The heroine of my new novel, The Echoes of Love, is English by birth but has settled in Venice, Italy. Venetia is an architect by training, but has specialised in mosaic restoration as an outlet for her passionate and creative side. Thus, what better part of Venice to choose as her home than the Dorsoduro district?
The Dorsoduro is one of the six municipalities (known as sestiere) in Venice – on the southern peninsula. The area is on higher ground than the rest of Venice (its name comes from the Italian for ‘hard ridge’), which means in places one can take in spectacular views over the city and the lagoon. The beauty of the spot is that you escape the crowds and get a slice of the true Venice, while still being within walking distance of the city centre
It is known for being the hub for academic and artistic life in Venice, a beautiful location in which reside artists, writers, designers and thinkers. As I write of the Dorsoduro in the book: Quiet, and more like an island than the touristy areas of the rest of central Venice, it was full of artists and students, hanging out in bohemian cafes and bars, talking, reading, discussing life and art over coffee or a glass of wine. Exactly my kind of place, I confess, and on my last trip to Venice I spent plenty of time ambling through the squares and walkways here, browsing in the many contemporary art galleries and artisan boutiques, and sipping fine coffee in pavement cafes while people-watching. Then there is the Cantinone Gia Schiavi, where you can sample wine and cicheti – the Venetian version of tapas – while looking out on Squero di San Trovaso, watching gondolas being built.
Venetia’s apartment is situated near to the San Nicolo Dei Mendicoli church (pictured), which is sited on one of the first areas of land to have been settled in Venice, back in the seventh century. The current church was built in the twelfth century and dedicated to the fourth-century saint St Nicholas of Myra (Nikolaos the Wonderworker), whose gift-giving made him the model for the modern-day Santa Claus. ‘Dei Mendicoli’ translates to ‘of the Beggars’ – the church was designed to welcome the working classes. The architecture of the church is simple but appealing, if a little melancholic, and inside there are some wonderful ceiling frescos. If you have seen the 1970s thriller film Don’t Look Now, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, you’ll know the church: it is the one the main character is commissioned to restore.
If you’re able to visit the Dorsoduro, be sure to fit in visits to the following, for which the area is renowned:
- Campo San Barnaba and the Ponte dei Pugni, where you’ll find the best shops.
- Santa Maria della Salute (see my recent post ‘Madonna of the Salute Festival in Venice’).
- Collezione Peggy Guggenheim, full of amazing art by the likes of Max Ernst, Magritte, Brancusi, Arp, Picasso, Dali and Klee.
- Galleria dell’Accademia, where you can see works by Veneziano, Bellini, Tintoretto, Lotto, Titian, Veronese and Tiepolo.
Zattere – runs the length of the south side of Dorsoduro along the Canale della Giudecca, and is ideal for an evening stroll (called passeggiata by the Italians).