Heading into the end of the Dorsoduro district, where the land becames part of the San Marco basin like the prow of a ship, we meet the Dogana da Mar, another interesting place to discover a hidden and authentic Venice. Built in the seventeenth century, the Dogana da Mar consists of a square tower topped by bronze statues that support the golden ball on which Fortune stand, by Bernardo Falcone. Just before, the imposing Santa Maria della Salute, baroque church supported by more than one million wooden poles, erected to commemorate the end of the 1630 plague.
From this secluded Venice, far from the classic destinations, you can reach the most famous place of the city, Piazza San Marco, the only one that can be named because the others are “campi”. Described as “the most beautiful square in the world”, it has always been the center of Venetian life. Facing with the facades of the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica of San Marco, with its Byzantine mosaics and the beautiful golden domes, you are literally speechless. The interior of the church is a mixture of Eastern and Western influences, but the attention is immediately captured by the mosaic of Christ in glory shimmering gold tiles decorating the huge central dome. Next, the Palazzo Ducale, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. You can accesse through the beautiful staircase of Sansovino called Scala d’Oro, and then climb to the rooms witnesses of the power and glory of the Venetian Republic: Hall of Great Council, Hall of the Council of Ten and the Halls of the College. Fascinating also the path of the Secret Itineraries leading behind the scenes of the building up to the Chambers of Torment and prisons. From the Hall of the Great Council a series of steps and stairs leading to the famous Ponte dei Sospiri, which according to legend was named by the lamentations of prisoners conducted by the Inquisitors. While the top of the building, right under the lead roof, are cells called “sinkers”: among them the one that hosted Casanova and from which escaped through a hole in the ceiling.
Another symbol of Venice is Rialto Bridge which is also the geographical center of the city. Built in 1588, this famous bridge replaced a movable wooden scaffolding that allowed the transit of vessels. It’s the best known of Venice and until 1854 the only crossing the Grand Canal: the foundations of this bridge rest on twelve thousands poles that hold up the entire frame from single-span of 48 meters.
Leaving Piazza San Marco is nice soak in the maze of alleys to explore around the Teatro La Fenice and go to Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, hard to find, but worth it for the fabulous external spiral staircase (bovolo in Venetian dialect means snail) that It must be faced to have a magnificent view of Venice from above. In ancient times the roofs of Venice were covered with straw and often caught fire. For this reason they were invented chimneys “barrel upside down” and “truncated cone” that could cool the ashes of the braziers and ovens to avoid the risk of fire. Currently in Venice there are about seven thousand.
To the north the walk leads to the quiet and secluded walls of the Jewish Ghetto, the most charming historic district of Cannaregio, born in 1516 as the first in Europe, an area closed by gates where Jews should live and from which they could not leave from dusk to dawn. Today in the old quarter are still present some synagogues, the Great German Schola, The Levantine Schola and Schola Canton.