A wonderful way to discover the hidden byways of Venice might be to avoid the big-name attractions, like the Doge’s Palace or the Salute church and instead wander off in search of little churches in hidden corners of Venice. The journey is as important as the destination in many of these cases, as you’ll be taking routes through town that show you the every day beauty of the city and its lagoon.
Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto
This church is located on the northern edge of the city in a lovely neighborhood that also has the best bars in the city. Check out the huge Tintoretto paintings in the altar which represent some of his most powerful work. The church is named for a sculpture of the Madonna and child which sits in a side chapel reserved for prayer, a quiet and beautiful place.
Chiesa di San Zaccaria
There are few things in life that are as beautiful as the Bellini painting in a little side altar of this church. The walls here are in fact crammed full of artwork from Venice’s big names like Tiepolo, Palma il Giovane and Tintoretto, but this is undoubtedly the most magical.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Torcello is an island off to the north of the lagoon that was one of the first places to be settled by the early Venetians. Nowadays, the island is mostly uninhabited, making it a beautiful and wild place to explore. This church dates all the way back to the 7th century and you can see the beautiful Byzantine mosaic depicting the Last Judgement. Next to it is the martyrion of Santa Fosca.
Basilica di San Pietro di Castello
Located on an island connected by bridge to the eastern part of Castello, this is a very muted Renaissance church with an all-white facade. Though the church itself is beautiful, it is the island itself that is the real attraction, with the large green campo in the middle and the utter tranquility of the surroundings. Come for the yearly summer sagra to see the place full of life and music.
Chiesa di San Pantalon
This unassuming church across the bridge from Campo Santa Margherita boasts a remarkable painting stretching across the entirety of the ceiling which depicts the apothesis of San Pantalon. The illusionistic effect seems to make the top of the church recede into space and open up into a dramatic vision of the heavens. It’s located in an area largely occupied by students and families and full of great cafes and bars, as well as neighborhood shops.