If you ever have the chance to visit Venice you will understand why the decadent city has been an inspiration to so many. Over its long and glorious history Venice has had so many famous residents, my favorites being the artists, writers and poets.
Currently there is no unified system set up or marks of commemoration to identify the former residences of Venice’s past. So, I am taking it upon myself to establish the Blue Plaques of Venice. For those of you unfamiliar with the term Blue Plaques, it is a foundation established in the United Kingdom whose job it is to select buildings and places that are linked to famous and influential people. Every year blue plaques are placed on the buildings or other structures in commemoration.
If the city of Venice does decide to pick up on this, I think a fitting “plaque” would be a stone relief of a lion, the symbol of imperial Venice and all around very Venetian.
The following buildings are some of my favorites for commemoration.
– Palazzo Barbaro
The Palazzo Barbaro was actually two separate palaces along Venice’s Grand Canal. All ready in love with charming Venice, Henry James lived in Palazzo Barbaro when he began writing the Aspen Papers. The Palace also served as the setting for his work The Wings of the Dove.
In 1908 Monet also stayed at the Palazzo Barbaro and from his room he was able to paint some of his most beautiful works. The Palazzo Contarini, directly across the canal was the subject of a couple paintings as well as the Doge Palace, and San Giorgio Maggiore.
John Singer Sargent, an American artist, gave us an entirely different view of Venice. While staying in Palazzo Barbaro in 1880 he preferred to paint the alleys and “streets” of Venice.
– Pensione Wilder at 4161 Riva degli Schiavoni
In what is now the Pensione Wilder, Henry James stayed during his first extended trip to Venice. In his fourth floor rooms he finished writing Portrait of a Lady the essays Venice: An Early Impression
This Casa is extremely easy to locate because there is a stop right in front of it on the Grand Canal. Over his lifetime Robert Browning visited Venice many times, Ca’ Rezzonico was the home of his son and where he stayed during his final visit. On his last visit to Venice Browning passed away, in the parlor of Ca’ Rezzonico .
Lord Byron was a resident of Venice for 4 years and stayed at the Palazzo Mocenigo. There is a plaque already on the palazzo and one of the only ones I have found in Venice to commemorate anyone. There is also a Byron room at the monastery of St. Lazarus where he spent a lot of time with the monks in the library. Just read Ode to Venice or Don Juan to get a feel for how Byron felt about the city.
Wagner had an apartment in the Ca’ Vendramin, where he also died, on the Grand Canal right next to the museum of Peggy Guggenheim. Part of his work Tristan and Isolde was written in Venice during an earlier visit. Check the Venice Tourist Board to set up a tour.
During the span of his lifetime John Ruskin visited and stayed in Venice eleven times. Ruskin’s love for Venice and the art and architecture he witnessed is obvious when you read his works The Stones of Venice and others. More than that, his works gave us a new way to look at the city of Venice, an honest appraisal of the treasures the city holds and how easily they can be lost.
-The Church of La Pieta
While this church did not serve as a residence to the native Venetian, Vivaldi, it was somewhere he spent a huge portion of his life. Especially important because many of the pieces he composed were for the benefit of the students he taught who lived in the school the church ran.
-Palazzo Mangili Valmarana
Antonio Canale, known as Canaletto, lived most of his life in Venice. Most of that time was spent in the Palazzo Mangili Valmarana which was the home of his patron, Joseph Smith. Canaletto’s paintings of Venice and Smith’s connections and business savvy earned him a huge clientele during his lifetime. Very few pieces by Canaletto remain in Venice, but the popularity of his pieces guarantees that the rest of the world will forever see the beauty that is Venice.
So, those are just the places I would start with. There are countless others including the bars frequented by Hemingway, Dickens and Proust. Not to be left out are the churches and palaces where Titian and Tintoretto painted. Of course, we have to save some for next year.