This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Venetian Sestiere: Dorsodouro

While we use a period for our decimal place indicator, most Europeans use a comma. And to confuse things a bit more, where we use a comma to separate thousands from hundreds, Europeans use a period.


This week, it's time to get back to Venice. Specifically, the sestiere of Dorsodouro (or Dorsoduro in some circles).

Don't remember what a sestiere is? Please, review my previous article of January 3, 2017, titled "Venice's Sestiere".

We like Dorsodouro for its quiet charm. And there is variety in that you have both large and small campi, small canals, and then the walkway along the large, sea-like Giudecca Canal. 


This map shows you Dorsodouro's location within's the lime-green-shaded area of the map.


And in this birds-eye view, you can see detail of the boundary of the Dorsodouro sestiere. 

In the aerial view above, draw an imaginary vertical line down the center of Dorsodouro just to the left of Campo Santa Margherita. Then, focus your time to the right of that line...most all you would want to see in the sestiere of Dorsodouro is in the eastern limits. 

Here are the main attractions of Dorsodouro

Iconic Santa Maria della Salute & the Punta della Dogana

Perhaps the most prominent feature of Dorsodouro is the church of Santa Maria della Salute. You've seen it before in my article of titled, "Transforming the Punta della Dogana". Here is a photo of the Punta and the Salute taken one evening as we dined at Terrazza Daniele. 

Accademia Gallery

The second most prominent feature within Dorsodouro would be the Galleria dell'Accademia (Accademia Gallery), Venice's premier art gallery. It is located at the sourthern terminus of the Accademia Bridge.

This gallery, shown at left, houses magnificent pre-19th century Venetian art.


Here is the ceiling of the large room as you enter. This room's entire ceiling is covered with this pattern. That was a lot of work, and we are always amazed at the craftsmanship that went into Venetian buildings. So many happy little faces!

Our favorite Venetian painting at the Accademia is this masterpiece by Giovanni Bellini titled, "Sacred Conversation" (aka "Madonna and Child with Two Saints"). We don't visit Venice without stopping by to say, 'Hello'. Absolutely gorgeous!

Another fine work found here is the San Giobbe Altarpiece, by Bellini, shown below -- just a little worse for wear. The work depicts Mary sitting on a tall marble throne, holding the Christ Child. At her feet are three musician While at the side are, in symmetrical positions, six saints. They are, on the left, Sts. Francis, John the Baptist and Job; and on the right, Sts. Dominic, Sebastian and Louis of Toulouse.

On a religious-art note, Saint Sebastian is depicted often in Italian art and he is readily identified by arrows piercing his body.

Ca' Rezzonico and Its Museum of 18th-Century Venice

This magnificent palace, now the Museum of 18th century Venice, was designed by the greatest Baroque architect of the city, Baldassare Longhena for the aristocratic Bon family. Work began in 1649, but Longhena’s and the client's deaths, together with the financial problems of the Bon family, brought work to a halt, leaving the palace incomplete. In the meantime, the Giambattista Rezzonico family purchased the palace and had it completed. The Rezzonico's family fortunes peaked in 1758 when younger brother Carlo became Pope Clement VIII. After a few years, and with no heirs, the palace fell into disrepair and had several owners, including Robert Barrett Browning. In 1935, Ca' Rezzonico was sold to the town of Venice by the owner, who was a member of the Italian Parliament. 

Today, Ca' Rezzonico is a must-see if one wants to understand what life was like in Venice in years gone by. Both the furnishings and the art reveal Venice's past in this beautiful building. Here are a couple of photos of the interior, taken from the Ca' Rezzonico website.

Below is one of the few photos that I took within the Ca' on a cold, dreary day in January, 2004.

For those who have visited Venice in the warmer months, you will note the dearth of boat traffic on the canal. As a matter of fact, when we left the Ca' and awaited a vaporetto, we saw absolutely no boat traffic in either direction on the Grand Canal -- a rare site, and one of the reasons we so enjoyed our winter visit. You can see my parody of Venetian boat traffic here.

Squero di San Trovaso

The Squero is fascinating in that it is the gondola repair facility of the Venetian lagoon. This is where the gondole are scraped and gussied up for your Romantic Gondola Ride

[click on an image for a larger view]

Here is a digital painting that I created from one of my photos of the Squero di San Trovaso.

Lunch at Taverna San Trovaso

Hungry? Then let's take a break for lunch at Taverna San Trovaso. We've eaten here a couple of times.

In the left photo below, you see the Taverna during aqua alta (high water) event. While on the right, is the Taverna in its normal state when we were there during January, 2004. I'm not sure if the restaurant was open during aqua alta, but it would seem that having 12" of water in your restaurant would cause a problem, wouldn't it?

To the right is the bill for my solo meal at Taverna San Trovaso in October 12, 2012. The amounts are in Euros, or € for short. Let's break it down.

But first, let's talk about calendar dates in the European format. You can see '12/10/12' on the lunch check. in Europe, the format is DD/MM/YY, while in the US we use MM/DD/YY. So the date of the check is October 12, not December 10. Got it?

OK, then. Let's move on to decimal places. You can see on the check that my Coca Cola Light was '3,00'. In the US you would see 3.00. While we use a period for our decimal place indicator, most (but not all) Europeans use a comma. And to confuse things a bit more, where we use a comma to separate thousands from hundreds (eg 2,500), Europeans use a period (eg 2.500). So, 1,234.56 in the US would be written 1.234,56 in most European countries.

Huh. Go figure. 

So, what did I eat? First, we see that I had 'crudo, stracchino', which translates as raw soft cheese, which you can see here -- and in reality it includes prosciutto. I've got to say that this looks like a good bit of prosciutto for 10€, doesn't it?


Next we find 'bufala', which translates to buffalo. Now, I'm not actually eating buffalo, but a salad of tomato, olive, argula and a mozzorella cheese made from buffalo milk. NOTE: this is not a buffalo milk as in bison milk, but buffalo milk as in water-buffalo milk. Got it?

Next we find 'Coca Cola Light' -- in our world we call this a diet coke. I neglected to get a photo of this favorite soda during this seating, but fear not, I found one in my archives that was taken in this very Taverna San Trovaso from a previous trip. Here you see my lovely wife, Ellen, pouring this nectar of the ungodly prices -- 3€, or about 4$ at the time.


Next up is '1/4 Cabernet', or 1/4 liter of house red wine. You can see the carafe in two of the photos above. That's about 8.5 ounces of wine for 3€. Reasonable by US standards...and the wine is very good. And at the exact same price as a can of diet coke, one might as well drink wine -- which is what the Italians do.

The last thing we see on the bill is 'Coperto'. This is the 2€ cover, or cover charge for service. One does not typically tip in Italy (and most of Europe), but there is often a cover charge like this one. Stand at a counter to eat your meal and you have no coperto. Sit in Piazza San Marco at Cafe Florian for a cup of espresso and expect a coperto of about 6€. In many restaurants, like this one, sitting to eat adds an additional 2€ -- but hey, there's no tipping.

So all said, my bill came to 30€. One might think this a bit high for a light lunch, but we are in Venice, you know...where everything is brought in by boat... everything. 

One thing fairly unique about Taverna San Trovaso was my server, who was a woman. One does not see many female wait staff in Venice -- we've had only two in several trips. Here is my friendly waitress.

OK. Lunch is over. Let's move on to other parts of Dorsodouro.


Campo Santa Margherita

I like this large campo, or field, or get the idea. It's the heart of Dorsodouro. It is a center of trade, with numerous shops and markets, like this shop where the famous Venetian masks are being made by hand.


It is a place to meet and talk with friends.


It's a place for families...including their pets.


And for those who attend the Università Ca' Foscari, which is in this very same Dorsodouro sestiere, it is a place for you can see here as these two take notes during the lecture of Profesor Porumbel (to save you looking up a translation, 'porumbel' is Italian for 'pigeon'.


And, on wash days, it is a place to hang one's laundry.


The Floating Market

On the Rio San Barnaba canal, you can find this floating market. And that looks like none other than our own Debbie Kennedy looking at us from across the canal.

This market boat seems to be semi-permanently moored here, as you can see by the mossy guy ropes.


Here is some of the produce you will find at this floating market.

Dinner Time at Ai Gondolieri

OK, we've wandered around a good bit and it's time for dinner. I've got a good place picked out...and since you're getting a bit tired of seafood, this spot should work nicely.

Most Venetian restaurants specialize in just happens to be abundant when you live in a lagoon on the Adriatic. However, there is a restaurant where one can get more meaty dishes, and that is Ai Gondolieri. You will find more veal, lamb and beef on the menu here than most any other restaurant in Venice.

It is unfortunate that when we visited Ai Gondolieri in the winter of 2004, I took very few photos with the point-and-shoot camera that I had at the time. But here is perhaps the one photo that I did have, which shows fresh flowers and an edible garnish that awaits when you are seated. 


Found While Strolling Dorsodouro

I will leave you with the sights (sorry, no sounds) of the sestiere of Dorsodouro.

Doors & Windows of Dorsodouro

Canal Water Gates

Canal Reflections

Miscellaneous Sights

Here I've jumped into another bridal photo shoot. And is that the same Rialto Bridge model from my San Polo article? I think it is!

Well, that's the charming area of Dorsodouro...a nice, quiet place to visit when you are strolling the streets of Venice.

I'll close with another photogenic, quiet canal scene from Dorsodouro.

I will look for you at Campo Santa Margherita or along one of the many charming canals of Dorsodouro.

Web links...


Ciao for now,


My Instagram feed...

Transforming the Punta della Dogana


Today’s transformation and short (maybe a wee bit long…OK, longish) history lesson concerns a point of land in Venice with the beautiful church of Santa Maria della Salute and the Punta della Dogna. I hope you will stick with it, because this little point of land will give you a good sense of Venice – both its religious and economic side.

A point of land like this is what one friend calls, ‘a stick-out place’.  You can see why it’s called a ‘point’ in this photo.

There are two main attractions of historical interest on this point, the Dogana (the brown triangle building at the point) and the church of Santa Maria della Salute (just above). Both sit in the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. What’s a ‘sestiere’ you say? I’ll save that for another article…maybe next time.  


The Punta della Dogana 

This was the customs stop for all ships coming in to Venice. ‘Punta della Dogana’ is literally translated as ‘Customs Point’. The arriving cargo ships were inspected by customs officials and taxes were levied on their goods. I seem to remember that the very precious commodity of salt was stored in the warehouses of the Dogana.

The tower at the very tip was built in the latter part of the 1600s, and it includes a particularly charming embellishment on the very tippy top – see the little golden sphere in the photo?

Here is a better view of that sphere with folks who look like they're at their health club.

This tower is crowned by twin Atlases holding up a bronze globe…laborious and backbreaking work which they have endured for over four centuries. Standing atop the globe is another statue, this one of Fortuna, or "Fortune", which acts as a weathervane as she holds out either a ship’s rudder or a piece of her garments (you decide) to the wind.

Are you a fan of Henry James? Let’s let him describe her in his more lyrical way, from his Italian Hours essay on Venice:

The charming architectural promontory of the Dogana stretches out the most graceful of arms, balancing in its hand the gilded globe on which revolves the delightful satirical figure of a little weathercock of a woman. This Fortune, this Navigation, or whatever she is called—she surely needs no name—catches the wind in the bit of drapery of which she has divested her rotary bronze loveliness.

How about those poetic ‘little weathercock of a woman’ and ‘her rotary bronze loveliness’ phrases? If I were single, I’m sure those phrases would be part of my pickup-line repertoire.

Santa Maria della Salute

This beautiful church is the jewel of this stick-out place. This church is iconic of Venice. You just don’t go to Venice without seeing it, and once seen, it is indelibly etched into your mind.

Here is a view captured in one of my digital paintings.

Digital 'painting' of the church of Santa Maria della Salute

The church's name is usually just shortened to ‘The Salute’. The word ‘salute’ translates to ‘health’, and there is a special reason for their use of that name, which will be revealed shortly.

At the top of the dome stands a statue of the Virgin Mary, who presides over the church which was erected in her honor. The façade is decorated with figures of St George, St Theodore, the Evangelists, the Prophets, and for some reason which escapes me, Judith with the head of Holofernes. We know of course that in ancient fiction her decapitation skills saved Israel from the Assyrians, but I’m not sure how she wound up on The Salute.

And what a setting for The Salute! You can see in the photo below from Google, that the Punta della Dogana and The Salute sit at the center in the photo – see the shadow of The Salute extending into the Grand Canal? The Salute sits between the Grand Canal (which is the one curving around from about the 11 o’clock position) and the Giudecca Canal (the much wider one entering from the 8 o’clock position). These two canals flow into the body of water to the right which is the Bacino San Marco, or Saint Marks Basin. [All of the dotted lines and white wording indicate the various water bus routes]

If you’ve been to Venice, you will notice something very strange in this photo. Know what it is?

There is absolutely no bridge connecting the Punta della Dogana and the area of Piazza San Marco at the top (1 o’clock position). It just does not exist…except for one day each year. So, this photo must have been taken on November 21st. Why? Read on.

Beginning in the summer of 1630, a wave of the plague assaulted Venice that killed 46,000 in Venice proper, and about 94,000 throughout the lagoon. The city and church tried everything they could think of to be rid of the plague. They repeatedly displayed the sacrament, offered prayers, and held processions to a couple of churches that they thought would take care of the issue. But all efforts failed to stem the epidemic.

So, this was the plague epidemic of 1630, but there had been a previous epidemic in 1575. What seemed to turn the trick then was an architectural response. That response was to hire the famous architect Palladio to design a ‘Savior church’, or the Church of the Redentore that you can see to the right. Voila, no more plague. Since this seemed to work a half-century earlier, they built another for the current plague.

But this new church was not to be dedicated to a mere "plague" or patron saint, but to the Virgin Mary Herself. Did it work? They say that the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and the proof here is that the plague was lifted.

In celebration of the successful ending of the plague, it was also decided that the Senate would visit the church each year on November 21st, the day of the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin, known as the Festa della Madonna della Salute. So, even today the city's officials parade from San Marco to the Salute for a service in gratitude for deliverance from the plague. This involves crossing the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge. And they’ve been doing this for almost 400 years, folks! Now that’s dedication.

As a side note, the same sort of plague-ending-celebratory-pontoon-bridge procession is still held the 3rd Sunday in July. This procession is to the afore mentioned Redentore church and it requires a much longer bridge. You can see the Church of the Redentore at about the 6:30 o’clock position on the aerial photo – it’s the white church at the edge of the photo. Through the magic of camera lenses, here is a photo from Wikipedia of the procession, using an extremely wide-angle lens that puts the Redentore on the left and Dorsoduro on the right (in reality the bridge is straight). This procession has been held for about 450 years.


Photo Transformation

For all of you who hated history in school, but loved photography, here is the transformation one of my photos of the Punta della Dogana.

Here is my original, blah snapshot, taken from the area known as The Molo, just across the Grand Canal.

My original, unaltered and yucky snapshot

Yuck! The sun is close to setting to the right and this creates a strong back-lit situation. The color is abysmal. There’s a construction crane, a bunch of non-lovely boats, etc. This isn’t the Venice that I want you to remember and dream about. As always, my goal is to provide you with a fine-art memento of a Venice of yesterday.

My first inclination was to just pass this appalling thing by. However, I thought I saw some potential here.

My first mission was to remove the construction crane. Then there were other modern antennae and such poking up here and there that had to go. The boats, out of here.

Now what? As there is virtually no color interest in the photo, let’s convert it to black and white.

I’ve mentioned capturing images in RAW, rather than JPEG before. Here is a good example of that benefit. Notice how the Dogana and Salute are bathed in darkness? Also, notice how there is no apparent detail to be found in the photo – no doors, windows, columns, etc.? If I had saved the image in a JPEG format, this is all that I would have with which to work. However, as I save all my images in the RAW format, I am able to pull all sorts of detail out of those shadows. Want to know more about RAW vs JPEG, go back and read my JPEG vs RAW article from last November.

I settled on revealing just a hint of detail, as it is obviously a silhouetted situation.  I could have revealed a lot more, as you can see here in this enlargement.

Yes, that's the very same image file, and it is a good illustration of the power of capturing images in RAW.

Finally, let’s put a charming gondola crossing the Grand Canal! I found one in my many photos from Venice.

So, here is the final photo which shows the Punta della Dogana on the left, with its twin Atlases and Fortuna embellishment, as well as the church of Santa Maria della Salute.

Here is another photo of Punta della Dogana from the Venice Romance section of my website.


Famous Paintings of Punta della Dogana

Since this sight and site has been around for over 4 Centuries, many have been captivated by it. Here are a few views from famous artists. 

These are all famous artists, but of course I have to make my own painted version of this image. Here it is.


I hope you enjoyed learning just a bit about the wonderful city of Venice. Someday, by chance we may meet there; and we can stare at this lovely Punta della Dogana together.


Ciao for now,