Category: Culture (11)


Here’s a top tip: all State museums in Italy offer free entrance on the first Sunday of each month. There are six State museums in Venice, so be sure to take advantage of this excellent initiative if you’re here on Easter Sunday (1st April).

Accademia Galleries: The world’s greatest treasure trove of Venetian painting, housed in the former Scuola Grande of Santa Maria della Carità.  Works range from glittering Byzantine altarpieces to Renaissance masterpieces by Bellini and Bassano, as well as sublime views of 18th century Venice by Canaletto and Guardi.

Oriental Art Museum: A vast collection of Oriental art and artefacts, collected by Prince Henry II of Borbone during his travels to Asian between 1887 – 1889.  The museum contains over 30,000 objects including sacred Japanese swords and armour, precious Chinese porcelain and netsuke, Indonesian batik and musical instruments, and much more.

 Giorgio Franchetti Galleries at Ca’ D’Oro: One of the most beautiful palaces in Venice, housing a rich collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture and tapestries donated to the State by Baron Giorgio Franchetti in 1916.  Highlights include Titian’s Venus with a Mirror, and Mantegna’s San Sebastiano.  Don’t forget to step out onto loggia for sensational views over the Grand Canal.


National Marciana Library: One of the largest and most important libraries in Italy, containing one of the greatest holdings of classical texts in the world.  The building was designed by Jacopo Sansovino, and decorated by some of the Veneto’s greatest artists including Tintoretto and Veronese.

Palazzo Grimani: A magnificent Renaissance palace that was originally the residence of Doge Antonio Grimani, designed to showcase his extensive collection of Graeco-Roman antiquities.  Today most of these are on display in the National Archaeological Museum (see below), but the palace’s dazzling frescoed interiors are certainly reason enough to visit.    

National Archaeological Museum: One of Europe’s first public museums dedicated to ancient art, overlooking St Mark’s Square.  Its extraordinary collection boasts a large number of important Roman and Greek sculptures, as well as precious gems, coins, cameos and other antiquities drawn from Egypt, Babylonia and beyond.

 In 1880, the Italian writer Pompeo Molmenti wrote “Venice, city of love, who would doubt it! Love affairs and famous lovers, the entire history of Venice is intimately linked to Cupid… Romanticism and eroticism, sacred love or secular love, Cupid reigns supreme here”.  So where better to spend Valentine’s Day this year?  Here are some ideas to inspire the perfect romance-filled day.


For a truly magical start to the day, get up early and watch the sun rise over the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge; the echoing streets are empty at this time of the morning, and the city feels timeless and dream-like.

Warm yourselves up with a cappuccino and sweet pastry at Le Café in Campo Santo Stefano, and then head to the extraordinary Scala Contarini del Bovolo – a fairytale spiral staircase crowned with a stunning domed cupola – for sensational views over the rooftops of Venice towards St Mark’s Basilica.  

 Take a short ride on a traghetto (gondola ferry) across the Grand Canal from Sant’Angelo to San Tomà, and wander through the charming alleyways of the Dorsoduro district until you find Ca’ Rezzonicoa lavish palazzo that now houses the museum of 18th century Venice, sumptuously furnished and decorated with paintings by Canaletto, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and other Venetian masters. 

View from the top of the Scala Contarini del Bovolo


Once you’ve had your fill of culture, amble over to lively Campo Santa Margherita, and settle down for an al fresco lunch outside Osteria alla Bifora – the perfect spot for people-watching in the Spring sunshine.  

Afterwards, head down to San Basilio, and take the vaporetto across to the Giudecca for a couple of hours of serious pampering in the couples’ suite at the luxurious Bauer Palladio Spa

 Then when you’re feeling thoroughly refreshed and relaxed, enjoy a stroll along the Giudecca canal (pausing for a pick-me up Spritz or gelato at one of the many water-front cafes, if you feel like it) before hopping across to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore for a late-afternoon visit to Palladio’s magnificent church, complete with soaring bell-tower that offers incredible 360 degree views over the lagoon.

Views of San Giorgio Maggiore from San Marco
San Giorgio Maggiore


As sun starts to set, take the vaporetto back across to the Zattere and walk hand-in-hand along the boulevard, stopping off for an early evening aperitivo at Osteria Al Squero, overlooking the picturesque San Trovaso gondola workshop. 

 If you’re in the mood for entertainment, treat yourselves to a box at the world-famous La Fenice opera house for a performance of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” – or for an even more unusual experience, head to Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto for a Musica a Palazzo performance of the same opera, where each act is performed in a different salon of the historic palace.

Round off your day with a decadent dinner a deux; for sweeping views over Venice and the San Marco bacino, indulge yourselves at the Danieli Terrace Restaurant, where the chef’s sensory six-course Valentine’s Eve menu is bound to delight.  Alternatively, for a more intimate dining experience, book a table at Al Covoa tiny, atmospheric restaurant in Castello that specializes in the finest Veneto cuisine.  And finally, finish the evening with a night-time stroll through the city’s ancient streets and squares – an unforgettable way to wind down and end the perfect Venetian Valentine’s Day. 

The Danieli Terrace Restaurant, where the chef’s sensory six-course Valentine’s Eve menu is bound to delight

When it comes to books about Venice, Italy there are hundreds to choose from, but if you’re looking for inspiration and the story of one of the Grand Canal’s most well known palazzos, then “The Unfinished Palazzo” by Judith Mackrell should certainly be added to your reading list.

Published earlier this year to great acclaim, this absorbing and highly entertaining book reveals the colourful history of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, one of the most iconic buildings on the Grand Canal, through the lives of three of its most eccentric female residents.

The Palazzo Venier die Leoni, on the Grand Canal in Venice, was commissioned in 1750 as a testimony to the power and wealth of the Venier family, the building languished incomplete and decaying until it was acquired and transformed over the course of the twentieth century by each of these remarkable women, who in turn used it as a stage for their unconventional lives.

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Twentieth Century Venice
The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice

The first, Luisa Casati, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, was a muse and lover of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who was notorious throughout Europe for her legendary belle époque parties.

The second and equally notorious was British socialite Doris Castlerosse, the first wife of Viscount Castlerosse, who hosted film stars and royalty during the interwar years at the Palazzo. Born Jessie Dorris Delevingne in the suburbs of London she is the Aunt of models Poppy and Cara Delevingne.

The third, and perhaps most well known, was New York heiress and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who transformed the palazzo into not only one of Venice’s most beloved and visited buildings, but one of the greatest museums in the world, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Thoroughly-researched, gloriously gossipy and full of intriguing anecdotal details, this compelling book is bound to appeal to both Venice experts and new-comers alike. We know the perfect spot in which to read it: The Salon Peggy at Palazetto Salute.  With views across the Grand Canal to the Palazzo Venier, what could be better!

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice’ by Judith Mackrell is published by Thames & Hudson (£19.95)

11 September 2017

This year marks the 750th anniversary of the birth of Giotto – one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance – and to commemorate the occasion, the Scuola Grande della Misericordia in Cannaregio is hosting a ground-breaking multi-media exhibition that allows visitors to experience his work in an entirely new way.

Magister Giotto at Scuola Grande della Misericordia
Magister Giotto at Scuola Grande della Misericordia

Titled “Magister Giotto”, this highly interactive show uses cutting-edge technology, music and narration to bring Giotto’s world-renowned paintings vividly to life.  Equipped with headphones, visitors are taken on a curated 45 minute journey around the exhibition that features a narrative by Italian actor Luca Zingaretti and a bespoke soundtrack composed by jazz musician Paolo Fresu.

Spanning two floors of the monumental Scuola Grande, the itinerary begins with an introduction to Giotto’s masterpieces such as the Assisi fresco cycle depicting the life of St Francis, and ends with an exploration of the ‘Giotto Mission’ – a 1986 European Space Agency mission that, for the first time in history, intercepted Halley’s Comet which Giotto depicted in his ‘Adoration of the Magi’ in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel.  Based on rigorous scientific and art historical research, this immersive show really does allow you to get up close and personal with one of art history’s most iconic yet enigmatic figures.

Magister Giotto is on view at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia until 5th November, for more information visit or follow the exhibition on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Magister Giotto at Scuola Grande della Misericordia
Magister Giotto at Scuola Grande della Misericordia

Whether you’re a Venice aficionado, or someone who’s still dreaming of your first visit to the lagoon city, this magnificent book is bound to appeal – and quite possibly tempt you to book a flight and accommodation with Venice Prestige now!

'VENETIAN CHIC': The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to La Serenissima Style: September 2017

“When I went to Venice, I discovered that my dream had become – incredibly, but quite simply – my address”.  This observation by the great writer Marcel Proust is just one of the many thought-provoking quotes woven through “Venetian Chic” – a sumptuous new coffee-table book produced by luxury publishing house Assouline, with text by Venetian art connoisseur, interior designer and CEO of Venice’s Bauer Hotel group, Francesca Bortolotto Possati.

Featuring a foreword by legendary British actor Jeremy Irons, the gilt-embossed, silk-bound volume is illustrated with ravishing photographs by renowned photographer Robyn Lea – serving as the ultimate ‘insider’s guide’ to Venetian style and offering a highly exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the city’s ultra-private palazzi, artisan workshops, artist studios, historic buildings and secret gardens.

Venetian Chic would make the perfect companion to your Venetian experience with Venice Prestige. Our experience and expertise combined the sumptuous visuals of the book will ensure your Venetian experience is authentic and inspiring. If you are unable to visit Assouline’s fabulous store here in Venice, or in London, Paris, Rome and the US – you can find it online, here.



One of our favourite shows in Venice at the moment is “Glasstress” – an ambitious exhibition that explores the endless creative possibilities of glass. Spread across two historic locations – Palazzo Franchetti in Venice and an old furnace in Murano – the exhibition is an initiative of Fondazione Berengo, a foundation that is aiming to breathe new life into the Murano glassblowing industry.

The current exhibition features work by 33 renowned contemporary artists from around the world, including Ai Weiwei, Jan Fabre, Paul McCarthy and Laure Prouvost. With little or no previous experience of working with glass, these artists were invited by Fondazione Berengo to collaborate with expert artisans from Murano, in order to create new works for the show. The resulting sculptures are a highly eclectic and experimental mix of styles and designs, defying the stereotypes usually associated with the ancient craft, and pushing the boundaries of both contemporary art and glass.

If you have time, be sure to head to Murano, where French artist Loris Gréaud has brought an abandoned glass furnace back to life with his beautiful immersive exhibition The Unplayed Notes Factory, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud.

Glasstress 2017 is on view until 26 November 2017. For more information, visit



If you’re planning to visit the Biennale any time before the end of November, don’t forget to call in to the actual Venice Pavilion – which this year is shining a spotlight on the city’s long-standing tradition of luxury craftsmanship.

For many centuries, Venice was one of the world’s most important centres for the luxury goods trade.  A man-made city that produced no natural resources of its own, it relied on manufacture – and as a key stop on the Silk and Spice Routes, it was renowned around the globe as a place where the finest goods were made and marketed – ranging from velvet to glass, lace, perfume, paintings and beyond As one visitor wrote in 1494“indeed it seems as if the whole world flocks there, and the human beings have concentrated all their force for trading.”

Today Venice continues to uphold its great heritage of high-end artistic craftsmanship, as illustrated by the Venice Pavilion, which is paying homage to some of the city’s most celebrated luxury brands that are still highly sought-after in the 21st Century.  Amongst the brands being showcased in the Pavilion are Nardi jewels, Antonia Sautter couture, Orsoni mosaics, Abate Zanetti glass, The Merchant of Venice perfumes, Rene Caovilla fine footwear and Rubelli Venezia – whose exquisite hand-woven fabrics adorn many of the properties in the Venice Sotheby’s International Realty portfolio. 



This year’s Biennale has been described by the organisers as “a Biennale designed with artists, by artists and for artists, about the forms they propose, the questions they ask, the practices they develop and the ways of life they choose.”  To allow the public to discover more about some of the artists involved, the Biennale is hosting bi-weekly “Open Table” events, where artists meet visitors over a casual lunch to hold a lively conversation about their practice.  If you’re coming to Venice this summer, why not get involved?  Events are held every Friday and Saturday in the Biennale’s Arsenale and Giardini sites – not far from our light and airy Corderie Palazzo in Castello.  Places at the Open Tables can be reserved by emailing, or you can watch the discussions via a live-stream on the Biennale website:


La Biennale di Venezia is on view until 26th November 2017. For more information about the Venice Pavilion, click here 

For more information about Open Table (Tavola Aperta) events, click here 

The only one of its kind left in the world, the Armstrong Mitchell hydraulic crane is a spectacular sculptural piece of engineering which soars above the roofline of the most historic dockyard in the world. The Arsenale is a fascinating part of Venetian history.  Dating from the 12th century, its unique architecture tells a remarkable story of this once secret world within the city.  It was enlarged between the 14th and 16th centuries and again after Napoleon’s defeat of the Venetian Republic.
The Armstrong Mitchell hydraulic crane at the Arsenale - a Venice in Peril Project

 Armstrong Mitchell Crane taken in 2010 by Micheal Harding for Patek Philippe @VeniceinPeril

The 19th Century

The second half of the 19th century was a pivotal time in the history of navigation, with radical transformation in the way vessels were constructed, with the adoption of metal hulls and steam engines.  The port was constantly acquiring state of the art machinery, the most important of which was the great hydraulic crane produced by the British manufacturer Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. (installed between 1883 and 1885).

An iconic structure…
 This crane was a breakthrough in engineering, permitting as it did large quantities of water to be forced through pipes at a constant pressure, thus creating more power to lift heavier weights. The result was a considerable increase in load capacity (up to 160 tons). In 1883 the Italian Navy commissioned Armstrong, Mitchell & Co. to install the crane. By 1885 it was fully functioning and in constant use for some 30 years until the First World War, being finally decommissioned in the mid-1950s.


International Renown

Between 1876 and 1905, nine other Armstrong cranes were installed in naval dockyards around the world, from Liverpool to Bombay to Japan. Only the Venice crane now survives, albeit with a serious structural problem – the counterweight chamber is cracking, and if that were to give way, the crane would collapse.

 It is so important for British organisations such as Venice in Peril Fund to help restore this landmark in engineering history to its former glory. Britain was the first country to industrialize, and as such has a large number of historic industrial sites and therefore experience of caring for them and engaging the interest of the general public.

The conservation of the crane will be no easy feat. Structural surveys and scientific analyses have sharply demonstrated the huge amount of work to be done, but already a team of Italian engineers and British conservationists have stepped up to the challenge. As Lord Foster has said, it would be an “unforgivable act of negligence” to leave the crane to disintegrate. Describing it as an “iconic structure”, he says it “is not only aesthetically inseparable form its historic context, but it is a priceless part of the industrial heritage of Venice”
The Armstrong Mitchell hydraulic crane at the Arsenale - a Venice in Peril Project

 Armstrong Mitchell Crane taken in 2010 by Micheal Harding for Patek Philippe @VeniceinPeril

This is the Fund’s first Industrial Heritage Project and reflects increasing awareness and enthusiasm for this aspect of Venice’s history.

• The Venice in Peril Fund has been involved since 2003 and has spent €132,000 making the crane safe and maintaining its safety. More recently, in 2013, €15,000 was spent reinforcing the straps that hold the ballast container together and to update the report on its condition.
• Phase I of the full project is costed at €390,000 and a further approximately €1.6million will be needed to complete the project.

in 2014 the Headley Trust made a grant of £20,000 to explore the options for funding the project which the Venice in Peril Fund is currently engaged in.

If you are a passionate about Britain’s engineering heritage as well as Venetian Maritime history and would like to know more, please get in touch – we would like to hear from you.

Visiting the Armstrong Mitchell Crane

Visitors can see the crane on the dockside when they visit the Biennale art exhibitions in the Arsenale or join one of the increasing number of tours organised as part of Arsenale Open Days or by the Italian Navy or local associations.

Please click here to view images of the Armstrong Mitchell Crane taken in 2010 by Micheal Harding for Patek Philippe.

Read more about Venice in Peril Fund and how to get involved and/or donate

Manuscript Choir Books - Basilica of San Marco

A group of seven manuscript choir books from the Basilica of San Marco in clear need of conservation, was adopted by Venice in Peril Fund in May 2015. The cost of the project is €5,000.


This project follows the conservation earlier in the year of eleven other manuscripts from the same historic music archive, whose treatment was financed by the Swiss Committee, Fondazione Svizzera Pro Venezia and the American committee, SAVE Venice.


The choir books include the following works:
No.2 – Turbe degli Passij per la Domenica delle Palme – Settings for music for Palm Sunday and Holy Week by Rovetta (1596-1668) and Asola (1532-1609)
No.5 – Missa Octava quinque vocibus – D. Natale Monferrato(1603-1685)
No.7 – Missa Brevis – Antonio Biffi (1666-1733)
No.8 – Magnificat for 4 voices – probably by Antonius Biffi
No.9 – Magnificat – Antonio Lotti (1667-1740)
No.10 – Magnificat duo breves – Antonio Lotti
No.14 – Hymns, a magnificat, motets, antiphons etc – Unknown composer

The work will be directed by the Soprintendenza per I Beni Librari for the Veneto region and carried out by the specialist book and paper conservation firm, Lilia Gianotti Restauro, which was responsible for the conservation of the first group of choir books.

After restoration the manuscripts will be digitalized and made available online. The books themselves will be kept under appropriate conditions in the Archivio Patriarcale, in the Seminario Patriarcale next to the church of the Salute. They will be available for research purposes to scholars and by special appointment and will occasionally be exhibited in the Treasury of the Basilica.

All 18 scores will be the focus of an international conference in 2016 which will include performances of some of the music.

Venice in Peril Fund has worked with the Archivio Patriarcale before. In 2008 it paid for the purchase, through Christie’s, of the Mariegola – or sacred rule book of the Scuola of the Santissimo Sacramento based in the parish of San Polo. This manuscript record of one of the many small parish scuole dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, was then donated to the Archivio Patriarchale. You can read more about the Mariegola in this Project Section.

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The Canova Monument Appeal

The Canova Monument in the FRAri church 

The marble memorial to sculptor Antonio Canova in the Frari Church  is Venice’s most striking monument from the age of neo-classicism.
A notable casualty of the damage wrought by the city’s rising water table, this magnificent work is now seriously at risk. With your help the Venice in Peril Fund is funding a major rescue operation by Superintendency for Architecture to conserve the pyramid the sculptures and their brick foundations. Like all of Venice in Peril’s restoration projects this is administered through UNESCO’s programme with the Association of Private Committees for the protection of Venice.

What needs to be done

Scientific surveys by the Sovrarintendenza, the official body for protection of the architectural heritage, have revealed the urgent need for a rescue operation. The creeping damp with its dire impact on both the brick foundations and the stonework of the monument itself can be kept at bay but only if the whole structure is dismantled, damp-proofed, and a thoroughgoing process of conservation applied to all its parts. A team of technicians and engineers will take charge of the singularly delicate business of detaching the marble slabs and sculptures and damp-proofing the substructure on which all of them rest. Part of the task will entail stripping away the various coatings of oil and wax applied by earlier restorers in well-intentioned if misguided efforts to control the humidity.

All the marble will then require immersion in special desalination tanks to remove invasive mineral deposits. Following this process, and after subsequent repairs to the monument’s different surfaces, a fresh protective coating will be brushed onto the stonework, before the reassembled monument is returned to its dominant and dramatic position at the western end of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.


A short history of the monument

It was Count Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834), a distinguished president of Venice’s Accademia delle Belle Arti, who first proposed the idea of a monument to Antonio Canova.  It would take the form of a pyramidal cenotaph modelled on Canova’s own design for a memorial to the painter Titian and funding for the project would come from an international subscription.

In 1827 the scheme went ahead as planned, its sculptural components carved in Carrara marble by five of Canova’s own pupils. Domenico Fadiga created the strikingly austere central pyramid and Luigi Zandomeneghi designed the two weeping figures of Painting and Architecture ( reflecting aspects of the artist’s talent). Bartolomeo Ferrari was given the talk of producing the image of Sculpture itself, swathed in a mourning cloak and veil, in whose hands is an urn containing the sculptor’s heart. Her attendant, the ‘Genietto’ —‘little genius’ —a boy carrying a torch, is the work of Rinaldo Rinaldi, who also conceived the Venetian lion of St Mark, an essential feature of the ensemble for reasons both personal and patriotic. Antonio Bosa incised the relief medallion of Canova, framed by airborne spirits representing the flight of fame. The languorous nude figure of Genius in repose, forming a crucial balancing element in the composition, is the work of Bosa’s fellow pupil in Canova’s studio, Giuseppe Fabris.

Almost from the outset, following its installation in the north aisle of the Frari’s nave, the Canova monument began to suffer from the ravages of damp, whether from the humid Venetian atmosphere, from the rising water table beneath its foundations or from the moisture given off by the crowds of worshippers and tourists within the church. Not only have the pyramid’s marble surface and those of its individual sculptures suffered serious decay over nearly two centuries, but the very basis on which they rest, a tall stepped platform of brick, is being attacked by the heavy mineral content of the moist subsoil below. The whole of this extraordinary ensemble has essentially become a massive sponge, soaking up the water beneath and around it.


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