Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa (Venice, Italy)

Courtyard o the palazzo

Courtyard o the palazzo

The  Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa, originally the ancient casa da stazio, an L-shaped building located at the intersection of the rios of San

Bronze bust of Antonio Grimani (Andrea Briosco)

Bronze bust of Antonio Grimani (Andrea Briosco)

Severo and Santa Maria Formosa, was the residence of the Venetian doge Antonio Grimani. It was substantially altered in 1532-1569 by his grandsons Vittore, procuratore generale of the city, and Giovanni Grimani, cardinal and Patriarch of Aquileia, giving it a classical stamp.

Giovanni allegedly collaborated with celebrated architects such as Jacopo Sansovino, Sebastiano Serlio and  Andrea Palladio.


Two new wings, doDSC00364ubling the size of the building, were added.  A vast Roman-style inner courtyard, with loggias of marble colonnades (unusual in sixteenth-century Venice) and asymmetrical porticoes, was laden with artfully arranged sculptures, reliefs and inscriptions.The palace was completed in 1575 by Giovanni Rusconi while Alessandro Vittoria was responsible for the ornamentation of the doorway.


The palace is composed of three parts with a small backyard. The façade, sporting

Bronze bust of Hadrian (Ludovico Lombardo)

Bronze bust of Hadrian (Ludovico Lombardo)

characteristically massive windows arches, is decorated with polychrome marble.

The most striking feature of the interior is the Sala di Psiche (c. 1540), with frescoes by Mannerist artists such as Francesco MenzocchiCamillo Mantovano and Francesco Salviati.

Other artists who worked to the palace’s decoration include Taddeo Zuccari and Giovanni da Udine.


Bust of Antinoüs, favorite of Hadrian

Bust of Antinoüs, favorite of Hadrian

The palazzo once held the archaeological collections (one of the finest of the time), strikingly displayed on shelves, mantelpieces and plinths in settings of the high ceiling, specially designed Tribuna and the courtyard, amassed by Cardinal Domenico Grimani and Giovanni Grimani, and donated to the Republic.


Palazzo Grimani, internationally important for its architectural originality, the quality of its decoration and the history of its development, was purchased by the State in 1981 and, in 2001, a decree of the Ministry of the Cultural Heritage gave responsibility for its management to the Superintendency of State Museums in Venice. On December 20, 2015, it was reopened as a museum.


An especially valuable addition to its museum circuit, the palace displays a few HiDSC04670eronymus Bosch paintings from the Grimani collection: depicting the dream-like Visione dell’Aldilàl’Ascesa all’Empireo, and la Caduta dei dannati e l’Inferno; and the Triptych of Santa Liberata, and the Triptych of the eremiti (Sant’Antonio, San Girolamo and Sant’Egidio).

Sculpture gallery

The Sculpture Gallery with “The Rape of Ganymede (Reinhard Gomer)” hanging on the ceiling

The extraordinarily high quality decoration of the rooms iDSC04680ncludes outstanding stucco work and frescoes, reflecting the confidently unconventional taste of the Grimanis.

Palazzo Grimani, unique in Venetian history and architecture, is a fascinating treasure house of cultural, artistic and historical riches.

Statue of Laocoon and his sons

Statue of Laocoon and his sons

Palazzo Grimani di Santa Maria Formosa: Ramo Grimani, 4858, 30122 Venice, Italy. Tel: +39 041 241 1507 and +39 041 5200345. E-mail: and Website: Open 8:15 AM – 7:15 PM. Admission: € 4.00 + € 1,50 reservation fee.

Church of St. Zacharias (Venice, Italy)

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (1)

Church of St. Zechariah

The large 15th-century, formerly monastic (it was originally attached to a Benedictine monastery of nuns) Church of St. Zechariah (Chiesa di San Zaccaria) is located just off the waterfront, to the southeast of Piazza San Marco and St Mark’s Basilica.  The first church on the site was founded in the early 9th century by Doge Giustiniano Participazio  to house the body, under the second altar on the right, of St. Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist), the saint to which it is dedicated, a gift of the Byzantine Emperor Leo V the Armenian. The remains of 8 early doges as well as the artist Alessandro Vittoria (his tomb marked by a self-portrait bust) are also buried in the colonnaded Romanesque crypt of the church.



The original church, rebuilt in the 1170s (when the present campanile was built), was replaced by the present Late Gothic-style church designed by Antonio Gambello.  Built between 1458 and 1515, it was built beside (not over) the original church, the remains of which still stands. Seventy years later, the upper part of the façade, with its arched windows and its columns, and the upper parts of the interior were completed by Mauro Codussi in early Renaissance style. Thus, the façade is a harmonious Venetian mixture of late-Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Tomb of St. Zacharias

Tomb of St. Zacharias

The church’s apse, surrounded by an ambulatory lit by tall Gothic windows, is a typical feature of Northern European church architecture which is unique in Venice. The San Zaccaria Altarpiece, one of the most famous works by Giovanni Bellini (whisked away to Paris for 20 years when Napoleon plundered the city in 1797), as well as paintings by 17th and 18th century artists (at the  walls of the aisles and of the chapels).

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (11)

They include works by Andrea del CastagnoPalma VecchioTintorettoGiuseppe PortaPalma il GiovaneAntonio VassilacchiAnthony van DyckAndrea Celesti,Antonio ZanchiAntonio BalestraAngelo Trevisani and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. The organ of the church was built by Gaetano Callido in 1790.

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (4)

The Chapel of St Athanasius, which was most of the nave and right-hand aisle of the old church, was rebuilt for the nuns in the mid-15th century and then converted into a chapel around 1595. It contains a Domenico Tintoretto altarpiece depicting The Birth of John the Baptist or maybe The Birth of the Virgin. To the right of an altar designed by Vittoria is The Flight into Egypt by Domenico Tintoretto. Over the entrance door is the Crucifixion, claimed to be by Anthony van Dyke, very redolent of the Counter-Reformation in its minimalness and drama.

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (5)

Another door takes you through to the Cappella dell’Addolorata, with cases of relics, and then into the lovely Chapel of San Tarasio, the apse of the old church, built in 1440 by Gambello. It features some very impressive frescoes in the vaulting, painted in 1442 by Andrea del Castagno (in collaboration with a certain Francesco da Faenza).  Discovered in 1923 and cleaned in the 1950s, they are the artist’s earliest extant work and feature his only signature (Andreas de Florentia).

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (7)

There are also three well-preserved Late-Gothic gilded altarpieces by brothers-in-law Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. The central three panels (dated 1385), on the main level of the high altarpiece (Saints Blaise and Martin, with The Virgin and Child in the center), are signed by Stefano di Sant’Agnese, taken from another work and inserted in 1839 in place of a reliquary. The two saints flanking them (Mark and Elizabeth) are by Giovanni and Antonio Vivarini. More saints, said to have also been added later, are found on the back. A recently discovered and restored predella, on the front of the altar, is ascribed to Paolo Veneziano.

Chiesa di San Zaccaria (8)

Church of San Zaccaria: Campo San Zaccaria 4693, 30122 Venice, Italy. Open Mondays – Saturays, 10 AM–12 PM and 4–6 PM, and Sundays, 4–6 PM. Tel: +39 041 522 1257

Gallerie dell’Accademia (Venice, Italy)

Gallerie dell’Accademia

The Gallerie dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery of Venice), on the south bank of the Grand Canal, within the sestiere of Dorsoduro, is a museum gallery of pre-19th-century art in Venicenorthern Italy.

The author in front of the museum

Housed in the Palladian complex of the Scuola della Carità (the oldest of the six Scuole Grandi (though the building dates back to 1343, the scuola was formed in 1260), it was originally the gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (founded on September 24, 1750, it was one of the first institutions to study art restoration starting in 1777 with Pietro Edwards, and formalized by 1819 as a course), the art academy of Venice (from which it became independent in 1879) which remained in the same building until 2004, when the art school moved to the Ospedale degli Incurabili.

Church of Santa Maria della Carita

The museum courtyard

The Ponte dell’Accademia (Academy Bridge, where the museum is literally in front of) and the Accademia boat landing station (where our vaporetto water bus docked) are named after it. Like other state museums in Italy, it falls under the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, the Italian ministry of culture and heritage.

Jandy (foreground) in one of the galleries

The absolutely stunning Gallerie dell’Accademia, the picture gallery of the art academy and one of the great museums of the world, owns the most important collection worldwide of more than 800 Venetian paintings, from the Gothic until the Rococo.

Genres covered include Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Over time, the collection has increased, thanks to private donations and acquisitions.

Ornate ceiling in Room 1

The museum contains masterpieces of Venetian painting from the 12th through 18th centuries, more or less generally arranged chronologically (since art in the academy has long been taught in chronological order) in 24 rooms, though some thematic displays are evident.

Jandy and Kyle in front of the painting Fisherman Presenting a Ring to the Doge Granedigo (Paris Bordone, 1534, oil on canvas)

The museum, bringing together, under one roof, all the works of art that were scattered throughout Venice, is housed in three buildings  – the Scuola della Carità, the Convento dei Canonici Lateranensi (started in 1561 by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, it was never fully completed) and the now deconsecrated Church of Santa Maria della Carità (its facade was completed in 1441 by Bartolomeo Bon).

Angel of the Annunciation and Virgin Annunciate (Giovanni Bellini)

Washing of the Feet (Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, 1500, oil on board)

The former Santa Maria della Carità convent complex maintained its serene composure for centuries until 1807 when Napoleon installed his haul of Venetian art trophies here. The interior of the building is as beautiful as the art it houses.

Archangel Gabriel (Giambattista Cima da Conegliano)

Supper in Emmaus (Marco Marziale, 1506)

The giants of Venetian painting, from the 13th to the 18th centuries, whose wonderful collection of art are represented here include the 1600’s Canaletto Vedutisti, Francesco Guardi, Bernardo Bellotto and Pietro Longhi, down to Renaissance artists such as Gentile and Giovanni BelliniCarpaccioGiorgione,   Titian (or Tiziano), Veronese (Paolo Caliari), Tintoretto and and the Baroque master of the swirling-heavenly-clouds ceiling fresco Gianbattista Tiepolo (who became the second director, after Rococo painter Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, of the academy after his return from Würzburg).

Chess Players (Pittore Caravaggesco)

Holy Family with St. Catherine and John the Baptist (Palma il Vecchio)

Other artists include Antonello da MessinaLazzaro Bastiani,  Pacino di BonaguidaGiulio CarpioniRosalba CarrieraCima da ConeglianoFettiPietro GaspariMichele GiambonoLuca GiordanoJohann LissCharles Le BrunLorenzo LottoMantegnaRocco MarconiMichele MarieschiPiazzettaGiambattista PittoniPreti,   VasariLeonardo da Vinci (Drawing of Vitruvian Man), Alvise Vivarini and Giuseppe Zais.  All these artists influenced the history of European painting.

Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto (Paolo Veronese, ca. 1573, oil on canvas)

Crucifixion (Pittore Veneziano-Padovano, ca. 1460)

An essential visit for painting enthusiasts, it is the most important museum that one can visit during a stay in Venice. The route around the galleries does not really flow in one direction.  In many cases, we had to go down long corridors to view work, only to return along the same corridors, allowing us to revisit work as we walked about.

Mary with the Child of artist Francesco Morone (Francesco Morone)

Madonna of the Small Trees (Giovanni Bellini, 1487)

Our visit to the galleries started off in the 14th century (Paolo Veneziano’s Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece, etc.), continues through Giorgione’s weirdly lit The Tempest and Giovanni Bellini’s many Madonna and Childs, and ends with Carpaccio’s intricate Cycle of St. Ursula and Titian’s late Pietà.

Madonna and Child with St. Simeon and St. Jerome (Giovanni Agostino da Lodi)

Funeral of St Jerome (Lazzaro Bastiani)

The rooms we explored all showed Venice’s precocious flair for color and drama. The massive Tintoretto paintings, from the Scuola Grande di San Marco, can’t be seen from a reasonable viewing distance as they are hung along the sides of corridors which are only about 12 ft. wide.

Triptych of the Martyrdom of St. Liberata (Hiermonymus Bosch, 1500, oil on panel)

Ceres Renders Homage to Venice (Paolo Veronese, 1575)

Room 1 is where you can find Jacobello Alberegno’s Apocalypse  which shows the whore of Babylon, with babbling rivers of blood from her mouth, riding a hydra, and Paolo Veneziano’s Coronation of Mary, at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, where Jesus bestows the crown on his mother with a gentle pat on the head to the tune of an angelic orchestra).

Crucifixion (Andrea Previtali)

The Miracle of St. Mark Freeing the Slave (Jacopo Tintoretto, 15,48, oil on canvas)

Room 2 is where the eerie, glowing skies of Vittore Carpaccio’s lively Crucifixion and Glorification of the Ten Thousand Martyrs of Mount Ararat seem to make UFO arrivals imminent.

The Crucifixion and the Glorification the Ten Thousand Martyrs on Mt. Ararat (Vittore Carpaccio, 1515, oil on canvas)

Room 4 is where you can find Giovanni Bellini’s quietly elegant Madonna and Child between St Catherine and Mary Magdalene).

Virgin and Child between St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene (Giovanni Bellini, ca. 1500)

Room 10 features paintings by Tintoretto, Titian and Paolo Veronese.  The latter’s monumental Feast in the House of Levi (1573), originally called The Lord’s Last Supper, is shocking, not only for its size (at 42 ft. long, it is one of the largest canvases of the 16th century), but also for its rather racy depiction of the Lord’s holiest of moments. Here, the artist portrayed the Savior and his Apostles cavorting with drunkards, dwarves, Muslims and Reformation-minded Germans in a rousing, drunken banquet that resembled paintings of Roman orgies.

Feast in the House of Levi (Paolo Veronese, 1573, oil on canvas)

The Inquisition leaders, with their rising Puritanism, promptly condemned Veronese, charging the painter with irreverence and threatened to indict him on the very serious charge of heresy. Veronese quickly re-titled the work, still with Jesus in it but now surrounded by secular guests who were free to engage in acts of gluttony.  The mollified censors let it pass.

Stealing of the Body of St. Mark (Jacopo Tintoretto)

Jacopo Tintoretto’s The Stealing of the Body of St. Mark commemorates the Venetian merchants who, in 828, spirited the body of the famed saint and Evangelist away from Alexandria. During that era, Italy’s hyper-competitive maritime capitals competed to see who could steal the best saint and then build a cathedral around his bones. Acquiring bona fide saints was, thus, de rigueur for relic hunters. The painting is, obviously, a bit fanciful as it depicts the now long-dead saint, borne in the arms of the Venetian thieves, as a fresh, rather muscular corpse.

Procession in St. Mark’s Square (Gentile Bellini, 1496, tempera on canvas)

Room 12 is where you’ll find Giambattista Piazzetta’s saucy, fate-tempting socialite in Fortune Teller.  In Room 20, you’ll find works by Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini’s Procession in St Mark’s Square, which offers an intriguing view of Venice’s iconic piazza before its 16th-century makeover.

Departure of the English Ambassadors (Vittore Carpaccio, 1497-98)

The Ambassadors Return to the English Court (Vittore Carpaccio, 1495, oil on canvas)

Room 21 is home to Vittore Carpaccio’s St. Ursula Cycle, a series of 9 paintings documenting the saint’s ill-fated life. In Room 17, you’ll find works of Canaletto, Guardi and Pietro Longhi. Everything is clearly marked and explained. Rooms 12 to 19 are occasionally used for temporary exhibitions.

The Concert (Pietro Longhi, 1741, oil on canvas)

Pieta (Girolamo Romani)

Room 23, a serene showstopper fronted by a Bellini altarpiece, is the original convent chapel where tou can find Giorgione’s highly charged La Tempesta (The Storm) featuring a mysterious nursing mother and a passing soldier with a bolt of summer lightning, its meaning still debated by art historians – is this an expulsion from Eden, an allegory for alchemy, or a reference to Venice conquering Padua in the War of Cambria?

Ornate ceiling of Sala  dell’Albergo

Ornamental splendor is found at the newly restored Sala dell’Albergo, Scuola della Carità’s boardroom (Room 24), which has a lavishly carved ceiling. It faces Antonio Vivarini’s wrap-around masterpiece The Virgin Enthroned with Saints Jerome, Gregory, Ambrose and Augustine (1446 (oil on canvas), filled with fluffy-bearded saints.  closes with The touching 1534–39 Presentation of the Virgin, of Titian, features a young, tiny Madonna trudging up an intimidating staircase.  A distinctly Venetian crowd of onlookers points to her example yet few of the velvet and pearl-clad merchants offer alms to the destitute mother or even feed the begging dog.

Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (Titian, 1534)

Gallerie dell’Accademia: Campo della Carita,  Dorsoduro 1050, 30123 Venice, Italy.  Tel: +39 041 522 2247.  Admission: €15 (entry to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month). Open Mondays, 8:15 AM to 2 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays, 8:15 AM to 7:15 PM (last entrance at 6:15 PM). When you buy your ticket you will be asked to place backpacks and additional bags bigger than 20 x 30 x 15 cms. inside lockers (€1), but you will get you money back when you retrieve your belongings. There is an audio guide (for an extra €6). Photography is allowed as long as you do not use your flash. During the busy season, queues can be long after 10 AM. Admissions are restricted to 400 people at the same time.

How to Get There:  the museum is about a 15-20 min walk from St Marks and is easy to find as it is well signposted in the Dorsoduro district.

Rialto Bridge (Venice, Italy)

Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge (ItalianPonte di Rialto), one of the four bridges (and the oldest) spanning the 3,800 m. long, S-shaped Grand Canal, is one of the architectural icons of Venice.  The dividing line for the  the sestieri (districts) of San Marco and San Polo, it is renowned as an architectural and engineering achievement of the Renaissance.

A gondola passing under the bridge

This pedestrian bridge had its beginning in 1181 as a pontoon bridge called the Ponte della Moneta (presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance) built, at the narrowest point of the canal, by Nicolò Barattieri. In 1255, the development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank, necessitated its replacement by a timber bridge with two inclined ramps, meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall galleys. The connection with the Rialto market eventually led to a change of the bridge’s name. The painting Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto, by Italian Renaissance artist Vittore Carpaccio, dates back to 1496, the time when the bridge was still in wood.

The painting Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto, by Vittore Carpaccio, can be found at the Gallerie dell’Accademia

During the first half of the 15th century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge, its rents and taxes bringing an income (which helped maintain the bridge in working order) to the State Treasury. In 1310, it was partly burnt during the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade in celebration of wedding of the Marquis Ferrara. In 1524, the bridge collapsed again.

In 1503, the idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed. Over the following decades, several projects were considered. In 1551, the authorities, among other things, requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge and plans were offered by famous architects such as Jacopo SansovinoPalladio and Vignola (Michelangelo  was also considered as a designer of the bridge), all involving a Classical approach with several arches (which would hinder the river traffic), and all judged inappropriate to the situation.

The present 48 m. (157 ft.) long and 7.32 m. (24 ft.) high stone arch bridge, designed and built by Swiss-born Venetian architect and engineer Antonio da Ponte (appropriately translated as “Anthony of the Bridge”) and his nephew, Antonio Contino (the architect of the Bridge of Sighs, Venice’s second most talked about bridge), was started in 1588 and completed in 1591.

Similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded, it consisted of a massive single 28.8 m. (94.5 ft.) long span, built on some 6,000 wooden piles driven under each abutment in the soft alluvial soil, with two inclined covered ramps lead up to a central portico. The bed joints of the stones were placed perpendicular to the thrust of the arch. The lower chord of the bridge has a length of 25 m. (83 ft.) and a width of 22.9 m. (75.1 ft.). Stone reliefs on the bridge depict St. Mark, the city’s patron, and St. Theodore and the Annuciation

Its design was considered so audacious so much so that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted its future ruin.  However, the bridge has defied its critics and is now a significant tourist attraction in the city. The bridge has three walkways.  Two are located along the outer balustrades while the wider central walkway is lined by two arcades of small shops selling jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other tourist items.

Rialto Bridge: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 VeniceItaly. As the bridge consists primarily of steps, crossing it is a challenge for tourists with strollers or wheelchairs.

How to Get There: From the train station or the Piazzale Roma or if you’re walking from St. Mark’s Square, simply follow the signs to “Rialto.” From the square,  head for the clock tower, cut through the arched passage, and follow the upscale shopping streets (known as the Mercerie) until you reach the Grand Canal, then turn right and walk two blocks to the bridge. Another option is to approach the bridge via the No. 1 vaporetto (water bus) which stops at Rialto on its way up or down the Grand Canal.

The Iconic Foot Bridges of the Grand Canal (Venice, Italy)

Grand Canal

Fascinating Venice, often called the “City of Canals,” is also known as the “City of Bridges” because of the 400-plus pedestrian bridges, both nondescript and practical, that crisscross its waterways and embody the city’s beauty and history.  However, only four of these bridges span the Grand Canal.

Rialto Bridge

The photogenic Rialto Bridge (Ponte de Rialto), the first and oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, is still in use, connecting the sestieri  (districts) of San Marco and San Polo.  One of the city’s most famous landmarks, rows of shops (mostly jewellers and souvenir shops) line each side of this wide, stone arched bridge which is the gateway to the famous nearby Rialto (the name Rialto is derived from the words rivo alto meaning “high bank”) food market, the city’s principal food market since the 11th century located west of the span.  Built along the so-called “lazy bend” of the waterway (between its two highest points above sea level) and its narrowest point, tourists flock here to see this famous bridge and its views of the gondola-filled Grand Canal waterway. It has fairly steep flights of steps. Until the completion of the Accademia Bridge in 1854, this was the only bridge over the Grand Canal.

Check out “Rialto Bridge

The Academy Bridge (Ponte dell Accademia), so named because it crosses the Grand Canal (near the southern end) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia (one of the top museums in Venice after whom it  is named for), links the sestieri of Dorsoduro and San Marco.

Check out “Gallerie dell’Accademia

The original steel structure, designed by Alfred Neville and opened on November 20, 1854, was demolished and replaced by a wooden bridge designed by Eugenio Miozzi and opened in 1933 (despite widespread hopes for a stone bridge).

Ponte de Accademia

In 1986, when the 1930s bridge was deemed too dangerous, the total replacement of the wooden elements was necessary and metal arches, capable of supporting the structure better, were inserted. Interesting because of its high arch construction and the fact that it is made of wood, Venice authorities have attempted to crack down on lovers attaching padlocks (“love locks“) to the metal hand rails of the bridge.

Approach to Ponte de Accademia

The elegant stone arch Scalzi Bridge (Ponte degli Scalzi or Ponte dei Scalzi), named for the nearby Chiesa degli Scalzi (literally the “Church of the Barefoot Monks”), links the  sestieri of Santa Croce, on the south side, and Cannaregio on the north side. If you are arriving in Venice, via rail, to the Santa Lucia (Ferrovia) railway station, the Scalzi Bridge will be one of the first bridges you will cross after disembarking. Designed by Eugenio Miozzi, it was completed in 1934, replacing an Austrian iron bridge.

Ponte degli Scalzi

The Scalzi is located a mere stone-throw away to Ponte di Calatrava, the fourth and final of the four bridges to span the Grand Canal. Strategically located, it links the Stazione di Santa Lucia, on the north, to Piazzale Roma (the city’s arrival point by car/bus), on the south side of the Grand Canal, a bus depot (this bridge is closer to the bus station than the Scalzi bridge) and car park.  Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and constructed by Cignoni, its design and installation studies were carried out by a specialized group – Prof. Renato Vitaliani (Padua University) and Prof. Francesco Colleselli (Brescia University) for geotechnical and foundation aspects; the company Mastropasqua-Zanchin & Associates Structural Engineering for the steel arch and weldings verification; and Fagioli Group and Giorgio Romaro (Padua University) for the installation activities.

Ponte della Costituzione

A controversial addition to Venice’s architectural landscape because of its cost (its official budget for the project of €6.7 million ballooned to approximately €10 million), its construction and inauguration was also delayed by heated criticism, walk-outs and protests by politicians and the general public, in part, due to controversy over its Modernist-Minimalist style (being incompatible with Venice’s decorative medieval architecture),  the lack of wheelchair access (its many steps, embedded in its relatively steep pavement, means that elderly people will have difficulty climbing it and wheelchair users are excluded from crossing) and lack of necessity (the distances between Scalzi and Rialto Bridges or between the Rialto and Ponte dell’Accademia bridges are severalfold longer, and with no other way to cross the canal besides the vaporetto or traghetto).

However, its basic span was finally moved into place by a large barge from July to August 11, 2007 and the bridge was opened for public use on the night of September 11, 2008. In 2010, a mobility lift system, resembling cocoons, was installed, incurring large costs as  it was not part of the original design.

This arched truss bridge, designed to be constructed off-site and installed entirely from the canal, has a large radius of 180 m. (590 ft.).  It has a central arch, two side arches and two lower arches, all joined together by girders (consisting of steel tubes and plates which forms closed section boxes) placed perpendicular to the arches.The bridge stairway, paved with pietra d’Istria (a stone traditionally used in Venice), has tempered glass steps illuminated from below by fluorescent lights. The tempered glass parapet  terminates in a bronze handrail with concealed lighting.

Formerly known as Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande, the official name of Ponte della Costituzione (English: Constitution Bridge) was adopted in 2008 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Italian constitution. However, tourists and locals in Venice still refer to it as the Calatrava Bridge (ItalianPonte di Calatrava). Today, this bridge is important, both functionally and symbolically, as it connects arriving visitors to the city, welcoming them to Venice with a panoramic view of the Grand Canal.

Murano Glass Museum (Venice, Italy)

Murano Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro)

The Murano Glass Museum (ItalianMuseo del Vetro), a museum on the millennial history of glass, including local Murano glass, is housed in the Vescovi Palace, the former residence of the bishops of Torcello. Originally built in the Gothic style, this patrician’s palace became the residence of Bishop Marco Giustinian in 1659. He later bought it and donated it to the Torcello diocese.

Jandy, Cheska, Grace and Kyle at the museum garden

This Glass Museum, founded in 1861 by Abbot Zanetti, became part of the Venetian Civic Museums in 1923, following the fusion of Murano with Venice.  In 1932, its collections were put in order under the guidance of Giulio Lorenzetti and Nino Barbantini who adopted more modern criteria regarding display techniques.

Museum exhibit

The museum’s collection, further expanded by the addition of the Correr, Cicogna and Molin Collections, includes, among other things, the most beautiful Renaissance pieces in the museum. Except for occasional purchases, the museum’s contemporary collection are enriched by donations made by the island’s glassworks.  It is run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE).

A collection of glass beads

Paintings of famous glassmakers

The museum is divided into the following sections:

  • Archaeological Section  (Ground floor) – its most outstanding exhibits come from the necropolises of Enona (Zara), noteworthy Roman works dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D. including objects with depictions of animals and plants, glass murrini and examples of applications and decorations used in ancient times.
  • Murano Glass in the 15th Century – the evolution, from ‘crystal clear’ glass, to the pure and transparent glass that, during the next century, leads to the development of new decorative techniques.
  • Murano Glass in the 16th Century – the century in which the precious Murano glass goes beyond national borders to spread throughout Europe,  on display are lattimo glass; white opaque glass like porcelain; glass used in filigree or decorated with enamels; and ice glass with a typical cracked outer surface.
  • Murano Glass in the 17th Century – considered to be the century of the so-called glass à la façon de Venise, the most prestigious Murano glass, the 17th century is also the beginning of the decline because of the massive exodus of Murano glassmakers abroad. Towards the end of the century the market began to prefer Bohemian glass.

Murano Glass in the 13th – 17th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 18th Century – Murano Glass acquired new life thanks to Joseph Briati. Examples of his vast output on display include chiocche (crystal chandeliers decorated with multiple arms); deseri (table triumphs), famous for their ornamental richness and variety of the subjects represented; and beautiful mirrors.

Murano Glass in the 18th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 19th Century – production of Murano Glass art goes through a period of technique and aesthetics decline. From the second half of the 19th century, blown glass by Antonio Salviati and reproduction of Roman mosaic glass by Vincenzo Moretti offered new ideas to the glassmaking industry.
  • Murano Glass in the 20th Century – the traditional techniques of glass working began to be used for more modern creations at the beginning of this century– as demonstrated in the ‘Peacock  murrina‘ and Vittorio Zecchin’s Plate. After the First World War, many artists began working closely with the furnaces on the island. Umberto Bellotto, with the cooperation of the Barovier artists and fantastic glassy fabrics created by Carlo Scarpa for Venini, designed daring combinations of glass and wrought iron. After World War II, Murano develops an interest in the chromatic effects of the glass as can be seen in the works of Ercole Barovier, the noteworthy sculptures of Alfredo Barbini and the creations of watermarks by Archimede Seguso.

Murano Glass in the 20th Century

The upper floor houses a collection of glass from the 15th to the 20th century (one of the most complete in the world), including world famous realizations by the famous Barovier & Toso glass company and glass textiles designed by Carlo Scarpa in the late 1930s.

Chiocche (crystal chandeliers)

The exhibit, interspersed throughout with innumerable glass objects reflective of the era covered and the specific techniques of production for each century, took us through the history of glass making solely on Murano, starting with the 14th -17th century apogee of the art and, continuing into modern times, in more detail with the 18th and 19th century of jousting of Murano with Bohemia as the world’s leader in this art form. Then, it continues with its downturn, after Napoleon,  and revival in the late 19th century (thanks to enterprising locals of the industry).  Modern day art ended our tour.

Miniature garden made entirely of Murano glass

Also on display are a fine collection of beads and an equally splendid exhibition of classic table ware. At a small hall just by the entrance, we watched a cool video presentation on glassware making.

The Minimalist displays, in 6 big, easy to navigate and wheelchair-friendly rooms, were.impressive and occasionally stunning to the eye and our 2-hour visit here was educational and worthwhile.

Murano Glass Museum: Fondamenta Giustinian 8, 30121 MuranoVeniceItaly. Tel: +39 041 739586. Website: Open from April 1 to November 1, 10 AM – 6 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 5 PM); from November 2 to March 31, 10 AM  – 5 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 4 PM); closed on December 25 and January 1. Admission: €4.00 (reductions for pensioners and students), €6.50 for a ticket which usually combines entrance to the Glass Museum and the Lace Museum on Burano.

How to Get There: From the Piazzale Roma or Ferrovia (the bus and railroad station), boarded the Line 3 “Diretto Murano” vaporetto (water taxi) and drop off at the “Museo” vaporetto water bus stop. The museum is a short walk along the Fondamenta to your left as you get off the water bus.

Church of St. Peter Martyr (Venice, Italy)

The Church of St. Peter Martyr (Italian: Chiesa di San Pietro Martire), currently one of the two main Roman catholic parish churches (the other is the Basilica of St. Donato) and one of three remaining (before Napoleon there were 18, the third is the Church of St. Mary of the Angels ) in the island of Murano, near Venice, was edificated in 1348 along with a Dominican convent and was originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  In 1474, a fire razed it to the ground and, in 1511, it was rebuilt and enlarged to the current appearance and rededicated to St. Peter Martyr.

Church of St. Peter Martyr

In 1806, a few years after the fall of the Republic of Venice, it was closed but was reopened in 1813 as a parish church due to an initiative by Fr. Stefano Tosi, with art from other suppressed churches and monasteries on Murano and other islands. At its reopening the church was renamed St. Peter and Paul (S. Pietro e Paolo) but, in 1840, it reverted to its present name.

During the restoration of 1922-28, the original ceiling and the frescos of the saints above the pillars were revealed.  The colonnade from the demolished convent of Santa Chiara was also reassembled and attached to the west flank of the church in 1924. From 1981 to 1983, the church underwent a restoration campaign financed by the Italian Ministry of Culture.  The roof was repaired and the rotten brickwork was replaced. Save Venice provided emergency funding to repair stone parts of the two-light “bifora” window above the side entrance door.

The church’s Renaissance façade, of naked brickwork, is divided in three sections.  Its 16th-century portal is surmounted by a large rose window. On the left façade is a portico with Renaissance arcades and columns (perhaps what remains of the original cloister) and a bell tower, dating to 1498-1502 (its original bells came from England but have been recast many times since, most recently in 1942 after war damage). The church is 55 m. (180 ft.) long, 25 m. (82 ft.) wide and 13 m. (43 ft.) wide at the nave.

The impressively spacious and tall interior, with a basilica plan, has a nave and two aisles (divided from each other by rows of four arches supported by large columns), a wooden ceiling,  tie beams across the arches and the nave, a trussed roof, a wide and deep half-domed chancel, a high altar and three minor altars for each nave. The spandrels between the arches are nicely decorated with saints.  The quite large presbytery has barrel vaults and two small, wide and deep apsidal chapels.

In the right nave are artworks including a Baptism of Christ (attributed to Tintoretto, it came from above the high altar of the demolished San Giovanni dei Battuti on Murano) plus two works by Giovanni BelliniAssumption with Saints (1510–1513) and the Barbarigo Altarpiece (or The Madonna with Doge Agostino Barbarigo, 1488), taken from the nearby church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and brought here in 1815.

The row of arches supported by large columns

Other paintings include a St. Jerome in the Desert by Paolo Veronese (also from Santa Maria degli Angeli), St Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter and an Angel  (also by Veronese), the Barcaioli Altarpiece (or Virgin and Child with Saints) by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (ca. 1500, it was previously thought to be by Basaiti and came from the demolished San Cristoforo delle Pace), a Deposition from the Cross by Giuseppe Porta, Saints Nicholas, Charles Borromeo and Lucy by Palma il Giovane (which came from the demolished church of Santi Biagio e Cataldo on Giudecca) and a 1495 Ecce Homo (perhaps from the destroyed church of Santo Stefano in Murano). In the left-hand apsidal chapel is a hard-to-see painting by Domenico Tintoretto while a pair of huge paintings by Bartolomeo Latteri (including an impressively architectural Nozze di Cana) covering both side walls of the deep chancel.

The Ballarin Chapel, at the church’s right wing, was built in 1506 after the death of Giuliano Ballarin, the eponymous glassmaker from Murano.

Chiesa di San Pietro Martire: Fondamenta dei Vetrai, Campiello Marco Michieli 3, 30141 Murano, Venice VE, Italy. Tel: +39 041 739704.  Open Mondays to Saturdays, 9 AM – 12 noon and 3 – 6 PM, and Sundays, 3- 6 PM.

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte (Florence, Italy)

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte

From Piazzale Michangelo, a five minute stroll up took us to the unique and beautiful Basilica of San Miniato al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain), a basilica standing atop Monte alle Croci, one of the highest points in the city.  One of the most scenic churches in Italy, it absolutely has the best view of the city.

View of Florence

View of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio (left) and the Duomo (right)

Here, we could see the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio up to the last standing parts of the medieval walls that once surrounded Florence.  A stunning example of original Tuscan Romanesque architecture, it has been described as one of the finest Romanesque structures in Tuscany. Here are some trivia regaring the basilica:

  • The church is dedicated to Miniato or Minas, an Armenian prince or Greek merchant who once served in the Roman army under Emperor Decius.  Miniato was denounced as a Christian after becoming a hermit.  He was brought before the Emperor, who was camped outside the gates of Florence, and was ordered to be thrown to the beasts in the amphitheater.  A panther refused to devour him so, in the presence of the Emperor, he was beheaded.  Miniato was alleged to have picked up his head, put it back on his shoulders, crossed the Arno and walked up the hill of Mons Fiorentinus, to his hermitage. A shrine was later erected at this spot and, by the 8th century, there was already a chapel built there.
  • The basilica served as an important setting in Brian de Palma’s 1976 filmObsession.
  • On June 16, 2012, Dutch royalPrincess Carolina of Bourbon-Parma married businessman Albert Brenninkmeijer

The present church, built on the site of a 4th century chapel, was started in 1013 by Bishop Alibrando (Hildebrand) and was endowed by the Emperor Henry II. The green (from Prato) and white (from Carrara) marble façade, with strict geometric patterns similar to the facades of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella, is the most important element of the façade.

The basilica's Romanesque facade

The basilica’s Romanesque facade

The facade was probably begun in about 1090 although the upper parts date from the 12th century or later.  It was financed by the Florentine Arte di Calimala (the eagle that crowns the façade is their symbol), a cloth merchants’ guild who, from 1288, were responsible for the church’s upkeep.

Eagle symbol of Arte di Calimala

Eagle symbol of Arte di Calimala

The lower part of the facade is decorated by fine arcading.  A fine 12th century mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato, over a central window, decorates the simpler upper part of the facade.

Mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato

Mosaic of Christ enthroned between the Madonna and St. Miniato

The campanile, which collapsed in 1499, was replaced in 1523 although it was never finished. In 1530, during the siege of Florence, it was used as an artillery post by the defenders. To protect it from enemy fire, Michelangelo had it wrapped in mattresses.

The unfinished campanille

The unfinished campanille

The tripartite Romanesque interior of the basilica, little changed since it was first built, has three naves (without a transept); a trussed timber roof and ceiling (decorated in 1322) in the central nave; and exhibits the early feature of a choir, elevated on a platform above the large crypt (the oldest part of the church).

The trussed timber roof and ceiling

The trussed timber roof and ceiling

Fragments of 13th and 14th century frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi (1341) may be seen in the vaults of the crypt.  Finished about 1062, the austere crypt is divided into 7 small aisles by 38 slender columns that were decorated “in gold” by Gaddi in 1342. Enclosed by a marble column fence and elaborate wrought-iron gate (1338), this vast space contains an impressive 14th century wood chorus.

The crypt

The crypt

Columns, with alternating polystyle pilasters, divide the naves. The side (lateral) naves were finished in 1070. The patterned pavement, in the central aisle, dates from 1207 and includes marble intarsias representing the signs of the zodiac and symbolic animals.

Central Nave

The central nave

The beautiful, freestanding Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix), designed by Michelozzo in 1448, dominates the center of the nave. It originally housed the miraculous crucifix, now in Santa Trìnita, and is decorated with panels long thought to have been painted by Agnolo Gaddi. Luca della Robbia or his family did the delicate glazed terracotta decoration of the vault (the crucifix above the high altar is also attributed to him) while the mosaic of Christ between the Virgin and St Minias was made in 1260.

Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix)

Cappella del Crocefisso (Chapel of the Crucifix)

The 11th century high altar supposedly contains the bones of St. Minias himself (although there is evidence that these were removed to Metz before the church was even built). The intimate raised choir, with its fine inlaid wooden choir stalls, and the presbytery contains a magnificent Romanesque ambo (pulpit) and screen, both made in 1207. The lectern is supported by a “column” composed of a lion, a monk-telamon and an eagle with outstretched wings.

Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelists

Mosaic o the Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelists

The bowl-shaped vault of the apse (c. 1260) is dominated by a great mosaic, dating from 1297,  of the Blessing Christ, the Pantocrator, flanked by the Madonna, St. Minias and the symbols of the four Evangelistswhich depicts the same subject as that on the façade and is probably by the same unknown artist.

Left nave

Left nave

The figures stand out Byzantine-style against a gold background in a field populated with oriental birds (symbolizing souls). The date palm, on the left, symbolizes Christ Resurrected, while the phoenix on the right, spouting flames from its beak, and the peacock on the left, both symbolize the Resurrection of Christ.

Right nave

Right nave

The great fresco cycle on the 16 stories of the Life of St. Benedict (taken from “Dialogues” of Gregory the Great and from “Golden Legend” by Jacopo da Varagine), illustrated in chronological sequence (almost like a film) by Spinello Aretino (1387-88), decorates the entrance of the sacristy, to the right of the presbytery. The first undertaking of the Olivetans, it was commissioned by Benedetto degli Alberti.

Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (1461-66) by Antonio Rossellino

Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (1461-66) by Antonio Rossellino

On the left of the nave, stairs lead to the Chapel of St. James or Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal (Cappella del Cardinale del Portogallo), a collaboration of outstanding artists of Florence.  One of the most magnificent funerary monuments of the Italian Renaissance, it was designed by Brunelleschi’s associate, Antonio Manetti (but finished, after his death in 1460, by Antonio Rossellino in 1461).

Madonna with the Child and Saints Francis, Mark, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, James and Anthony Abbot

Madonna with the Child and Saints Francis, Mark, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, James and Anthony Abbot

It was built by the Alberti workshop of Antonio and Bernardo Rossellino in 1473 as a memorial (the only tomb in the church) to Cardinal James of Lusitania, the Portuguese ambassador in 1459, who died in Florence on August 27, 1459.  The chapel was decorated by Alesso BaldovinettiAntonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo. The 5 splendid roundels representing the Holy Spirit and the Cardinal Virtues are by Luca della Robbia (1461-66).

Medallions by Luca della Robbia

3 of the 5 roundrels by Luca della Robbia

A fine cloister, adjacent to the church, also designed by Bernardo and Antonio Rosselino, was planned as early as 1426, financed by the Arte della Mercantia of Florence and built from 1443 to the mid-1450s. The fortified bishop’s palace, to the right of the church, was the ancient summer residence of the bishops of Florence from 1295- 1320.  It was later used as a a convent, barracks, a hospital and a Jesuit house.

Bishop’s palace

Bishop’s palace

Defensive walls, originally built hastily by Michelangelo during the 1529-30 siege and expanded into a true fortress (fortezza) by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1553, surround the whole complex and  now encloses the Porte Santea, a beautiful, monumental cemetery laid out in 1854. Carlo Collodi (creator of Pinocchio), Giovanni Spadolini (politician), Pietro Annigoni (painter), Luigi Ugolini (poet and author), Mario Cecchi Gori (film producer), Libero Andreotti (sculptor), Maria Luisa Ugolini Bonta (fine artist), Marietta Piccolomini (soprano), Giovanni Papini (writer) and Bruno Benedetto Rossi (physicist) are buried here.

Porte Santea

Porte Santea

When ascending the stairs of the basilica, the adjoining Olivetan monastery can be seen to the right. It began as a Benedictine community but was then passed to the Cluniacs and, finally,  in 1373, to the Olivetans who still run it. The monks here still make their famous tisanes (herbal tea), liqueurs and honey which are sold to visitors from a shop next to the church.

Olivetan monks

Olivetan monks

Basilica of San Miniato al Monte: Via delle Porte Sante, 34, 50125 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 234 2731.  Open daily, 9:30 AM -1 PM and from 3 – 7 PM; Sundays 3 – 7 PM. Visit the church on Sundays and feast days as the monks accompany Mass in the crypt with Gregorian chant at 10 AM and 5.30 PM. During week days, the Gregorian chant takes place at 5:30 PM in summer. This time might change to 4:30 PM in winter.


Piazzale Michelangelo (Florence, Italy)

Piazzale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

This large, partly pedestrianized Florentine piazza, located across the Arno River from the center of Florence, was designed by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi,  known for his creation of boulevards around the center of Florence, part of the so-called Risanamento (“Rebirth”), a late nineteenth-century urban modernization project which also resulted in the creation of the Piazza della Repubblica.  Under the loggia, in the wall of the balcony, is an epigraph in capital letters referring to Poggi’s work, turned into his monument in 1911.

Bronze copy of Michelangelo's David (15)

Bronze copy of Michelangelo’s David (15)

The piazza was built in 1869 on a hill, 104 m. above sea level (and 60 m. above the level of the Arno River), just south of the historic center, during the redevelopment of Oltrarno, the left (South) bank of the Arno River, as part of major restructuring of the fourteenth-century city walls.  Dedicated to Michelangelo Buonarroti (the city’s most famous Renaissance sculptor), the square has bronze copies, set on a large pedestal, of some of his marble works found elsewhere in Florence – the famous David (seen in the Galleria dell’Accademia) and the Four Allegories (seen at the Medici Chapel of San Lorenzo, it depicts day, night, dusk and dawn), brought up by nine pairs of oxen on June 25, 1873.

Two of the Four Allegories

Two of the Four Allegories

Poggi also designed the hillside building with loggia as a museum for Michelangelo’s works which, for some reason, was not realized as it was intended. Today, the building is now a restaurant. The loggia, designed by Poggi the in the Neo-Classical-style, dominates the whole sumptuous, typically 19th century terrace.

View of the city

View of the city

A popular spot, most of Piazzale Michelangelo is a parking lot filled with vendors and locals and tourists, dropped off by busses, who come here to enjoy and snap photos of the panoramic and unobstructed views of the Arno valley and the heart of Florence, from Forte Belvedere to Santa Croce, across the lungarni (riverside walks) and the bridges crossing the Arno, including the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, the Bargello and the octagonal bell tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Beyond the city are the hills of Settignano and Fiesole.

The Arno River

The Arno River

Despite the overly touristy commercialism and its being crowded all year round, the piazza is still well worth a visit thanks to the magnificent views over the most important landmarks of Florence, with the Tuscan hills providing a scenic backdrop. The square is filled with a large number of market stalls selling souvenirs and snacks.

L-R: Cheska, the author, Kyle, Grace and Jandy

L-R: Cheska, the author, Kyle, Grace and Jandy

Kyle and Cheska

Kyle and Cheska

How to Get There:  From the city center, Piazzale Michelangelo can be reached by taking either bus 12 or 13 or the red, two-level sightseeing tour bus. On foot, from the Porta San Niccolò (a fourteenth-century city gate near the Arno River), it can also be reached by walking up the stairs or going up the steep winding path from Piazza Giuseppe Poggi (also known as the “Poggi Ramps”), found at the base of the hill upon which Piazzale Michelangelo sits. By car, it can be accessed along the tree-lined, 8 km. long Viale Michelangelo.

Porcelain Museum (Florence, Italy)

Porcelain Museum

Porcelain Museum

First opened in October 1973, the Porcelain Museum (Museo delle Porcellane), a section of the Silver Museum, is an internationally acclaimed institution in the field of ceramics and among the hundred most visited art museums in the world. It is housed in the Villino del Cavaliere, built in the 17th century at the top of the hill that overlooks the Boboli Gardens which was chosen as a retreat for the Grand Duke.

Porcelain Museum (4)

If you love porcelain, then you will be impressed by its extensive collection of mainly continental porcelain, encompassing almost every famous maker. The labels were predominantly in Italian.  As it is located on one of the highest points of the Boboli Gardens, you have a gorgeous panoramic view of the city of Florence from the terrace.

Porcelain Museum (3)

The over 2,000-piece, homogeneous collection comprises mainly porcelain tableware, from many of the most notable European porcelain factories, belonging to the royal families that ruled Tuscany and have followed one another at Pitti Palace, starting from the period of the Medici family, to the Lorraines (including the Parma-Bourbon dynasty), to the Savoys up to the unification of Italy.  One of the most important historical collections of its kind in Europe, the oldest pieces are those that once belonged to Gian Gaston de Medici (the last Medici Grand Duke, 1671-1737) produced in the Manufactory of Meissen.

Porcelain Museum (14)

Among the well represented manufacturers of origin on display are the Royal Factory of Naples (Capodimonte); the Tuscan Carlo Ginori from Sesto FiorentinoFrench manufacturers  Vincennes (founded in 1740 and transferred to Sèvres in 1756 under the direct ownership of King Louis XV) in ParisViennese porcelain, largely collected by Ferdinand III of Tuscany; the German porcelain factory of Meissen, near Dresden.

Porcelain Museum (17)

Many items in the collection, divided into three sections by periods, nations (Austria, Germany and France) and manufacturers, were specially commissioned by the Grand Ducal court, clearly reflecting their tastes, with several outstanding examples of Italian porcelain objects produced in Doccia (near Florence, founded by the Ginori family in 1737) and at the Royal Manufactory of Naples.  These were especially used by the Grand ducal family for large services of daily use.  All are very detailed, elegant and fine works of arts.

Meissen (1800-1850)

Meissen (1800-1850)

Others were gifts to the Florentine rulers from other European sovereigns. They include fine table sets from Vienna and from the German Manufactory of Meisse.  There were also French several large porcelain dinner services from the Vincennes  (later renamed Sèvres) factory, brought to the Pitti Palace by the Savoy House from the Royal Palace of Parma.

1750 Porcelain (Sevres)

1750 Porcelain (Sevres)

Table services, for daily use, constantly supplied to the Grand Dukes of Lorraine, from Doccia Manifacture, include a flowered porcelain with bouquet or tulip motifs, taken from the so-called “famille rose” Chinese porcelain; and lovely coffee cups with view of Florentine piazzas, from the 1800’s, made using lithographs by the Frenchman Philippe Benoist as models.

Naples Royal Factory (1785)

Naples Royal Factory (1785)

Some typical examples of French porcelain, characterized by various pastel-colored shades, includes some flower vases with scenes taken from Francois Boucher as well as 4 oysters stands from Parma, singular and unique of their kind, made up of 18 shell-shaped bowls and belonging to Louise Elisabeth de Bourbon, the Grand Duchess of Parma, who was, in fact, the daughter of Louis XV, king of France. Sèvres table services for the light first course and dessert, in two central display cases, were gifts to Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi (Grand Duchess of Tuscany, 1809-1814) from her august brother Emperor Napoleon I.

Porcelain Museum (23)

In the first room is a collection from the Real Fabbrica of Naples.  They include, of particular note, a series of small biscuit figurines depicting personages from Classical antiquity; reproductions from the excavations in Herculaneum; 18 figurines reproducing ‘garments’ from the Kingdom of Naples, two dejeuner services (one decorated with Egyptian motifs and the other with Etruscan motifs).

Biscuit figurines

Biscuit figurines

A rich assembly of Viennese porcelains, in the second room, were brought to Pitti Palace by two Lorraine grand dukes – Peter Leopold (who maintained a constant rapport with the Vienna) and Ferdinand III of Lorraine (an impassioned collector of porcelains and, particularly, of ‘solitaire’ services). Cups and trays, decorated with views of Vienna, and a coffee service, with a trompe l’oeil feigned wood decoration, stand out.

A series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte

A series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte

Porcelains from Meissen and from other German manufacturers are in the third room. In the display case, towards the window, are 2 turtle-shaped butter dishes, a teapot in the shape of a rooster and a broth cup with scene inspired by a play by Molière, probably belonging to the collection of Gian Gastone de Medici.

Sèvres porcelain of Elisa Baciocchi (1809–1810)

Sèvres porcelain of Elisa Baciocchi (1809–1810)

Early pieces, from the Meissen factory, such as a splendid vase, are decorated with Chinese motifs such as gilded grape leaves and vines in relief. The Harlequin, a series of small porcelain statues taken from the Commedia dell’Arte, representing people in costume (ladies, musicians, putti, gardeners, etc.), was a source of inspiration for the Capodimonte porcelain manufacture in Naples.

Turtle-shaped butter dishes

Turtle-shaped butter dishes

Porcelain Museum: Palazzo Pitti, Piazza de’ Pitti, Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 238 8709