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Venice Tourist Attractions

San Giorgio Maggiore

San Giorgio Maggiore was one of the Venice tourist attractions that struck me the most on my very first visit to Venice nearly twenty years ago. 

San Giorgio Maggiore by Alexander StrahilovSan Giorgio Maggiore by Alexander Strahilov

Looking across from St Marks Square the island of San Giorgio is a splendid sight indeed. Many tourists gaze out at this beautiful church set upon its tiny island from the touristy area around St. Mark's Square. Yet, strangely, few travel out to the island, which has largely escaped the overcrowding that is associated with tourism in Venice.

San Giorgio Maggiore Church

The first sight that graces you as you approach the island is the grand San Giorgio Maggiore Church. San Giorgio Maggiore was designed by perhaps the greatest architect the Veneto has ever produced, Palladio. This architectural masterpiece stands tall, a testament to the genius of its creator. Sadly, Palladio passed away before it was finished; it was completed in accordance with his original design.

Over the centuries, it has inspired many of the greatest artists in the world. including Monet and many others. Have a look at some of Monet's paintings of San Giorgio Maggiore here.

An impression of airy brightness pervades both the interior and exterior, and the façade in splendid white is startling. On entering, the impression of luminosity is even more profound. The artwork within is equally breathtaking, featuring masterpieces by Tintoretto and Jacopo Bassano, among others.

The paintings include three important works by Tintoretto. These are the Last Supper and the Fall of Manna, both of which are located behind the altar. Tintoretto's expert use of chiaroscuro in the Last Supper painting adds depth and drama to the scene, making it an unforgettable portrayal of this pivotal biblical events.

To the right of the choir, in the Chapel of the Dead, you will find Tintoretto’s other work, Deposition. Of significance too is Sebastiano Ricci’s Madonna Enthroned with the Saints.

But the artistic wonders do not end there. As you stroll through the various chapels and alcoves of the church, you will encounter a treasure trove of religious artworks by other eminent artists from different eras. Each piece tells its own sacred story, with intricate details and brushstrokes that breathe life into the biblical narratives.

Do take a trip up in the elevator to the top of the bell tower. The panorama across Venice, particularly at sunset, from the top is spectacular—perhaps the best view from up high in all of Venice. As the sun paints the sky with hues of gold, the city of Venice lies below, revealing its secrets. The majestic St. Mark's Basilica and the charming canals all come alive in this awe-inspiring vista. It is a moment that etches itself into your memory forever.

An Unusual Place to Stay

Just down the way from San Giorgio Maggiore, in La Giudecca, is a very unique place to stay - it is a luxury yacht, come houseboat, available at very reasonable rates. Called the Sarah Sun Island, this is an exciting and unique way to see Venice Italy.

Cultural Oasis: Fondazione Giorgio Cini

San Giorgio Maggiore is not only a haven of great natural beauty but also a hub of culture and art. That is thanks to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a cultural institution created by Count Vittorio Cini in 1951 in memory of his son, who died in a plane crash at the age of thirty. When the foundation started, the island of San Giorgio Maggiore was in a dreadful state after over one hundred and fifty years of military occupation.

The first major project involved fixing that. The center is now dedicated to promoting culture and knowledge and preserving the history and art of Venice through its art institute and library, as well as through the plethora of events, exhibitions, and conferences held here throughout the year. Make sure you visit Il Labirinto Borges (you can buy your tickets here), a stunning, mind twisting maze dedicated to the author Jorge Luis Borges.

These verdant spaces offer a serene escape from the crowds, a place to immerse yourself in nature's embrace. The gardens inspire a sense of peace and harmony, making it a perfect retreat from the bustling city.

Car Rentals

Getting Here

Venice Bus Stop

It is not difficult to get across to the island of San Giorgio. Take the water bus (Vaporetto) number 2 from Riva degli Schiavoni and get off at the San Giorgio Maggiore stop. The photo above was taken near the "bus stop," and, as you can see, you won't ever find a better spot to wait for a bus.

The bus ride too is super special; as you glide across the shimmering waters, the iconic skyline of Venice slowly recedes and the silhouette of San Giorgio Maggiore emerges. It is a moment of pure magic.

San Giorgio Maggiore should certainly be on your list of not-to-miss Venice tourist attractions.

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