Venice off the beaten path: unusual things to see in Venice

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Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Laura Teso

Being Venice one of the most visited cities in the world, discovering truly unknown places would be unrealistic. But I think some of them are quite less known. So here is my list of Venice off the beaten path places divided by Sestiere.

You can find other beautiful (and some of them are also unusual) places in the article best photo spots in Venice

Venice off the beaten path: Cannaregio

I 4 Mori – The 4 Moors

In the Campo dei Mori, along the walls of the building that houses the Osteria Orto dei Mori, you can see 4 statues representing men dressed in oriental clothes. Venetians call them the Moors. According to tradition, they would be 3 brothers (and one of their servants), silk traders from the Peloponnese: Sandi, Afani and Rioba (the latter is the one in the corner statue with the metal nose). The three “Moors” built Palazzo Mastelli along the Rio della Madonna dell’Orto where you can spot the relief of a man with a camel. It seems that the name Mastelli (meaning buckets) derives from the fact that the three were so rich that they owned buckets full of gold.

Venice off the beaten path

Tintoretto’s House

Right next to the Moors building you will see a beautiful, pink Gothic house, where painter Jacopo Robusti, aka Tintoretto, was born in 1518 and then lived all his life. On the facade it is possible to read a plaque warning the traveler not to ignore the house of the famous painter.

Trivia: up on the facade, on the right there is also a small statue of Hercules, which hides a very fascinating story. It seems that Tintoretto’s daughter was approached by a witch who tried to steal her soul. The girl was suspicious and alerted her father. He lured the witch into the house with a ruse and beat her. She vanished in a cloud of smoke through the wall, leaving a hole. So tintoretto placed the Hercules statue there to cover the hole and keep guard. 

The narrowest calle (alley)

It’s Calle Varisco, near Campo Widmann. The street is just 53 cm wide at its narrowest point and is a destination for curious people and photographers who can’t wait to take some shots or to see if they can pass! Apart from this feature, it has no particular charm compared to many other places, but obviously I had to include it. The surroundings allow you to truly explore Venice off the beaten path.

Venice off the beaten path

Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church

The elegant church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli is entirely covered in fine marbles and very original due to the semicircular pediment. It is one of the first buildings built in Renaissance style in the city. Also the interior, with a single nave, is completely decorated with precious marbles.

Venice off the beaten path

Ca’ d’Oro

I know, this is not actually an unusual place. However, when I asked around, I noticed that many have never visited it. In my opinion it is a really nice museum. In particular, the Gothic courtyard with its mosaic marble floor is amazing. The building’s name Ca’ d’Oro means Golden House. It refers to the original facade which had gold finishes that were lost over time. It is possible to take a picture of this beautiful palace along the Grand Canal from Fondamente Riva Olio.

Campiello del Remer

It is a delightful little square close to Rialto bridge. Its name derives from the presence of artisan workshops that built oars for gondolas (remer). There’s a well and Gothic staircases, plus an open side also overlooks the Grand Canal with a view of Rialto Bridge. In the square there is also a restaurant (Taverna del Remer). I’ve never tried it but I’ve heard very good things about it.

Crociferi Oratory 

In the 12th century the Crociferi fathers founded a hospital in Cannaregio to accommodate those leaving for the Holy Land. Later they transformed it into a shelter for poor women. Following its destruction due to a fire, the Doge Pasquale Cicogna had it renovated and decorated by Palma il Giovane. Unfortunately I myself haven’t been able to admire it yet. 

Right next door you can see the former Convento dei Crociferi, now home to Combo, university residence, hostel and bacaro (café). I recommend you go and take a look cause it’s very nice.

Red pawn shop 

In the Jewish Ghetto of Venice there once were three pawn shops, suppressed at the end of the eighteenth century: red, green and black, depending on the color of the receipt that was given to those who left an object in exchange for money. One of them, the red one, has been restored and opened to the public in Campo del Ghetto Nuovo. I haven’t visited it yet though.

S. Maria di Nazareth aka Scalzi Church

It is located next to the Santa Lucia train station, and, for this very reason, I have always “snubbed” it, thinking: “Okay, sooner or later I’ll visit it, it’s so close to the station”. Plus it doesn’t seem at all Venice off the beaten path! And so I ended up visiting it just last year. I have to say it’s truly spectacular. Furthermore, in the area behind the church the Discalced Carmelites have been cultivating vegetables and medicinal herbs since the seventeenth century. In 2014 the old vegetable garden was renovated and transformed into the Mystical Garden. I think you have to reserve at info@giardinomistico.it in order to visit it. They also own a small shop (when you exit the church and turn right and then right again). There you can buy the famous Melissa Water, which seems miraculous for digestion and also against headaches. I’ll try it sooner or later!


Unusual things to see in Venice: Santa Croce

Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua

It is one of the historical activities of Venice. In the atelier overlooking the Grand Canal you can admire fabrics that adorn the most important residences in the world, from the Quirinale to the White House. But the highlights are the antique looms. The venue is a 10 minute walk from the train station. Attention: the opening times you find on Google Maps are those of the shop. It is possible to visit the Weaving Plant upon reservation. I visited it during an event. You can read more about this place in my article about Tessitura Bevilacqua. PS I took the cover photo of the article from the Tessitura’s small rear terrace.

Palazzo Mocenigo Museum

The Mocenigo family lived in this palace until 1945. It is now a museum. On the main floor it is possible to visit 20 rooms, where you can admire tapestries, paintings, furniture and Murano chandeliers. Some are original of the Palazzo Mocenigo, others are from the eighteenth century. Some rooms host eighteenth-century suits and waistcoats. The rooms dedicated to the history of perfume are super interesting.

Natural History Museum

The Museum is located inside a beautiful building overlooking the Grand Canal: the Fondaco dei Turchi, once the commercial headquarters of Turkish merchants. First of all, I really liked the small garden hidden between two buildings. The museum is very interesting, with a wide variety of sections dedicated to dinosaurs, fossils, animals, nature collecting, scientific expeditions, cetacean gallery, etc. Read more here: Venice Natural History Museum

Naturali History Museum of Venice
Naturali History Museum of Venice

Oriental Art Museum

Inside the Ca’ Pesaro Palace, on the top floor, you can visit this museum, which displays the private collection of Henry of Bourbon. At the end of the 19th century he visited China, Indonesia and Japan and brought back with him around 20,000 objects, including samurai armors, weapons, prints, vases and musical instruments.


Venice of the beaten path: San Polo

Ponte delle Tette (Tits bridge)

Yes, Tits bridge really refers to boobs. This was in fact the area of Venetian brothels. Women used to expose themselves bare-breasted to attract passers-by. Not far away there is also the Rio Terà de le Carampane, where once stood a hospice for elderly prostitutes, Ca’ Rampani. From this name the Venetians, mockers as always, began to use the name carampana to define a woman… let’s say no longer in her prime.

Rialto’s hunchback

It is a statue in front of the church of San Giacomo, Rialto. Despite the name, the man is not a hunchback. It’s a man kneeling and holding up a ladder with a stone at the top. It is the Stone of the Call or Proclamation stone, i.e. the podium from which in ancient times public documents were read and proclamations of the Serenissima were made.

Venice off the beaten path

Palazzetto Bru Zane

It is a research center on French romantic music, housed in a former Venetian casino from the late 17th century, complete with a small lovely garden. It is possible to participate in a free visit every Thursday afternoon (2.30pm Italian, 3pm French, 3.30pm English) by writing to contact@bru-zane.com (visits suspended however in August). The foundation also organizes conferences, concerts and educational projects.

Venice off the beaten path

Unusual places to see in Venice: Dorsoduro

Fists bridge – Ponte dei Pugni

It is not a little-known place, but perhaps not everyone knows the history of this bridge. The name refers to the fistfights between two different factions: the Castellani of San Pietro di Castello and the Nicolotti of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli. The fightings took place precisely on this bridge, which at the time had no railings. In fact, at the four corners you will notice some footprints (made of Istrian stone), which marked the positioning of the contenders and judges. Clashes were prohibited starting from the beginning of the eighteenth century. Trivia: the church you can see from here is the one you may remember from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Rio de San Barnaba greengrocer

I love it. One of the special things about this city. It is a greengrocer on a boat that you can find moored in Rio San Barnaba, right at the foot of the Fists bridge. There is also one in Castello. And I also spotted one in Burano. Always delightful to look at.

San Pantalon 

The church of San Pantalon stands near Campo Santa Margherita and houses the largest painting on canvas in the world. It depicts the martyrdom of poor Saint Pantalon and it measures 443 square meters.

Venice off the beaten path

Dona Onesta – Honest Woman

Walking along Calle degli Albanesi, and looking up in front of you, high up on the building, in front of the Dona Onesta restaurant you can spot a woman’s face. It’s her, the honest woman. Her origin is not certain. According to some it derives from an act of blood. A man fell in love with the wife of the blacksmith (who once had a shop here), commissioned him a dagger to have the excuse of seeing the woman. He raped her and she, out of shame, killed herself with that same dagger. It is not an unmissable attraction, but a curiosity to observe if you pass by here. The restaurant is nice and I’m told (thanks to my informant Denise) it’s also good.

Visiting a Squero, the place where they build the gondolas

In Dorsoduro it is possible to admire or even, by appointment, visit a Squero, which is the place where gondolas are built and repaired. There are two in the area. The best known is probably that of San Trovaso, a short distance from the Accademia Galleries. Not far away is also the Squero Tramontin. Near there, don’t miss a stop at Gelateria Nico for an ice cream or a gianduiotto (a sort of chocolate and hazelnut parfait) with whipped cream.

Venice off the beaten path: Dorsoduro – Giudecca

Casa dei Tre Oci – Three Eyed House

On the island of Giudecca, the Casa dei Tre Oci was built at the beginning of the 20th century to be the Venetian home of the Emilian painter Mario De Maria. Unfortunately the story is not a happy one. The painter had lost his beloved daughter. The two windows on the upper floor are dedicated to her. While the three large ones on the middle floor, which give the house its name, represent the painter, his wife and his son. Nowadays it is a space for exhibitions.

Fortuny Showroom and Factory

In addition to the lovely Fortuny Museum in Venice, on Giudecca island there is also the fabrics factory that Mariano Fortuny founded at the beginning of the 1920s. Eleonora Duse wore his amazing clothes for her theater shows and then they became famous among the international jet set. It is possible to visit the Showroom (there’s also a secret garden) by appointment. I haven’t visited it yet but I would like to do it one day.


Venice off the beaten path – Sestiere di San Marco

Fortuny Museum

The museum is dedicated to the painter Mariano Fortuny Madrazo who established his studio there. The building was donated to the municipality of Venice upon the artist’s death. It was recently restored and reopened. Learn more in my post about Fortuny Museum.

Golden Head

In Salizada Pio X, at the foot of Rialto bridge (side towards San Marco), look up on the right (with the bridge in front of you. You’ll notice a golden head. It is what remains of an ancient pharmacy called “At the Golden Head” (the head was the shop’s sign). A very damaged writing is partially visible on the wall: Theriaca D’Andramaco, which was an antidote against poison, a specialty of the apothecary. Not worth the trip, eh, but if you pass by here it’s worth a look.

Desdemona’s House

While I was on a gondola a couple of years ago, the gondolier showed me Palazzo Contarini Fasan, right in front of the Basilica della Salute. According to tradition, it is Desdemona’s house. However, there are two legends. The first claims that a Venetian leader, Nicola Contarini, lived here in the sixteenth century. He was so dark-skinned that he earned the nickname of Moor. Like Othello, he was jealous of his wife, Palma (and not Desdemona) who, exhausted, abandoned him. Accused of trying to strangle her, he was executed. The second story is that of Cristoforo Moro, a Venetian admiral, who, having left for Candia (modern-day Crete), lost his wife under mysterious circumstances. Both stories have something in common with Othello. In any case, the palace, small and in Gothic style, is really graceful, among the most beautiful, in my taste, on that side of the Grand Canal.

Casino Venier

The casino was a small, intimate place where nobles used to meet to chat, dance, play cards or engage in romantic encounters. In Venice they were numerous, especially in the eighteenth century, when they reached the number of 118. It has been home to the Alliance Francaise for over 30 years. To visit it you must make an appointment by writing to eventi@afvenezia.it.

The entrance is in one of the most picturesque places in the city, from the Sotoportego delle Acque. The Casino is tiny, of course, but very interesting to visit. And also weird because in the 4 small rooms there are the offices and classrooms of the association so you will be there while people are calling, having meetings, etc. I recommend you pay attention to the beautiful floors and the peephole. The place really needs a renovation. The necessary documents have been ready for some time, an affable member of the Alliance confided to me, but everything is silent from the relevant office. Pity.

Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti 

One of the most beautiful buildings on the Grand Canal. Maybe it’s for the view of the Salute, for the location at the foot of the Accademia bridge, or for the garden, but every time I pass by I stop to admire it. It is the headquarters of the Veneto Institute of Sciences, Letters and Arts. It hosts exhibitions, conferences and events. So when there’s an exhibit it’s an excellent opportunity to also peek into the interior of the building.

Venice off the beaten path

Olivetti Shop

Located in Piazza San Marco and designed by Carlo Scarpa in 1958 for the industrialist Adriano Olivetti, it is a shop entirely dedicated to Olivetti brand products. In addition to being a forerunner of modern flagstores, it is also an example of integration between a historic building and modern architecture. It is the FAI that has been responsible for its maintenance and opening to the public for over 10 years, from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 6.30pm.

San Marco – San Giorgio Island

Borges Labyrinth

On the Island of San Giorgio, part of the Cini foundation, an art and research center, there is a labyrinth of box hedges, dedicated to the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, in whose books the theme of the labyrinth, symbol of difficulty, often appears for every man to find his own path in the world. I have not visited the Cini Foundation yet.


Venice off the beaten path: Castello

Palazzo Grimani Museum

It is a fairly small and charming museum, whose highlight is the evocative Sala del Doge, where you can admire part of the collection of classical statues of the Grimani family.

Venice off the beaten path

The lowest portico in Venice

It’s Sotoportego Zurlin in Castello. It is located in Calle Ruga, complete with the writing: Watch your head! A little quirk thing to go and see if you are near. But I mostly recommend it because the area all around is quiet and authentic. So, Venice off the beaten path at its best!

San Zaccaria crypt

The church of San Zaccaria is located in the Castello district, not far from Piazza San Marco. It is among the oldest churches in Venice and houses a splendid altarpiece by Bellini. Its peculiarity, however, is the suggestive crypt, constantly submerged. Attention: the visit to the church is free, while the crypt is subject to a fee. Unfortunately I found conflicting information. Each site reports different prices and times so I cannot quote reliable data. Another thing: of course you can not visit the crypt during high water.

Venice off the beaten path

San Francesco della Vigna

In the Castello district, you may have noticed a church with large brick-orange columns. It is San Francesco della Vigna, with a remarkable façade designed by Palladio. But why “della Vigna” (meaning of the vineyard? Because the vineyard really exists, inside one of the cloisters. Unfortunately: 1) it is no longer the original one, left as a gift 800 years ago by a Venetian nobleman to the Friars; 2) it is only open to the public on certain occasions (you have to follow their Facebook page to be updated on the dates, according to what a very nice friar I met in church told me).

Venice off the beaten path

Querini Stampalia Foundation

The Foundation houses a library on the first floor which has 350,000 volumes, open to students and scholars. On the second floor you can visit the House Museum of the Querini Stampalia family, where you can admire furnishings, paintings, sculptures and art objects. The area on the ground floor, restored in the 1960s by Carlo Scarpa, is also part of the museum itinerary.

Sotoportego dei Preti

In Castello there is a underpass where you can spot a red brick heart. It seems that touching it brings luck in love and allows you to make your love wish come true within a year. Rumor has it that the heart was placed here in honor of the love between the fisherman Orio and the mermaid Melusina.

Venice off the beaten path

Sotoportego della Corte Nova: beware of the red stone

Another very interesting sotoportego is that of la Corte Nova. Inside, you will find two capitals with paintings of the Madonna and Child and the Madonna della Salute. The ceiling is richly decorated with coffers and painted gold and blue. Four paintings tell the terrible plague epidemic of 1630 which spared this area. Legend has it that the plague did not arrive here thanks to the image of the Madonna which fell to the ground and stopped the contagion. After that, a paving stone has been colored red. Since then, the Venetians have not trampled on it for good luck. I had never seen such a beautiful sotoportego!

Venice off the beaten path

Ships Pavilion

Inside the Arsenal complex you can visit the Ships Pavilion. On display there are the historic boats that parade along the Grand Canal during the Historical Regatta. It is part of the Naval History Museum. Unfortunately it has been closed “temporarily” for months. And so I haven’t visited it yet. Now I think it’s open on certain occasions but I have no sure info.


Venice off the beaten path: Murano

Basilica di Santa Maria e San Donato

It is a very beautiful and particular basilica. I was particularly struck by apse back on the exterior and, inside, the incredible mosaic floor which dates back to 1120 (same years of St Mark’s mosaics). Trivia: inside, behind the altar, hides the vertebrae of a large animal. For centuries Venetians thought they belong to a dragon defeated by San Donato. But they are more likely those of a whale.

Venice off the beaten path

Other islands

Saint Francis of the Desert

It is a small island where Saint Francis stopped to seek peace and reflection upon returning from a trip to the East in 1220. At the time it was the property of the Venetian nobleman Jacopo Michiel who decided to leave it as an inheritance to the Friars, so that they could found a convent there. Why “of the Desert”? Because for years it was abandoned. And the Austrians used it as a warehouse. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was it returned to the friars. Now it’s a truly delightful place. I had the opportunity to visit during a boat tour of the Venetian islands (it is located near Burano).


In conclusion, how did you like my Venice off the beaten path article? I hope you found some interesting place to visit next time.

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