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NORTHERN Lights

Adrian Mourby uncovers the rich history of Cannaregio, the most northerly of Venice’s six districts

It’s a misty winter’s morning outside Tintoretto’s house in Cannaregio. Here at the tall, pink house on Rio della Sensa the great painter would kiss his wife goodbye and promise to account for the money she had given him for his day. When he’d return late with alcohol on his breath, he’d always insist, against all the available evidence to the contrary, that he’d given most of it away in charitable donations.

Yet Tintoretto did his greatest work in Cannaregio. Just around the corner stands the church of Madonna dell’Orto, a tall brick Gothic structure, much beloved by John Ruskin, that contains some of Tintoretto’s greatest works. There is a massive Last Judgement on one side of the altar, matched by an equally huge Making of the Golden Calf on the other, as well as a Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple, which is arresting in its irregular composition and use of light. Jacopo Tintoretto, also known as Il Furioso, is buried in this church along with members of his family.

Cannaregio is extraordinarily rich in beautiful churches, even by Venice’s high standards. It is the most northerly of the city’s six sestieriand has its share of obelisk-sporting palazzi, but in Tintoretto’s day it was a working-class district full of traders and artisans. Behind what is now called Bottega del Tintorettostands an ornate canalside warehouse decorated on its façade with the relief of a camel. The animal was displayed there so that Moorish traders would know where to find their fellow countrymen.

Cannaregio is rich in beautiful churches and has many secular buildings also worth discovering
Images by Kate Tadman-Mourby
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About Italia!

We have a sparkling line-up of absorbing features for you to enjoy this month. We start in Trieste, a city whose remote location is no hindrance to its elegant aspect and rich cultural history. Moving west, we head to Venice, which despite the exceptional acqua alta last November is most assuredly ‘open for business’. The silk mills of Como are our next stop, to discover the proud manufacturing traditions of this luxurious and ethereal fabric. You’ll also enjoy sustainable hospitality at Borgo Pignano in the Tuscan heartland and take a gentle hike around medieval Orvieto too.