Veneto Ventures #5: Cruising the Giudecca Canal

Veneto Ventures #5:

Sunday 2nd and Monday 3rd October 2022

Burano looked even better in the Sunday morning sunshine.

We planned to go to the Venetian Ghetto on Sunday to respect the Jewish Sabbath. We took a slightly circuitous route via Arsenale as we hoped to get closer to the Building Bridges sculpture.

Unfortunately we weren’t successful but our walk back took us through a park where we enjoyed seeing the turtles in the fountain.

Still making the most of our vaporetto passes we travelled past the Palazzo Ducale again [it always merits a photo] on our way to the Venetian Ghetto.

On 29 March 1516, the Venetian Republic created the first ever ghetto on a small island in Cannaregio, the north-western sestiere of Venice. Within a week, the residents were removed and replaced by the Jewish people already resident in Venice at the time.

Initially the Venetian Ghetto was connected to the rest of the city by two bridges that were locked overnight and only opened in the morning at the ringing of the marangona, the largest bell in St. Mark’s Campanile. The Jewish community itself had to pay for the Christian guards who ensured they did not break the overnight curfew.

There are several theories about the derivation of the English word ‘ghetto’ but it may have come from the word geto meaning foundry. The ghetto encompassed Ghetto Nuovo and Ghetto Vecchio but this refers to the first and second site of the foundries: in terms of Jewish residence, the Ghetto Nuovo is actually older than the Ghetto Vecchio. Subsequently Ghetto Nuovissimo was added.

A later, third cast iron bridge leading to the Venice Ghetto

The Ghetto has the highest residential buildings in the city. Since Jews were only allowed to live in this one restricted area and as the population grew over time the only option was to build upwards. 

In 1980 a Holocaust Memorial was erected in the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo to honour the Jews arrested by the Nazis between 5 December 1943 and late summer 1944 before being deported to concentration camps. Of the 243 people who were taken to Auschwitz only eight returned home to Venice.

Memorial to the victims of the Holocaust

Individual tragedies are poignantly commemorated by small bronze plaques measuring 10 square centimetres which have been set in the ground outside the homes where people were arrested. These can also be seen in other parts of the city.

Another vaporetto ride took us past the Navy School Ship the Amerigo Vespucci which was built between 1930 and 1931 in Naples and is currently touring the main Italian ports.

Martin Smith commented: ‘One thing you need to know about the Venice Biennale is that it takes place every year – which is a contradiction in terms. So you can go any year between May and October and sample the Biennale which is a mix of delightful, inventive, imaginative art and pieces which are completely unintelligible to the average person. Even though it costs €25 for the main exhibition, there are lots of venues that are free including some displays in palazzos on the Grand Canal so even if the art isn’t inspiring, the buildings are fabulous.’

On one vaporetto ride we were lucky enough to get seats at the front [see also Video of the day].

Our route took us to the Rialto so that Robert could replace a favourite tie which he had bought there several years before, and Matilda could look at the earrings she had seen in a nearby shop window. We also decided to have some cannoli from a stall at one end of the Rialto. The young man serving us was suddenly thrown into a real panic by the appearance of a wasp: so much so that he ran out of the back of the stall to escape. We felt sorry for him: wasps must surely be quite a common occupational hazard when serving sweet treats in the open air.

Matilda had read about I Tre Mercanti, a gourmet food shop making a variety of flavours of tiramisu. She opted to go here rather than one of the gelaterie which Cinza had recommended. It took her some time to choose but eventually she came away the proud possessor of one individual portion of traditional tiramisu and one portion of pistachio tiramisu. Both were subsequently pronounced delicious.

If you have been reading all the instalments of our Veneto Ventures you will have seen Liz and Martin enjoying a traditional Italian spritz. Liz had this to say: ‘I have learnt something on this trip. Some bars offer the local white wine as a mixer and some have a local fizzy wine on tap. But when ordering an Aperol Spritz, for a mere 50 cents extra we discovered that you could specify Prosecco. It is definitely worth 50c to have the proper Prosecco fizz and I can safely say that a Spritz is the drink for me to have when in Italy.’

Burano by night

On Monday morning while Martin went in to Venice to sketch, we used our vaporetto passes for the last time to visit Murano, where Liz and Matilda were hoping to buy some Murano glass.

Once our passes had expired at lunch time we planned to take one more cruise along the Giudecca Canal [see Selfie of the day].

This time Robert steered us as close to the Building Bridges sculpture as he could.

We were blessed with sunshine and Liz had opted for nautical stripes for the occasion.

Piazza San Marco is always worth a photo.

On this journey, Robert decided to take a real time video on the GoPro with it angled towards the side rather than facing straight ahead and we therefore know that the journey took exactly 49:19 minutes. This has now been condensed down to a more manageable five minutes.

GoPro video: cruising along the Giudecca Canal

Robert and Martin first visited Venice together 39 years ago with their friend Rob Queen on an interailing holiday round Europe. They were delighted to recognise the hostel they had stayed in on the Giudecca Canal and even more pleased to see that it was still open for business. Strangely the hostel seemed to be more memorable for them on this visit than the beautiful city of Venice itself. 

We all waved a fond farewell as we headed back to Burano for the last time where Robert opted for squid ink pasta [see Dish of the day].

Video of the day:

Selfie of the day:

Dish of the day:

Squid ink spaghetti at the Campiello del Principe, Burano

Route Map:

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