Discover Guidecca.

Discover Guidecca. With its rich history and transformation, this peaceful island is a fascinating part of Venice and has much to offer. Only a few minutes away from the Dorsoduro by waterbus, it is well worth devoting time on the island; to fully appreciate its unique character and stunning views.

Over the centuries the island has undergone various significant periods of transformation. A walk on the Giudecca reveals all these layers of change: the traditional architecture, the industrial development of the 19th century and the transformation of these former industrial areas into contemporary buildings and residential estates. 

It’s a place where the authentic Venetian lifestyle, can still be experienced.  Along its long northern promenade; it offers a stunning vista of the city over the Guidecca canal. From its southern coast, enjoy panoramic views of the southern lagoon, various small islands and the narrow lidi, with its barrier system.

Forming part of the Dorsoduro district, it has around 5000 inhabitants; enlarged by several substantial international hotels and apartment complexes.

This island’s history reflects the broader narrative of Venice itself; a city of beauty, change and resilience.

Geography and Origins of Name

Developmental Stages

Getting there by Public Vaporetto Services

List of Main Attractions

Links (internalexternal)


 

Above. View from Bell-tower of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore. Guidecca Island, left and the Dorsoduro peninsula, right.

 

Discover Guidecca – Geography and Origins of Name

Giudecca, is one of the largest islands of Venice and part of the district of Dorsoduro; that lies immediately south of the central islands, from which it is separated by the Giudecca Canal. The island of San Giorgio Maggiore lies off its eastern tip.

Giudecca, originally a collection of eight islands, was known in ancient times as the “Spinalunga” (meaning “Long Thorn”). The name Giudecca may represent a corruption of the Latin “Judaica” (Judaean) “; as a number of towns in Southern Italy and Sicily, have Jewish quarters named Giudecca or Judeca.

However, the original Venetian Ghetto was in the district of Cannaregio, in the north of the city and there is no evidence except for the name; of Jews ever having lived there in Giudecca. Furthermore, the term “Giudecca”, was not used to denote the Jewish quarters of towns in northern Italy.

The second theory says that the name Giudecca derives from “zudegà”, or “judged” in Venetian, in reference to the sentence for which the Republic assigned some of the island’s land to patrician families in the 9th century.

Lastly, some have suggested that the name could also be a corruption of a term for tanneries, in the Venetian dialect.

 

Developmental Stages:

Early Beginnings. Giudecca probably started as a fishing community around 500 AD.

Aristocratic Retreat. Since the first reclamations in the 12th century, Guidecca became a retreat for Venice’s wealthy families: a hospitable place full of productive orchards, gardens and silent convents; perfect for escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Industrial Shifts: The late 19th and 20th centuries, brought industrialisation to Giudecca; with shipyards, factories and even a film studio establishing themselves on the island. This led to a significant change in the island’s landscape and economy.

Port activities in the basin and on Guidecca, were eventually moved to mainland Marghera, commencing in 1920. The Port Marritima found on the western end of Venice, was developed and retained as a cruise ship and ferry terminal, serving the Adriatic and eastern Mediterranean. There is also a ship pier, immediately west of the San Basilio vaporetto stop; on the Dorsoduro side of the Guidecca canal.

World War II Impact. The island suffered significant losses during World War II, leading to the decline of many industries and significant industrial job losses.

Modern Revival. Post-war, Giudecca experienced a further period of decline, but recent decades have seen a marked resurgence. Old industrial areas have been revitalized and the island has developed several “modern Venetian” residential areas, with great community and sporting facilities.

(Note. Porto Marghera, also known as Marghera Port, was developed as an industrial zone and state-of-the-art port in 1917. (photo above at top far right) The Italian government decided to develop this area during the First World War, to accommodate large modern ships that the existing port at Bacino San Marco could not service. The development commenced in 1920 and over the next decade, shipping channels were dredged and land reclamation took place. By 1923, the first chemical factory began production in the area. Porto Marghera was a result of the need to protect tourism in Venice and the lack of housing space in Venice; thus transferring industries to the mainland) 

 

Getting there by Public Vaporetto Services – Discover Guidecca

Looking at the Guidecca map above, you can see that on foot, the promenade along the northern part of Giudecca island; allows easy exploration of the full length of the island. Moving inland, each of the component islands are linked by bridges and can be explored along canal side or residential pathways.

The are four vaporetto stations on the northern coast of Guidecca Island, from east to west they are: Zitelle A and B, Redentore, Guidecca Palanca A and B and Sacca Fisola A and B. They ply diagonally across the Guidecca Canal, between the Dorsoduro stations of Spiriti Santo (eastern end), Zatteri Gesuati and B, San Basiolio (western end, nearer to the Cruise ship terminals).

Please note that maps show another a vaporetto stop right infront of at Hilton Molino Stucky. This serves the Alilaguna Linea Blu airport boats, which connect Venice Marco Polo Airport to the Stazione Marittima Cruise Terminals. Additionally, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice hotel provides shuttle boats for its guests (a small residents charge, made by the hotel).

The Giudecca Canal in Venice is served by several vaporetto (water-bus) lines:

Line 4 and Line 5: These paired lines encircle Venice and connect it to the adjacent islands of Murano, Giudecca, and Lido. Line 4 or 5.1 travels clockwise (CW), while Line 4 or 5.2 travels counter-clockwise (CCW) around the city and the Giudecca Canal. Line 6 is an express line that runs from Piazzale Roma via the Zattere, traveling directly to Lido. It provides a convenient connection between the city center and Lido Island, passing through the Giudecca Canal.

Take the Line 2 vaporetto from San Zaccaria (near St. Mark’s Square waterfront) to San Giorgio Maggiore Island. San Giorgio Maggiore is home to important cultural sites such as the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, the Cini Foundation, and the Green Theatre. After exploring San Giorgio, hop back on Line 2 and get off at the Zitelle, Redentore, Palanca or Molino Stucky stops.  From Giudecca, this vaporetto line proceeds to Tronchetto and then Piazzale Roma the major transportation hub in Venice, where you can connect to buses and taxis. Santa Lucia Rail terminal is closeby.

Another option for a great walk incorporating many classic views, is to start at the Academy bridge with its fabulous view east towards the Salute basilica. Walk to the left of the Academy, down the wide Rio Tera Foscarini, to the Fondamenta della Zatteri ai Gesuiti. The wonderful Gesuati church is directly on the right, as well as the Zatteri waterbus stops. Enjoy the panoramic views across the Guidecca Canal – there are several great cafes to relax in. Take the vaporetto acroass the wide canal to the Redentore on Guidecca. Go east, and follow my list of attractions below from no 5 to 1. Pick up the vaporetto at Zitelle and get back to base.

Remember that vaporetto tickets can be expensive for non-residents of Venice, so if you plan to use water-buses frequently, consider purchasing a transport pass to save money.

My comprehensive post, will help you with getting to grips with the water-transport system around Venice.  “Venice Vaporetto Guide”

 


 

List of main attractions – Discover Guidecca

Guidecca Island. Courtesy of Bing Maps.  Selecting the “road view” is useful to see the routes you can take and then toggle to the “satellite view” for visualising the buildings and modern housing estate projects.    Link:  bing map of the guidecca island – Search

The discovery of the Guidecca Island on foot starts here at its eastern end, overlooking the Bacino di San Marco and the beautiful island of Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore and its fine white Palladian church. The main attractions are numbered 1-12, as you walk from east to west.
The island is worth a whole day, but if that would be too much in one go; consider splitting the visit into two half days: San Giorgio Maggiore and attractions 1-6, then 7-12 on another occasion. Attractions 4 and 6, will give great panoramic views to the south; from a wealthy owners villa complex and the other, a fine example of industrial transformation into an architect designed housing estate.

 

1. The Belmond Hotel Cipriani, containing the Antachi Granai della Repubblica (Old Granaries) Giudecca 10, 30133 Venice

The hotel is known for its exceptional service, elegant interior design, and beautiful outdoor areas. It remains one of the leading luxury hotels in the world, attracting celebrities and dignitaries alike.

Above. Note the relatively narrow channel between San Giorgio di Maggiore and the Hotel Cipriani on the Guidecca.

Located on the eastern end of the Giudecca Island, it was opened in 1958. Founded by Giuseppe Cipriani, (the creator of Harry’s Bar in Venice and the Bellini cocktail); the hotel was financed by the three daughters of the 2nd Earl of Iveagh, who each had a suite designed for themselves.

The hotel quickly gained acclaim for its luxurious Venetian furnishings, including Murano glass chandeliers, Fortuny fabrics, and Venetian artworks. In 1968, the hotel expanded to include an  Olympic-sized swimming pool, the only pool in central Venice. The hotel further expanded into the adjacent 15th-century Palazzo Vendramin, offering views of the lagoon and St. Mark’s Square.

In 1976, the Hotel Cipriani became part of the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd, which later rebranded as Belmond. The hotel continued to grow, adding a restaurant on a floating pontoon in the lagoon and opening the “Old Granaries of the Republic” as an event space in 1990. In 2014, it was renamed the Belmond Hotel Cipriani as part of the rebranding.

A private shuttle boat operates a continuous service 24/7 for both guests and visitors; to a jetty infront of the Royal Gardens, San Marco waterfront.

Hotel Cipriani, Venice | First Among World-Class Venice Hotels (belmond.com)

 

2. Le Zitelle. Fondamenta Zitelle, Guidecca 33

An eye-catching part of the Guidecca’s skyline, the church of Santa Maria della Presentazione, commonly called “delle Zitelle”; is part of an ecclesiastical complex created by the Jesuit Benedetto Palmi. It is is flanked on both sides by a convent.  The church rises from the Fondamenta with a rather simple facade, with few decorations and develops in just two orders.

 The Zitelle stop, with the Casa dei tre Orci and the Le Zitelle church behind it and the island San Giorgio di Maggiore, sunlit to the left. 

The construction of the building, designed by Andrea Palladio, began in 1581 and completed in 1588. The complex housed young girls without a husband, too poor to have a dowry; that may have ended up in prostitution. In the hospice they were welcomed between the ages of 12 to 18 and instructed in crafts, such as sewing and lace making. Their final choice, became one of marrIage or the nunnery. In 1583, there were said to be around 200 living in the complex. In the 1970’s the facility for womwn was moved to the mainland. This was a preventative establishment, as opposed to the nearby Convertite; for already fallen women.

The interior has a central plan, dominated by the dome, and embellished with the paintings of Jacopo Palma the Younger, Antonio Vassillachi and Francesco Bassano, author of the “Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple” of the high altar.

 

3. Casa dei tre Orci. Guidecca 43

An iconic neo-Gothic building on the Guidecca, it was designed by the artist Mario De Maria in 1913. Its three large ogival windows were said to be inspired by the Duccal Palace The Emilian painter decided to build his new home in commemoration of his daughter Silvia; who passed away a few years earlier. Although conceived as a studio-home, his son Astolfo and his wife, Adele lived there.

The three windows on the facade represent the three surviving members of the De Maria family, while the mullioned window placed at the top symbolizes the deceased girl.

Up to the end of the 1980s, The house was a place of artistic and cultural production, a centre for meetings and debate, a studio for artists involved in the Biennale and for welcoming visiting interlectuals.  In 2012, after restorartion it became a public exhibtion space and later until 2021, a photography museum; when it was finally acquired by the Bergreun Institute, a global think-tank.

 

4. Villa Heriot. Calle Michaelangelo 54/P

Villa Heriot in Giudecca, Venice, has a fascinating history that intertwines its role in Giudecca’s transition, from aristocratic leisure to industrial pragmatism and back to cultural significance. It is located, due south of la Zitelle church, overlooking the southern lagoon; on the Calle Michaelangelo 54/P.

Giudecca saw significant changes, when Venice’s port activities expanded in the late 19th century. The island, once known for its large palazzos and gardens, transformed into an industrial zone with over a hundred manufacturing firms, attracting mostly European industrial elites. Post-WWI, majestic villas were constructed for factory owners on Giudecca. These villas, surrounded by high brick walls and lush gardens, became venues for high society events; contrasting with the life of working-class Venetians employed in its factories.

An English artist owned a small mansion on Giudecca after 1914, where he spent summers painting Venetian views. In 1920, the property was sold; but fortunately, avoided the intended use of becoming a cement storage site. In 1926, Madame Heriot the wife of the owner of the Grand Magasins du Louvre in Paris; purchased it with a vision for its development and preservation. The villa, designed by Raffaele Mainella in the Veneto-Byzantine style, reflects the cultural and architectural heritage of Venice. There is also a guest villa. Since its inauguration in 1929, Villa Heriot had been a place of sumptuous parties and social gatherings.

At the outbreak of WW2, the Heriots returned to France and the villa complex was requistioned by the Germans and later by the allied forces. Eventually, on January 25th 1949, the last heir of the Heriot family, sold the property to the Venice municipality and it became an elementary school and a facility for impoverished children suffering from tuberculosis.

Since 2000, the “Casa della Memoriae e della Storia” and “IVESER” (the Venice Institute for the Study of the History of the Resistance and Contemporary Society); are based at the villa complex. By request, you can visit the house, the garden and archive by guided tour.

 

5. The Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore. Fondamenta San Giacomo.

Commonly known as “Il Redentore”, it is a significant 16th-century Roman Catholic church, located on Giudecca Island in Venice.  It stands as a prominent symbol of thanksgiving and hope; designed by the renowned Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.

It was constructed as a votive church to express gratitude for Venice’s deliverance from a devastating plague outbreak between 1575 and 1576; which claimed the lives of approximately 46,000 people, or 25-30% of the population at the time. The Senate of the Republic of Venice commissioned Palladio to design the church, which features a single nave with three chapels on each side. The church’s facade, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and its location on the waterfront of the Giudecca canal; make it a dominant feature in the island’s skyline. Enhanced by being placed on a wide plinth, 15 steps are required to reach the church’s entrance – a direct reference to the Temple of Jerusalem and complicit with Palladio’s own requirement that “the ascent (of the faithful) will be gradual, so that the climbing will bring more devotion“.

Unfortunately, Palladio died in 1580 and the work was taken over by Antonio de Ponte, of Rialto Bridge fame. The church was completed by 1592 and consecrated by Lorenzo Priuli, Patriarch of Venice.

Above. The impressive Redentore church, constructed as a votive church to express gratitude for Venice’s deliverance from a devastating plague outbreak between 1575 and 1576.

The church holds a special place in the hearts of Venetians. It was consecrated in 1592 and has since been entrusted to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. The church is not only an architectural masterpiece, but also a living monument to the city’s resilience and faith.

It is a member of the Chorus Association of Venetian churches (offering a reduced price Chorus pass, of currently 16 churches) and also houses artwork by notable artists such as Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese and Francesco Bassano; contributing to its cultural and historical significance. Today, Il Redentore remains an active place of worship and a testament to Venice’s rich history and enduring spirit.

The Festa del Redentore, or the “Festival of the Redeemer”, takes place during the weekend of the third Sunday of July and  combines religious events, the construction of a pontoon bridge, a huge firework display, a regatta and mass celebratory parties with families and friends. During the festival, the impressive 330-metre-long pontoon bridge; connects the Zattere on the southern side of the district of Dorsoduro, with Guidecca island.    The Festa del Redentore – Images of Venice

 

6. Junghans Factory Redevelopment. Campo Junghans.

Apart from the typical Venetian architecture, there are several former industrial sites that have been redeveloped a by leading archirects to provide semi-subsidised housing, university domitories, private dwellings and community facilities.

One such large site was the Junghans watch factory. that founded in Germany in 1861; began operations on Giudecca Island in 1878 and finally closed in 1993. During its operations, the factory produced watches, fuses, alarm clocks, time switches and kitchen programmers (production changes dependant on wartime activity and staffing levels). Junghans was a major employer of local people from the island.

Owners                                                                       number of workers – (date)

F. Ili Hérion (1878 – 1899)                                   60 (1878) 300 (1914) 4,000 (1944) 269 (1950) 1037 (1974) 70 (1993)
Arturo Junghans (1899 – 1914)
Italian Government (1914 – 1922)
Arturo Junghans (1922 – 1945)
Italian Government (1945 – 1952)
Ernest Heimann (1952 – 1993)

During World War II, the factory was converted into a war production facility and his continued even after the war ended; reflecting the industrial significance of the area. Post-war, Junghans faced various challenges but remained; being one one of the last industrial spaces in Venice. The 1970s saw Junghans as a major industrial presence in the city, but eventually closed in 1993.

In the early 1990s, the Municipality of Venice initiated a project to transform the industrial area into a modern residential neighborhood. Italian architect Cino Zucchi won the project in 1995, leading to the renovation of the Junghans area. The renovation involved constructing new canals and docks while preserving Venetian spatial patterns. Today, the Junghans area is a vibrant neighborhood with residential buildings, a theatre, shops and housing; blending contemporary architecture with the island’s ancient parts.

For great photos of 1. the original factory site and 2. the new development – see the following two sites:

1.Junghans Watch Factory (arcgis.com)

2.Ex Junghans neighborhood – Atlante architettura contemporanea (cultura.gov.it)

 

7. Convento Santi Cosma e Damiano. Calle Cosmo, Guidecca 620

From the Palanca vaporetto stop, walk west a few hundred metres to the Sant’Eufemia church and turn down the Fondamenta del Rio di Sant’Eufemia and its just past the bridge on the left.

The convent was founded in 1481 by Marina Celsi, who followed the rules of Benedictine monasticism and clausura (strict encloisterment). It quickly became a prominent and prestigious religious institution; attracting young women of noble Venetian families, who brought significant dowries. The convent expanded and enriched itself with artworks, including a piece by Giovanni Buonconsiglio in 1497.

By the early 16th century, the convent housed over a hundred nuns and during the 18th century; it was adorned with works by renowned artists like Palma il Giovane, Tintoretto, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.

Following the Napoleonic conques in 1815, it disbanded and many of the convent’s art treasures were dispersed and only a few remain in museums or other churches today. The convent became a military barracks, then a shelter for the poor and in 1903 a knitwear plant which destroyed the interior. Closed down in 1982, the complex was bought by the Venetian authorities and by 1992 changed into apartments, workshops and performance spaces.

Today, you can visit the wonderful large cloister, which holds the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa art studios and the extensive archives of the Fondazione Luigi Nono; left by the Venetian-born avant garde composer (1924-1990).

 

8. The Church of Sant’Eufemia. Fondamenta del Rio di Sant’Eufemia, Guidecca 680.

The church is situated on the main fondmenta, just west of the Guidecca Pallanca vaporetto stop

Built in the 9th century in the Venetian-Byzantine style, it was dedicated to the four martyrs of Aquileia: Eufemia, Dorotea, Tecla and Erasma.

The building underwent numerous restorations during the 18th century which changed its appearance, particularly the facade. Outside, the church has a very modest appearance, with its white plaster facade devoid of any decoration, except for the two semicircular windows that recall the art of Palladio. The external atrium, which rests on the left side of the church, overlooks the Giudecca Canal and consists of a Doric colonnade; whose elements come from the choir of Michele Sammicheli of the nearby Church of Saints Biagio and Cataldo.

The interior is totally different, giving a typical Renaissance preciousness; that is mixed with decorations and stuccos from the 18th century restoration. The layout is a basilica structured on three naves, which preserve the columns and the capitals of the original structure. Among the most interesting monuments, the sculptural group by Gianmaria Morlaiter with “The Virgin and Christ on her knees“, is worth mentioning, while the ceiling decoration tells episodes of Sant’Eufemia’s life.

 

9. Le Convertite. Fondamenta della Convertite,

The building is situated in the middle of this island section, on the Fondamenta della Convertite.

It is a site with a rich and complex history. Originally, around 1545, it was the Augustinian convent of Santa Maria Maddalena; for nuns and a hospice for reformed prostitutes and other women, who were considered sexually tainted. Unfortunately, the institution became infamous due to the sexual misconduct of its rector, Fra Giovanni Pietro Leon; who was convicted and beheaded in the Piazza San Marco!

The building became a hospital in 1806 and a prison in 1857. You can now visit the weekly market on Thursday mornings , when the female prisoners sell produce from their vegetable garden, on the fondamenta infront of the prison. They also work for the social co-operative “Rio Tera dei Pensieri”, creating artisanal objects for retail.

 

10. The Fortuny. Guidecca 805.

The Fortuny factory is located next to the Guidecca canal waterfront, on the corner directly opposite the massive Molina Stucky building complex.

The Fortuny is a renowned location, that houses the original factory and showroom of the luxury textile company. Established by the Spanish artist and inventor Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo in 1921, it continues to be a place where art and craftsmanship merge, to create exquisite fabrics and products.

The Fortuny showroom offers an immersive experience, where visitors can explore and purchase handmade objects that reflect the legacy of innovation and beauty of Venetian living. The showroom is known for blending contemporary artwork and furniture within its historical setting; showcasing the mastery of interior design, while highlighting Fortuny’s unrivaled fabrics.

If you’re interested in visiting, the showroom is open by appointment from Mondays to Saturdays, from 10:00 to 18:00.

The Museum of Palazzo Fortuny, his former home and workshop, located in the San Marco district, is well worth visiting. Please see my post : 9 – Museo Fortuny – Images of Venice

 

11. Molino Stucky. Guidecca 810.

The Molino Stucky in Venice is a striking example of neo-Gothic architecture, on the western end of Giudecca island.

It was designed by Ernst Wullekopf and constructed between 1884 and 1895 by Giovanni Stucky, a Swiss businessman whose family had ties to the region through marriage.  The brick facade, hides a steel and concrete structure. Originally built as a flour mill, it was one of Europe’s largest, employing up to 1,500 workers and symbolizing industrial progress. However, the mill faced labour disputes and in 1910, he was murdered by a factory worker. Following decline, it was finally closed in 1955.

Above. View from the Dorsoduro, across to the neo-Gothic style Molino Stucky, a 5* hotel and apartment complex.

After decades of abandonment, the complex was purchased in 1994, with the intent to transform it into a hotel. A significant restoration began and despite a major fire in 2003, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice opened in 2007. Today, it stands as a five-star hotel, preserving its historical significance while serving as a modern luxury destination.

This full facility hotel, has an impressive Skyline bar and pool on its top floor, overlooking the Guidecca canal and Venice.  See this and other amazing venues, in my post on Campaniles and Roof-Top Terraces; that offer new perspectives on the city, as well as a truly memorable experience.

Discover the best panoramic views for sight-seeing, or cocktails and dining:   Best High Views in Venice – Images of Venice

 

12. Sacca Fisola Housing Developments

This island is artificial, having been developed as part of a broader reclamation project for the lagoon. Other than the Junghans development by Cino Zucchi, there are two other significant architect designed areas of modern urban planning; with open spaces, small streets, gardens, moorings, sporting facilities and a public swimming pool.

The housing developments on Sacca Fisola include projects from different eras; reflecting the architectural evolution of the area. For instance, there are buildings dating from the 1950s. More recent projects include 1. Gino Valle (1980-86). 2. Mainardis, Cappas and Pastor (1982-9). 3. Cino Zuchi (1997-2000). 4. Gambirasio (1980) brewery complex conversion, incorporating two art galleries on the ground floor. 5. Campo di Marte by Álvaro Siza, (completed in 2016), for the Architecture Biennale.

These developments reflect the island’s evolution from an industrial hub to a modern residential area; blending historical elements with contemporary design.

 


 

Links (internalexternal)

Please see my other posts in the category of   “History and Architecture “

“Dorsoduro – District and Attractions”

 


 

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