Venice is a marvelous city, known throughout the world for the splendid Saint Mark’s square, for its canals and for its exclusive type of water craft, the gondola.
The visitors that arrive to Venice ask to see these places, to eat in a typical restaurant, to take a ride on a gondola, without realizing that they are missing the best part of this city, the parts less stereotypical and hidden, more authentic and fascinating.
Venice, in fact, can present much more to the visitor that chooses alternate paths, with the help of specialized agencies: it can present its secret gardens, hidden from distracted view of the tourist even though they are splendid with diverse flowers during the year and rich with sculptures and ornamental elements; it can open its doors to palaces which are normally not accessible and permit visits to apartments where to this day live descendants of famous Venetian families, and admire the stuccoes, frescoes, furnishings, views of interior gardens or the Grand Canal; to walk during the evening in the areas less trodden by tourists, listening to their own foot steps together with the voice of a guide that recounts the characteristic Venetian legends, the mysteries and stories of ghosts that lie behind the walls of buildings that for centuries have been protagonists and spectators of the more curious urban events.
Few know, for example, that the Ghetto of Venice is one of the more authentic areas of the city, that still conserves the antique aspect of the buildings, the synagogues and “tower-houses”. The suggestive atmosphere; while seated in the shade, covered by the foliage of a tree, the fantasy and imagination can dive into the past until the 15th century, to the moment when, in this very city, the ghetto was formed, with the scope of confining the multitude of jews immigrated here from Spain. The chosen area was next to an iron foundry – in Venetian dialect the term “geto” – that soon came to be know (in all of Europe) as the territory that confined the jews. Unfortunately this area is not very well known yet, being removed from the standard routes of mass tourism – from the train station directs itself to Rialto bridge. Even-though, it would be worthy to stop after the “Guglie bridge” and leaving the long straight route of the Strada Nova, make one’s way into the narrow streets until reaching Campo del Ghetto Nuovo. Here it is possible to enter in direct contact with history: following the creation of the ghetto, by disposition of the Venetian Senate, it was forbidden for the jews to leave the area reserved for them during evening hours, with the closing of the two robust doors that would allow passage only during the day. Also, since they were not allowed to build buildings and, consequentially during a demographic boom during the following years, they began to expand vertically, adding floors (up to eight) to their homes. This explains the presence, only in this area of the city, of antique “tower-houses” that still today confer a specific character.
Of the many synagogues built from the 16th century onwards, each on tied to a homogenous group based on the provenance (German, Levantine, Spanish School, for example) only two are still officially open to cult services (and to visits), others conserve purely institutional functions.
The Ghetto is just one of the numerous examples of places of the city that are little known to visitors but that certainly merits a visit. Venice, in fact, hides behind winding and narrow walk ways, beyond the bridges and facades of the lavish palaces; many small jewels less brilliant than others, yet equally enjoyable to discover. Sometimes it’s enough to get lost in the streets to find oneself suddenly, in a small campiello with almost no one there, with its solitary well and inevitable church. And discover something new, something secret and something unexpected. Or you can entrust yourself to the culture and knowledge of the places and the many who work there professionally, and be guided without delay in personal itineraries on the basis of personal wishes.