Art Italy

Florence, Italy: It’s All About the Art

And other observations during a two-night trip to Florence

Excuse me, but how did this post that I published on a few years back not make it onto my blog?! Here it is, regardless. (In case you’re wondering how I figured out about the literal missing link… it’s because in attending a class to prepare for another trip to Italy in May, I started scrolling through my previous posts, and dear old Florence was missing. Not anymore.

My daughter spent three months living in Venice in 2017 as an intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small, yet world-renowned modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. Her time there was magical, challenging, beautiful, and life-changing. During her last week in Venice, she and three of her intern friends spent three days in Florence, home to 705,000 residents and located on the Arno River in central Italy. Since her return, we’ve enjoyed many conversations about her time in Italy.

The interview answers are just the two of us talking; see the photo captions for more detailed notes and facts about her trip.

Marilyn Yung

How far is Florence from Venice? It’s about a two-hour train ride. We left from the Santa Lucia train station around eight o’clock and got to Florence mid- to late morning.

What did you do first? When we got there, the first thing we did was walk to find our Airbnb. After dropping off our bags, we confirmed exactly what we wanted to do over the next few hours. On the train, we had talked about what we wanted to do. Our goal was to see as much art as possible — obviously, we were in Florence — and there were five or six major things that we knew would require extra planning and waiting in lines for. We had looked up the opening hours of all the museums, cost, and the amount of time to plan for each one. We didn’t give ourselves time to meander.

So what was first on your itinerary? The first thing we went to was the Medici Riccardi Palace. It’s got three levels of distinct architecture (see the caption for photo below). The palace is absolutely huge and nearly impossible to photograph from the outside.

This photo shows the exterior of Medici Riccardi Palace in Florence. The bottom level is rough in keeping with the era’s sumptuary laws that forbade ostentatious displays of wealth. Building of the palace began in 1444. The second level looks less rustic and the third displays a more refined, smooth texture on the stone. By Yair Haklai [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons

What was next? The Medici Chapel. Absolutely incredible! The exterior is very misleading. It doesn’t look that big on the outside but then you go inside and it’s massive! The inside uses a really dark marble pretty much throughout. The dome is painted in frescoes. There are relics everywhere. The chapel is covered in ornate paintings. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Inside the Medici Chapel’s Chapel of the Princes mausoleum, built from 1604–1640. The mausoleum reveals the dark stones and marbles used on the interior. Sourcing such rare stones caused the construction of the Medici Chapel complex to span two centuries. | Photo: K. Yung
Frescoes painted in 1828 by Pietro Benvenutti adorn the dome of the Chapel of the Princes mausoleum. The Medici family dynasty ruled Florence for several centuries. The dome features scenes from the Old and New Testaments. | Photo: K. Yung

So after the Medici Chapel, what did you have for lunch? We went to a little cafe that was very good. I decided to try gnocchi for the first time. Gnocchi are soft dumplings made from potatoes. They can be made from other things like flour or cheese, but potato gnocchi are the most popular. I really had no idea whether I would like it or not and it was very good. I followed that up with a lemon and mint gelato, which was amazing.

It’s hard to believe, but this is lemon-mint gelato. | Photo: K. Yung

And then? After that, we went to The Brancacci Chapel. It’s part of Santa Maria del Carmine church. The main purpose to seeing this chapel, other than the architecture, was Masaccio’s paintings called “The Tribute Money” and “The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” These are discussed in any art history textbook. These two paintings are important because they are some of the first that show one-point perspective used correctly.

The Brancacci Chapel is located within the nondescript Santa Maria del Carmine church. One would never know that inside this chapel are the masterpieces that follow in the next photos. Photo: giovanni sighele [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Focus on the top half of this image. At the far left is Masaccio’s “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,” one of Masaccio’s most famous paintings. Why is it important? It shows non-idealized human figures showing horrified emotion. “The Tribute Money” is the main panel. Art history buffs visit the chapel specifically to see these works. | Photo: K. Yung

The Brancacci is a teeny tiny chapel actually, and it’s weird to think that super-famous paintings are inside a room that’s about the size of someone’s living room. But compared to the Scrovegni Chapel, I would say it’s larger. One chapel within the church is about the size of the total Scrovegni. Also, all of the paintings in the Scrovegni are by Giotto, whereas in the Brancacci, there are works by Masaccio and others. For example, one chapel had paintings from the Baroque era…a totally different time period and style.

What did you see after the Brancacci Chapel? We went to the Palazzo Strozzi to see an exhibition of video installations by Bill Viola. He’s an American artist and the show was called Electric Renaissance. It was kind of nice to see this contemporary art — made by someone from Queens, New York, no less — contrasting with the old. They brought in some Renaissance paintings and placed them near Viola’s work.

So enough contemporary work, right? You’re in Florence after all. What was next on the agenda? A friend had recommended to us that we go to the Museo Nove Cento. It was a big disappointment, however, The curation was poor and by that I mean that there was little direction for visitors inside. We couldn’t tell which direction to start walking. There were many pieces without wall texts, those cards that are mounted next to the painting or whatever the art is that tells you about the artist, the media, the date and such. Sometimes there were way too many works placed on the wall, which would make it hard for a piece to stand on its own with space to contemplate it. None of us was impressed with it at all. And we were starting to get really hungry, so we went back to our Airbnb to relax for a bit before going out for dinner.

Did you find a great Florentine restaurant? Well, actually we found a restaurant called La Petite and of all things, I decided to get a burger and sticks. Sticks was the name they gave to classic French fries. It was all very good. We passed on drinks that night and just had waters.

What was on tap for Saturday? We went to the Uffizi Gallery. This is where the two of Botticelli’s most important pieces are: The Birth of Venus and Primavera. The Uffizi is probably the most revered museum in Florence.

My daughter looking at Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” inside the Uffizi Museum. This is one of the Renaissance’s most well-known and iconic paintings. | Photo: K. Yung.
Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera.” | Photo: K. Yung

There are also other incredible works by Raphael, Van Der Goes, da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Parmigianino. The Uffizi is seriously a huge museum chock full of art and hands-down the most renowned. It’s a sin to go to Florence and not go there.

The Uffizi Gallery in central Florence. Photo: Mariamichelle on Pixabay

After the Uffizi, where did you go? We went to the Convent of San Marco. This is a convent with incredible cell-like living quarters. Inside each cell is a beautiful fresco that’s painted on the wall.

Beautiful frescoes inside a cell at the Convent of San Marco. | Photo: K. Yung

Even though those are interesting to see, the main reason people go to the convent is to see a fresco called the annunciation” by Fra Angelico. It’s amazing. You can find it at the top of the stairs. The convent also has a collection of antique books owned by former residents.

The Annunciation at the Convent of San Marco. | Photo: K. Yung

Where did you have lunch on Saturday? After that, we got lunch at a little nondescript café –have no idea what it was called — and then we decided to take a break from art and went shopping at a Cos store on Via Della Spada. I had never been to Cos before and I thought it was the coolest place ever. Several of us tried a few things on and made a few purchases. We also went to Zara, a popular, inexpensive clothing store. The place was absolutely jam- packed. There was a 45-minute wait just to get into the dressing room. So that didn’t last long because we still had to get to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David.

How was that? Seeing The David was the most amazing thing. I’ve never been stopped in my tracks by something until that moment. It is presented beautifully. You walk down a hall, turn a corner and it’s at the end of a long entry hall.

The hall leading to The David provides a prelude to this great work of art. | Photo: K. Yung

Sunlight streams in from above. It is majestic. Stunning. The David makes you ask, How did someone create that? Its size is part of the spectacle because I didn’t expect it be that large. The hands on The David are disproportionately large to highlight the importance of his hands in slaying Goliath.

Notice the oversized hands on the David designed by Michaelangelo to emphasize the hands that slay Goliath. “Before it was moved to the Accademia in 1873, it stood guard outside the Palazzo della Signoria, Florence’s city hall, for 370 years…,” according to this Mental Floss article. | Photo: K. Yung

We spent about an hour looking at The David, awestruck, and then suddenly we realized it was just about time for dinner.

Another burger? Very funny. No, even better… Mexican! We went to Tijuana Mexican Bar and Restaurant. Actually, it was excellent. I had the best tequila I’ve ever had there. I also ordered a quesadilla with black beans on the side. It was delicious. That night while we were eating, I had this bittersweet realization that it would be one of the last times I would be out with my friends since my internship would be over in about four days.

So you were sad to be leaving? Yes, I guess… sad to leave Florence the next morning, but then also sad to be leaving Italy. I was ready to go home, but at the same time, not ready at all for my time in Italy to be over. I felt like I was just becoming accustomed to living in Venice. I knew my way around. I could manage the language better that I ever dreamed I’d be able to. I could have stayed another three months, honestly.

What was still on your bucket list for Florence? Well, we still hadn’t been to the Duomo, so we knew the next morning would be when we would go see it. However, we had found out on the way to Florence that tickets were sold out for touring the Brunelleschi dome, so we decided to go up the bell tower — Giotto’s Campanile— nearby instead. So we got up on Sunday and by 10 a.m. we were in line to get tickets to go up.

It was still so soon after the campanile ticket office opened that there wasn’t a line yet. So we decided to go on up. Climbing was tiring and you’re just squished up against the walls, rubbing along bodies — there were already other people coming down — as you climb. We got the pictures of the actual dome … the Duomo from the top of the campanile (see image at top of this article). It was a beautiful moment. Incredibly picture-worthy!

After we got back down to the ground, there was a huge line to go up. It was easily a two-hour wait. We’re glad we got there close to when they opened.

The line to Giotto’s Campanile grows very long by mid-morning. | Photo: K. Yung

Then we grabbed a sandwich at a spot near the Duomo and we still wanted to go inside the baptistery of St. John and see the Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. As we were eating, we noticed a really long line to get inside, so two of us decided to wait in line while the other two of us went inside the baptistery where the gates are. And then we switched off.

Gold sparkles on the ceiling inside the baptistery at the Duomo . Because many visit here primarily to see the Gates of Paradise, they are surprised at the beauty of the interior of the baptistery. | Photo: K. Yung

Inside the baptistery, I totally did not expect that it would be completely gold. In art history classes, you usually just study the Gates, which are gold, but the inside of the baptistery is also covered in gold mosaics. The gates show biblical scenes

As for the Duomo, which by the way is part of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, the exterior of the building is spectacular with its green, orange and white marble stone.

This photo doesn’t show the extreme ornamentation of the Duomo at Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, but it does convey how the Duomo is prominent in many views of the city. | Photo: K. Yung

The entrance to the museum at the Duomo is underground and that’s also where the original Gates of Paradise are. But for some reason, the museum was closed that day. So, I still haven’t seen the original gates, but I have seen the two copies that exist. One copy is in the baptistery above the museum and the other is at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

A copy of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise were recently added to the permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. | The original gates are in the baptistery of St. John at the Duomo in Florence. Lorenza Ghiberti, a goldsmith and sculptor, created the gates from 1425–1452. | Photo: K. Yung

So was that the end of your time in Florence? Not quite. After that, we went to go see Santa Maria Novella church because we had passed it coming into Florence, and since we were heading out to leave we thought we should go ahead and see it.

The Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung

Inside there is Masacchio’s Trinity. It’s very important in that it shows the first official correctly-used one-point perspective. It’s actually just a fresco on the wall. And while the church has so much more to see, seeing Trinity was our priority. I remember wishing I wasn’t so tired and could have enjoyed it more, but we were so exhausted from just going-going-going the previous three days.

The Santa Maria Novella church in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung

Any unexpected surprises? Yes. I know it sounds funny, but seeing the trash being collected was amazing. There are above-ground trash bins with large in-ground canisters below them. These automated trucks came along and a huge arm with a giant magnet on it pivots over and picks up the canisters and empties them into the truck. I thought it was interesting to watch, really.

Trash haulers remove garbage from underground vaults. | Photo: K. Yung

How was your Airbnb, by the way? It was great. The owner was really helpful. I definitely remember it being very loud there with all the traffic. In Venice, it’s relatively quiet without all the cars and I think I was just used to that. It was a gated apartment. There was a loft with a queen-sized bed and another bedroom with a twin bed. Down below on the main floor there was a nice couch. It also had a full kitchen. Everything was stone and so nothing absorbed any sound.

So, after seeing Santa Maria Novella, it was time to board the train? Yeah, we went back and got our bags, got on an express train and returned home to Venice for a party that evening. We left around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and got back to Venice around 6. Then we took the vaporetto to Guidecca for a party. We all chipped in for some pizzas and then hustled our way out to the party.

How would you sum up Florence? So. Much. Art. Everywhere you look there is something important. Florence is all about the art. Rome has the coliseum. Venice has the water. Florence has the art.

I make no apologies. As a writer and parent, I feel perfectly entitled to take full advantage of my daughter’s 2017 experience in Italy by wringing every possible story from it! Yes, our family did visit her there for a week that year and while we saw so much in that short time, we envied the luxury of time her three-month internship allowed.

We’ll be returning in May 2023 for a two-week trip to Florence, Siena, Venice, and Rome. Become a follower to catch those posts when they publish. Thanks for reading!

Featured Photo Credit: The Duomo of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore as seen from Giotto’s Campanile in Florence. | Photo: K. Yung


A Walking Tour of Naples, Italy

I’m reblogging this post from The Gen X Travels, a fellow WordPress blogger, for two reasons: 1) it has some great “in the moment” photos that I think my travel readers will enjoy and 2) because I want to be able to find it later when I’m planning my own trip to southern Italy. All of my Italian travel has involved northern Italy and I’m dying to head south. Enjoy!

I traveled to Italy, April 2022 and my first stop was Naples, where I enjoyed a walking tour of the old town. This trip was with a group of women and…

A Walking Tour of Naples, Italy

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia

I love this post by the Adventurous Kate blog and wanted to repost it here to share with you (and keep for myself for revisiting later at my leisure)!

Enjoy! And thanks again to the Adventurous Kate blog!

The first time I traveled to Istria, Croatia, it was on a bit of a whim. I was desperate to finally visit the Balkans in general and Croatia in …

15 Reasons to Travel to Istria, Croatia
Art Italy (Venice)

Orientalism in Venetian Art

Orientalism in Venetian Art

Orientalism in Venetian Art
Italy (Venice) Travel Videos Uncategorized

Making waves in Venice: A gondola and a cruise ship

For Venice lovers: a video clip of each

I’ve been to Venice twice, but neither time have I ridden a gondola or disembarked from a cruise (or embarked on one, for that matter). On my first trip to Venice, I flew to Marco Polo Airport and then hopped onto an Ali Laguna vaporetto to hop off at San Samuele.

On my second trip, I took a bus from Marco Polo to the bustling Piazzale Roma where I met my daughter who was there serving an internship at the 2019 Venice Biennale.

So although I still have not ridden a gondola, they continue to fascinate me…

…as they snake through the labyrinthine canals, glossy and black.

It’s possible, as one walks alongside a canal, to glance up from your thoughts and be surprised by one gliding by, silent and serene, mere footsteps away.

It is also possible to be flabbergasted by the gargantuan size of a cruise ship as it lumbers through the lagoon.

These behemoths seem strangely alien in such a delicate cityscape.

Similar to New York  City’s new Super Tall skyscrapers, they appear gawky, out of place, and — with last summer’s near cruise ship collision, — dangerous and unnecessary.  This two-minute video shows the mammoth size of one of these cruise ships as it creeps along the Zattere waterfront promenade in the Dorsoduro sestiere. 

Thanks for reading! Check out my Italy (Venice) category for several more posts (Jewish Ghetto, the hospital, Calatrava Bridge, etc.) about Venice… a city I hope to visit a third time when travel opportunities return. I have a list of sights I still want to experience. Feel free to leave a like, make a comment and become a follower for more travel posts.

My next post: How to get from Delphi to Itea, Greece by bus

Italy Uncategorized

How I found connection in the Basilica of San Vitale

On this Easter Sunday, my thoughts turn to the redemption and salvation provided by Jesus Christ, and our visit three years ago to one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.

Marilyn Yung

Of tenacity and Easter cupcake sprinkles in Ravenna, Italy

IMG_6531These aren’t paintings, but mosaics made of thousands and thousands of tiny glass tiles known as tesserae. The gold tesserae are actually two clear glass tiles that sandwich a layer of gold leaf. The entire surfaces of these walls are mosaic; the only areas that aren’t mosaics are the windows and the marble columns.  | Photo: Katherine Yung

Here’s a scenario: Your daughter requests sprinkles on the Easter cupcakes you’re baking. However, pretend the shaker needed to sprinkle on the dotted decorations has not been invented yet, and the only way to get the sprinkles perfectly placed and evenly dispersed on the cupcakes is not by scattering them with your fingers, but by applying them one by one… with tweezers perhaps.

sharon-mccutcheon-569839-unsplashPhoto: Unsplash

Adding sprinkles to the cupcakes now will take days, weeks or longer. The task will be one of…

View original post 1,352 more words

Italy (Venice)

Dear Venice, Get Well Soon

Photo: Marilyn Yung

Best wishes for a speedy recovery

I took this picture of my daughter last June as she and I returned to Venice from a day trip to Bologna. In the distance, you can see Venice in the lagoon poised for the few remaining months of problematic mass tourism that remained in 2019.

It’s quite a reversal of affairs compared to Venice today when the city is coping not only with the COVID-19 quarantine, but also with the residual after-effects of the historic floods last November.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, La Serenissima.

I’ve been to Venice only twice, but am smitten by this elegant city so culturally important that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, many of my posts recently have focused on Venice. Leave a comment with your Venice memories below. Here’s a recent post titled, Venice Doesn’t Need More Tourists Like Me.

Art & Architecture Italy (Venice)

Photo Friday: A Venetian mosaic

The travel is in the details

This unexpected mosaic tucked into a corridor in the San Marco sestiere of Venice, Italy will take your breath away. Even the wrought iron barrier is beautiful and provides a contrasting frame for this photo taken by my daughter in June 2019.

The design reminds me of a beautiful painting by the Venetian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini  that you’ll find hanging inside the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The basilica is located adjacent to the Venetian hospital Ospedale Civile.

The image on both the painting and the mosaic depicts the Christ child being carried by the patron saint of travelers Saint Christopher, a 3rd-century church martyr.

Thanks for reading! I plan to post a photo every Friday. Click “like” and become a follower to catch my next post and pictures! And don’t forget: the travel is in the details.

Italy Uncategorized

Time to spare in Bologna, Italy is a good thing

Missing a Renaissance masterpiece isn’t

One Saturday last June my daughter and I wandered into the Church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna, Italy.  We were killing time as we waited to meet friends (my daughter’s Italian language tutor, actually) for lunch and a quick tour of the public library before heading back to Venice.

That morning, after arriving by train from Venice, we had savored cappuccini and croissants  and then toured the main attraction in Bologna, the Basilica de San Petronio. We spent about an hour there marvelling at the centuries-old church with the unusual brick and stone facade. Plan to read a future post on that experience soon, but here’s a taste.

Basilica de San Petronio | Photo: M. Yung

We had also explored the Piazza Maggiore with its beautiful Fountain of Neptune and saw the city “square” rigged and ready with row upon row of temporary seating for hundreds plus a huge movie screen. Among other movies, Gone with the Wind was on the menu at some time during the summer season. How fun would that be?!

In our hour or two of free time, we also strolled down beautiful loggia-lined avenues. Eventually, we happened upon a church, the Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita.

It’s the copper-domed church in the large photo at the top of this post. While it’s quite a standout in a Bologna skyline photo, at street level it’s easy to miss. Tall buildings and narrow streets together conceal your vision of things in the upper reaches.

Bologna, Italy | Photo: M. Yung

It was a warm and achingly brilliant sunny day. Taking a short break in a quiet place of worship enticed us to escape the Italian noonday rays.

Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita | The architect Giovanni Battista Bergonzoni designed the church. It was built between 1687-1690.

Inside, sounds of the street faded to a cavernous quiet. The majesty and somber tone of the interior both cooled and stunned me.

The soothing soft green interior wall colors caught our attentions first. The ornate Baroque stylings caught our attentions second. The dome, completed in 1787 and designed by architect  Giuseppe Tubertini, was beautiful as well.


But if only I had Googled to see what more this structure had to reveal.

Because here’s what we didn’t see: Lamentation Over the Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca (1435-1494). Italy Magazine describes the work as “A life-size group of six separate terracotta  figures lamenting in a semicircle around the dead Christ.”

I stumbled upon this sculpture as I was researching the church and I still can’t believe that I was in this very building and missed this very powerful example of Renaissance art.

I can’t get over the expressions on the faces.

Terror. Despair. Uncontrollable grief. 

Truth be told, I often feel detached from historical art. The expressions are often glum and sullen, especially in depictions of Jesus Christ and the suffering he endured on the cross. That goes, too, for the the emotional suffering of those nearby who loved him. Sometimes it’s just hard to identify.

With Arca’s work, however, the emotions of the figures are real and painfully so. I understand that kind of hurt and sorrow and panic. We see humans in painful grief daily on the news and in our modern media. To think that an Italian Renaissance artist was able to capture it accurately — in terra cotta — six hundred years ago — baffles my small mind.

Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, by Joyofmuseums [CC BY-SA (

Words are not needed in the picture below. The emotion is palpable and horrible.


And on that note, I’ll close this post with this final thought: When travelling, it’s a good thing to have time to spare. However, once you arrive home, it’s heart-breaking to discover something wonderful that you missed.

Lesson learned: Next time, slow down, google it, and learn what more there is right in front of you.

Thanks for reading! Follow my blog for more posts about the details in travel far and wide.

Italy (Venice)

The Jewish Ghetto of Venice: A Walking Tour

It was a warm, sunny day when we visited the Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, the square that anchors  the Jewish Ghetto in Venice’s Cannaregio in the northwest part of the city.

Five facts and photos from our brief visit to this less traveled Venetian sight

In June, my daughter and I took an afternoon in Venice to see the Jewish Ghetto located in the Cannaregio sestiere, in the north of the city. Two years earlier, on a previous week-long trip to Venice, I had wanted to see the ghetto, but ran out of time. Therefore, in June, it was still on my return trip bucket list.

My daughter and I on our way to Cannaregio to take a walk through the Jewish Ghetto.

Honestly, we didn’t plan this little jaunt well. We just took off for Cannaregio shortly after lunch on the last day of my visit. (She had the day off from her two-month internship at the U.S. Pavilion of the Biennale del Arte and wouldn’t be leaving for another month.)

So while I wish I had taken a guided tour offered by the Jewish Museum of Venice and was able to tell you more about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto—the first of its kind in the world—I’m still grateful that we spent the hour or so there.

Even so, with the recent flooding in Venice, the ghetto has suffered. Fortunately, the synagogues are located on top or upper floors. According to this article in The Jerusalem Post, a storage facility and kosher restaurant were damaged. 

To find the ghetto, we used Google Maps, rode a vaporetto to the train station (the Ferrovia stop), and then wound our way through Cannaregio. We crossed a bridge, made a left alongside a row of shops bordering the canal, and walked right past an easy-to-overlook brick tunnel.

Following Google Maps, we turned around eventually, and wandered through that brick doorway. We followed the maze. Within a minute or two, we walked by a shop full of art prints and originals, a jewelry store, a book seller, a bakery.


It was quiet in the darkened corridors.

We heard the rumbles of the vaporetti (water buses) in the distance, layered behind the sounds of our own footsteps.

This sign was posted within the front windows of an art shop down a corridor just off the the main campo of the ghetto.

After browsing through some lithographs and snapping a picture of the detailed sign above summarizing the history of the ghetto, we entered the Campiello de le Scuole, the “little square of the synagogues.” A seven-story building stood plainly before us. I have read since that this building demonstrates the tight quarters the Jewish people were contained in. Judging by the windows, these units couldn’t have contained standard 8-foot ceilings. In fact, these buildings were “the tallest buildings with the lowest-ceilinged apartments” in Venice, wrote David Laskin in this New York Times article.

This building in the Campiello de le Scuole shows how concentrated the floors were.

We continued past this small square. Not more than one minute further into the labyrinth, we found ourselves in the main campo of the Jewish Ghetto, the Campo de Ghetto Nuovo.  In the square, a dozen people mingled and conversed quietly. A small tour group gathered at the base of the Jewish Museum of Venice.

A boy wearing a yarmulke, who looked to be about twelve years old, kicked a ball in the cool shade under a covered overhang on one of the many multi-story buildings that lined the campo. 

The afternoon was clear and sunny. And hot. It was the perfect day to tour cool and darkened museums and synagogues. But alas, we hadn’t planned well enough to do that. Perhaps on my next visit to Venice (I can’t imagine there’s not another one in my future!), I’ll plan better. In the meantime…

Here are five facts I have learned since about Venice’s Jewish Ghetto:

  1. It was established by the Doge Leonardo Loredan in 1516, according to this website. The ghetto in Venice was one of the world’s first places where people were forcibly segregated because of their religion. An observance of the 500-year anniversary of the establishment of the ghetto was held in 2016. A major art exhibition at the Doge’s Palace, special performances at the Fenice Opera House, and other events around the city were held to mark the milestone.

2. The English word “ghetto” is derived from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, originating from the Venetian word ghèto and the Italian word ghetto, according to The word “geto” in the Venetian dialect referred to a foundry, which was located nearby. Eventually, the word was used to refer to the area that contained the Jewish people.

This is a nursing home that forms one side of the campo.

3. At its height, around 1650, the Ghetto housed 4,000 to 5,000 people in a space roughly equivalent to 2-1/2 city blocks. Later, in the years prior to World War II, about 1,300 Jews lived in the Ghetto.  During the war, 289 were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz and Trieste; only seven returned.

Today, about 450-500 Jews live in Venice. A small number still live in the ghetto.

4. During the ghetto’s early years, its residents were limited as to where they could travel and work. They also had to pay for their own watchmen and security. In addition, their clothing was used to mark them: men wore yellow circles sewn to their left shoulders of their clothing; women wore yellow scarves.

Image result for venice jewish museum
Photo courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Venice

5.  There are five active synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto today. To see the synagogues, one must sign up for public guided tours conducted by the Jewish Museum of Venice. Tours are scheduled every half hour starting at 10:30 and ending at 17:30. Tickets are 12 Euro each. Visit this website for more information.


The plaque below describes the above sculpture, titled The Last Train, created by sculptor and Lithuanian-Jew Arbit Blatas. The sculpture shows Jews being loaded onto cattle cars. I believe the top line on the plaque is a dedication of the sculpture by the Jewish community of Venice to those deported to concentration camps of Nazi Germany.


A composition of seven bronze sculptures depicts the atrocities inflicted upon the Jewish people during World War II. Close-up photos of three of these sculptures and the inscription plaques at far right are below.

The top plaque reads: “Men, women, children, masses for the gas chambers advancing toward horror beneath the whip of the executioner. Your sad Holocaust is engraved in history, And nothing shall purge your deaths from our memories, For our memories are your only grave.”  The bottom plaque reads: “The City of Venice remembers the Venetian Jews who were deported to the Nazi concentration camps on December 5, 1943 and August 17, 1944.”
This is the door to the Scola Levantina, a synagogue just off the main campo of the ghetto.  It was built between 1538-1561. The distinctive cupola above the door makes it stand out from others in the area.
This is another shot of the campo taken as we left the Jewish Ghetto.

Thanks for reading! This stop during my stay in Venice last summer was followed by a warm walk back through Cannaregio. On our way back to Santa Elena, we stopped along the Zattere at a Conad Supermarket for groceries we would need later that night for dinner. Follow my blog for more stories from my trip last summer to Skopelos, the Peloponnese, Crete, and, of course, Venice.