stairs meet at a common landing – a highly influential design that was quickly copied throughout the grand palaces of Europe.  Elsewhere in the complex you’ll also find Longhena’s monastic library, as well as many other artistic and architectural treasures.

Church of the Ospedale dei Derelitti: Located near the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, this monumental marble-clad church was designed as part of a complex that offered shelter and support to the sick, poor and disabled.  Its fanciful façade, complete with grotesque masks and stone giants, was commissioned from Longhena during the last decades of the sixteenth century, by which time the complex had become wealthy thanks to bequests and donations.  During this period, the church also became renowned for its choir of orphan girls, who lured audiences from all over Europe.  Concerts are still occasionally held within the building, so keep an ear open for news of upcoming events.

January’s the perfect time to start making travel plans for the year ahead, so why not beat those winter blues and book your next trip to Venice?  If you’re wondering when to visit, consider coinciding your stay with one of the exciting art and design events that are set to take place over the course of the year.  To inspire you, here are five top picks:

Venice Architecture Biennale (26 May – 25 November): One of the most prestigious events in the international cultural calendar calendar, the Venice Architecture Biennale presents a vast array of thought-provoking exhibitions by the world’s most imaginative and innovative architects and designers.  The majority of the action takes place in the main Biennale grounds at the Giardini and Arsenale, but be sure to look out for the series of ‘collateral events’ staged around the city in some of Venice’s most intriguing buildings, many of which are normally closed to the public.

Tintoretto 500 (7 September – 6 January): To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the great Venetian painter Jacopo Tintoretto (1519-1594), Venice is staging a number of special events dedicated to his remarkable artistic output and legacy.  Highlights will include “Tintoretto: The Artist of Venice at 500” at the Palazzo Ducale, including around 70 of his masterpieces, and “Tintoretto Giovane” at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, focusing on his work as a young artist.  “Art, Faith and Medicine in Tintoretto’s Venice” at the Scuola Grande di San Marco will illustrate the connections between art, medicine and devotional belief.

The Venice Glass Week (9-16 September): Following its successful first edition in 2017, The Venice Glass Week is set to return this year, featuring a rich programme of exhibitions, lectures, guided tours, demonstrations, hands-on workshops and other events dedicated to the ancient art of glassmaking.  Taking place in museums, galleries, churches, palaces, shops and glass furnaces around Venice and Murano, the festival is a must-visit for glass experts, collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Homo Faber: Crafting a more human future (4-30 September): Created by a team of world-class designers, curators and architects, Homo Faber will be a major exhibition dedicated to fine European Craftsmanship, bringing together a vast range of materials and disciplines, from jewellery to embroidery, mosaics, marquetry, transport design and more.  Stretching over c.4000 square metres, the show will be the largest ever held at the magnificent Giorgio Cini Foundation, offering the opportunity to explore a range of spaces not usually open to visitors, including the foundation’s historic libraries, cloisters and even its swimming pool.


Venice Design Week (6-14 October): Spread across cultural institutions, galleries, shops and artist studios around the city, VDW presents a dynamic mix of installations, workshops and special events featuring work by local and international designers and design companies.  As well as visiting exhibitions of contemporary design, visitors can explore the hidden sides of Venice and discover how historic objects were designed and decorated – “a thrilling combination of exploring visions of the future and diving into the past”.

If you’re lucky enough to be celebrating Christmas in Venice this year, why not consider joining the legions of Venetians that head to Basilica San Marco on Christmas Eve for the special service of Midnight Mass?

Starting at 11.30pm, the service takes place in the presence of the Patriarch of Venice, and is by far one of the most popular services of the yearly calendar – so be sure to arrive early to secure a seat.  Warm dress is essential too; with the towering doors open onto the Piazza, the air is icy – but it’s worth braving the cold for this extraordinary experience.

At night, the gold-lined basilica feels like a glittering treasure chest, as thousands of flickering candles reflect off the ancient golden mosaics covering its soaring domes – an effect that was originally intended to conjure up visions of the heavens.

With incense swirling, angelic music from the chapel choir, and solemn rows of crimson-robed figures processing through the congregation with gold crucifixes held aloft, the atmosphere is truly timeless.  And as you file out of the basilica into the moonlit square, sharing in the common spirit of goodwill, you’re bound to agree it’s a pretty magical way to kick off your Christmas celebrations.

chocolate, model, St Marks Basilica, VirzioVirtu, Venice, Italy
Edible St Mark's Basilica made of chocolate at VirzioVirtu, Venice, Italy

At this time of year, Venice is a paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth, as the shops, bars and bakeries are piled high with seasonal treats.  Here are just a few of our recommended places for a spot of Christmas indulgence:

I Tre Mercanti, Campo de la Guerra, 4364: This smart boutique offers gourmet products from all over Italy, ranging from multi-coloured macarons and festive pan d’oro to crunchy cantucci and sweet Marsala wine.  Their main speciality, however, is the house tiramisu – which along with the traditional recipe, is also available in 25 experimental fusion flavours including the new “Spritzamisu”, combining tiramisu with prosecco and aperol (“three culinary excellences of the Veneto region united in a creative, shockingly good and well-balanced dessert”)

VirzioVirtu, Calle Forneri, 30122: Situated near the Rialto, VizioVirtu is a chocolate-lovers’s heaven – complete with an open kitchen at the back of the shop where you can watch Master Chocolatiers at work throughout the day, producing a seemingly endless stream of tantalizing chocolate delights.  Whether you’re in the mood for chocolate-covered candied fruits, cocoa-dusted pralines, melt-in-the-mouth truffles or a metre-high chocolate recreation of St Mark’s Basilica, VizioVirtu is sure to satisfy your cocoa cravings.

Rizzardini, Campielo dei Meloni, San Polo 1415: Established over 200 years ago in 1742, this delightful pasticceria is one of our favourite places for a winter pick-me-up.  During Carnival, their legendary fritelle (fried doughnuts) are viewed by many locals as the best in town, but at Christmas, we love popping in for one of their seasonal specials such as the feather-light panettoncini (baby panettone) or baci in gondola (chocolate-filled meringues – the perfect accompaniment to a warming hot chocolate or coffee at the bar.

cake, sweets, Panettoncini, Rizzardini, San Polo, Venice, Italy
Panettoncini at Rizzardini
chocolate, candied fruirs, VirzioVirtu, Venice. Italy
Chocolate-covered Candied Fruits at VirzioVirtu, Venice, Italy
The Christmas Market at Campo Santa Stefano

If you’re planning to be in Venice this month, be sure to seek out some of the charming Christmas markets that have popped up over the last few weeks in various locations around the city.

Palazzo Zenobio: Set within the sumptuously decorated Baroque rooms of Palazzo Zenobio, this indoor Christmas fair features high-end stalls run by artisans, jewelers and artists from the Veneto region – making it the perfect place to find last-minute presents and stocking fillers.  It’s also an ideal destination for anyone with kids, as there are regular child-friendly events including mask-making workshops and performances from Il Balletto di Castefranco Veneto, as well as regular appearances from Father Christmas.

Campo Santo Stefano: This vibrant campo is one of our favourite squares in Venice at any time of year – but during December it has an extra-special appeal thanks to the Christmas market that takes up residence, selling a wide spectrum of items ranging from Sicilian pastries and Tuscan salami to hand painted silk scarves and Christmas tree ornaments from Murano.

Campo San Polo: For a really festive experience, make your way to Campo San Polo, where a temporary ice-rink has been installed in the middle of the square.  Join the other skaters gliding around to the sounds of a cheery Christmas soundtrack, before warming up with an indulgent hot chocolate or coffee from one of the nearby food huts.

Campo San Vidal: Throughout December the canals and alleys of Dorsoduro are strung with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights, making it a magical place for an evening stroll.  Head to Campo San Vio, where you’ll find a Christmas Food Village complete with cosy wooden chalets serving mulled wine, cookies and other tempting treats.

The Indoor Christmas Market at Palazzo Zenobio
Christmas Lights

Today we’re heading off on a pilgrimage around some of the architectural masterpieces designed by Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).  Regarded by many as the greatest architect of western civilization, Palladio began his career as a stonemason’s apprentice in Padova, before settling in Vicenza, where he resided for most of his life.  His distinctive Classical style of architecture, with its harmonious proportions and bright illumination, has had a profound influence on numerous later architects all over the world.  Here’s where to find some of his finest Venetian designs:

Chiesa del Redentore: Situated on the Giudecca waterfront, the monumental Franciscan church of the Redeemer (Redentore) was built in thanksgiving for the deliverance of Venice from a devastating plague in 1575-7, which killed around 46,000 people (25-30% of the population).  Following the end of the plague, the doge vowed to visit the church annually across a bridge of boats which united the Zattere with the Giudecca – a tradition which continues to this day, during the yearly Festa della Redentore in late July.

Chiesa delle Zitelle: Also located on the Giudecca island, the Zitelle church was designed by Palladio around 1570, but was built after his death between 1582-6. Originally part of a complex that offered shelter to young women without dowries, it follows a typically Palladian formula – brightly lit by natural light from a high dome, and based on a central plan.  Today the complex is home to the Bauer Palladio hotel, as well as the beautiful Villa F.

Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore: One of the most iconic buildings in Venice, this majestic basilica sits on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, overlooking the lagoon and providing a magnificent entrance to the city.  Built between 1560 and 1580, it combines the mathematical proportions and clean architectural lines of a classical temple with the sanctity of a Christian church.  Inside, you’ll find a wealth of artistic treasures including two late works by Tintoretto – as well as the entrance to the bell tower, which offers one of the finest views over Venice.

Chiesa delle Zitelle
Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore (or Il Redentore)

Next time you come to Venice, why not consider extending your trip by a few days, and using it as a base to explore some of the other beautiful towns and villages that lie within easy reach of the lagoon city?  One of our favourite day-trip destinations – just over an hour by train from Venice – is the enchanting town of Bassano del Grappa, which lies on the river Brenta in the foothills of the Alps.

Here are some of our top places to visit:

Ponte degli Alpini: Originally designed by Andrea Palladio in 1569, this iconic covered bridge takes its current name from the Alpine soldiers (“Alpini”) who rebuilt it after destruction during the second world war.  Made from wood to cope with the torrential waters that come rushing down from nearby snow-capped mountains, it offers picturesque views over the historic city, and the mighty Monte Grappa beyond.

Poli Museo del Grappa: For some real Christmas ‘spirit’, head to the Museo del Grappa –where you’ll discover all there is to know about the famous fiery-after dinner drink that originated in the town.  The interactive museum experience also includes tastings, as well as the chance to tour the Poli distillery – one of the town’s most esteemed grappa producers.

Museo Civico di Bassano del Grappa: Beautifully located in the cloisters of the Convento di Francesco, the town’s principal museum boasts an extensive collection of more than 500 paintings, including many fine views of Venice, and masterpieces by local artist Jacopo Bassano such as the 1545 Christmas scene depicting the Flight into Egypt.   

Christmas Market: Before heading back to Venice, be sure to visit the charming Christmas market in Piazza Libertà, where you’ll find wooden chalets selling regional culinary specialities, traditional local products, bottles of grappa (of course) and other seasonal  stocking fillers.