Touring Venice Italy - Santa Croce District

What should we visit in Venice's Santa Croce District?...

We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Venice is divided into 8 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to this unique city. You may be in for some real surprises.

The Santa Croce district, or sestiere as the locals say, forms the southwest corner of Venice. The district owes its name to the Chiesa di Santa Croce, Unfortunately this historic edifice on the Grand Canal perhaps dating back to the mid-Sixth Century was demolished in 1810. You might want to start your tour at the Cà Rezzonico, also on the Grand Canal. This former palace was built in the mid-Seventeenth Century but neither the architect nor the client lived to see it completed. It is now a public museum, specializing in Eighteenth Century Venice, and is said to be one of the cities most splendid museums.

Quite nearby is the Campo San Barnaba, an attractive square hosting a deconsecrated church of the same name. Even if you haven’t been to Venice, you may find this church somewhat familiar. It was used as the library in the 1989 film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It also played a role in Summertime, a 1955 film in which the leading lady, Katherine Hepburn, fell into a canal in front of the church. At the director’s insistence Katherine did the scene herself (in four takes) and caught a rare eye disease, which plagued her for the rest of her life. Make sure to view the church ceiling. Going westward towards the district center you’ll find the Fourteenth Century Church of Santa Maria dei Carmini, also known as Santa Maria del Carmelo. Don’t be put off by its dark interior. The nearby Scuola Grande di San Rocco boasts some sixty paintings by Tintoretto. Don’t judge a book by its cover; the particularly lavish Seventeenth Century Church of San Pantalon has an unremarkable façade. Its beautiful canvas ceiling was painted for the church previously occupying this plot. In the north of Santa Croce lies the Seventeenth Century Church of San Nicolò da Tolentino whose special feature is the large central cloister. This is Venice’s only church with a freestanding Corinthian portico.

San Nicolò da Tolentino, Venice Italy

San Nicolò da Tolentino, Venice Italy

The southern end of this district also boasts some fine churches. The mid-Sixteenth Century Church of San Sebastiano is one of the great Plague-Churches of Venice, built to temper the divine punishment of the plagues ravaging Europe. It boasts paintings by Tintoretto, Titian, and Veronese. A short walk to the west lies the Chiesa di San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, considered one of Venice’s most charming churches. "Mendicoli" means beggars, highlighting the humble nature of the local populace, fishermen and craftsmen. The original church is said to date back to the Seventh Century, its square bell tower was built in Venetian-Byzantine style at the end of the Twelfth Century.

Ponte dei Pugni, Venice, Italy

Ponte dei Pugni, Venice, Italy

The Ponte dei Pugni (Bridge of the Fists) is quite close to the Campo San Barnaba, discussed above. The name comes from the local tradition of fist fights between rival neighborhoods, with the goal of throwing the bad guys into the water below. In 1705 a particularly bitter battle went from fists to knives and consequently the fights were banned.

And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Veneto or other Italian wines.

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About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.

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