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Venice Before Sunrise


Venice is one of the most spectacular and totemic cities on the planet, and in the moments before dawn, one can truly realise the city’s timeless beauty. We sent Rome-based photographer Benedetta Ristori to do just that.



Palazzo Pisani is one of the largest and most fascinating palazzos in the city.  For hundreds of years celebrities, sovereigns and princes lived here.  Unfortunately, owing to the rapid decline of the family fortunes, in 1816 the Pisani family was forced to sell the family residence — along with the majority of the artworks. There are still many treasures to admire: the frescoes (paintings on the ceilings), the stuccoes, and the chapel on the first floor with doors inlaid with marble.




The Rio dell’ Albero (The River of the Tree), is about 165 metres long. It connects the Rio delle Veste in the south to the Grand Canal. Its western flank runs along the back of the Palazzo Marin and the Church of Santa Maria Zobenigo  before passing under the Ostreghe Bridge. Afterwards, the river runs along the Ostreghe basin on its eastern flank, flowing under a small private bridge, before opening onto the Grand Canal between the Palazzo Pisani Gritti and the Palazzo Ferro Fini.




St. Mark’s Basilica is the monument that best represents Venice and its ancient maritime and commercial power. The church overlooks St. Mark’s Square and is adjacent to the Doge’s Palace. It is home to the Patriarch of Venice and contains the remains of Saint Mark the Evangelist. The facade of the church is a masterpiece of Gothic sculpture divided into a double order of five arcades.




The Bridge of Sighs, named after the mourning of lost lovers, is located adjacent to St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), crossing the Palazzo Rio, and connecting via two narrow corridors with the Doge’s Palace at Prigioni Nuove. This was the first structure in the world to be built specifically to detain prisoners. The Bridge was used for the transfer of detainees from the offices of the State Inquisitors, who passed their judgments here. Giacomo Casanova, arrested for immorality and anti-religious ideas, is perhaps the most well-known prisoner who crossed the bridge here to his fate.




The Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, was the centre of political power for more than 1,000 years, when the Doge ruled as the leader of Serenissima – or “the serene one” as Venice is known. It is one of the symbols of the city and is located on Piazza San Marco, between the Piazzetta and the Molo. The construction of the building began in the 1800s when the ducal seat was transferred from Malamocco to Venice. Its two Venetian Gothic facades overlook the Piazzetta and the Molo, and are developed on two colonnade levels surmounted by a body of inlaid marble windows and a monumental central balcony sculpted by Pier Paolo Dalle Masegne.




The Grand Canal, known as the ‘Canalazzo’ by the Venetians, divides the city’s historic centre into two parts. It is much older than the city that surrounds it; indeed its clement waters were the very reason that Venice emerged on its banks. The Canal is around 4 kilometres long and looks very much like the shape of an overturned S — at one end stands the Ponte della Libertà (the Bridge of Liberty) and at the other the Basin of San Marco. It is on average 5 metres deep and its width can reach 70 metres.

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