Hardly anyone visiting Venice, even for an extended stay, finds time to explore Cannaregio, the city's own suburbia. Its wide canal cuts through neighborhoods where clothes are hung on lines above narrow streets and the family motorboat is docked outside for the commute to work. I would have missed it too, except that Chris suggested I might want to see a church there.
I crowded onto the No. 12 boat one cool and sunny morning bound for the basilica at Torcello, the oldest church in the Venetian lagoon and one of its most visited. On the way, the boat stopped at the island of Burano, known for its brightly painted houses and handmade lace. I piled off with the other passengers, checked out the colorful houses and gave a perfunctory nod to the local church, where even the women sweeping the floor looked as if they would rather be somewhere else. Then I decided to go exploring during the long wait for the next boat. That's how I found another wonderful church.
A footbridge connects Burano to the island of Mazzorbo. I headed for the distant campanile, but when I arrived at the church, I found it closed. As I turned to leave, however, the parish priest appeared from the side door and kindly let me have a look.
Mazzorbo was once a major port, but there's not much left now but a couple of villas and the Roman-Gothic church of Santa Caterina, which dates from 1283, small and lovely with a wooden ceiling and a number of interesting paintings. One of them, a somewhat foreboding but interesting "Baptism of Christ" by Giuseppe Salviati, held my attention. I later discovered that Salviati was a 16th century artist influenced by Titian.
It's a long boat ride to Santa Caterina, but it's only five minutes by vaporetto from Venice's San Marco landing to the island of San Giorgio, which is dominated by the dream church of painters through the centuries: San Giorgio Maggiore. Those who can't paint can point cameras, always from across the water. It's amazing how few people actually make the short boat trip to have a look inside at the altar, with huge bronze figures of angels, and a golden globe held by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I never expected I would take the boat to San Giorgio Maggiore. In fact, the last thing I expected to do in Venice was spend most of my waking hours in churches, but having done it, I highly recommend the experience.
And thanks, Chris.
Canals to art and history in Venice
From LAX, connecting service is available on Lufthansa, Swiss, Air France, KLM, British Airways and Delta. Fares are $690 except during the holiday period.
To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (international dialing code), 39 (country code for Italy) and the local number.
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Paganelli, 4182 Riva degli Schiavoni, 30122 Venice; 041-522-4324, fax 041-523-9267, www.hotelpaganelli.com. A pleasant, no-frills hotel with a somewhat indifferent staff. The main building faces the lagoon, with an annex overlooking Campo San Zaccaria, both great locations just three bridges away from San Marco. Doubles $150-$200.
Hotel Danieli, 4196 Riva degli Schiavoni, 30122 Venice; 041-522-6480, fax 041-520-0208, www.danieli.hotelinvenice.com. A former palace of the Dandolo family, the Danieli is a beautiful hotel, with gracious service, luxurious rooms and a rooftop restaurant. Doubles from $385.
Hotel Savoia & Jolanda, 4187 Riva degli Schiavoni, 30122 Venice; 041-520-6644, fax 041-520-7494, www.hotelsavoiajolanda.com. Rooms in this recently renovated hotel have whirlpool baths, luxurious linens and robes. Helpful staff. Doubles from $180.
WHERE TO EAT:
Corte Sconta, 3886 Calle del Pestrin; 041-522-7024. A lovely restaurant with a courtyard where homemade pasta and excellent fish dishes can be enjoyed, but begin with the wonderful seafood antipasto. Less than $100 for two with wine.
Antica Locanda Montin, 1147 Fondamenta Eremite; 041-522-7151. This very popular restaurant has a literary history and good art. Dine in the garden; the lightly fried sole is excellent. Less than $100 for two with wine.
TO LEARN MORE:
Italian Government Tourist Board, 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90025; (310) 820-1898, fax (310) 820-6357, www.italiantourism.com.