Built in the late 15th century on the site of a 7th-century church, the Church of Santa Maria Formosa (Chiesa di Santa Maria Formosa) showcases Italian Renaissance architecture. The church is famed for its double façade, domed white marble roof, and bell tower. As for the name, legend says Saint Magnus saw a vision of a shapely (in Latin formosa
) Mary, telling him to build a church. The Basics
Be sure to view both of Santa Maria Formosa's faces. One façade—in the Renaissance style—leads onto Canal del Novo Mondo, while the other—baroque—faces Campo Santa Maria Formosa. The freestanding baroque bell tower was added in the 17th century. Join a walking tour of Venice, some with an included gondola ride, for a peek inside Santa Maria Formosa, simple in design with a notable polyptych Santa Barbara by Palma il Vecchio above the main altar. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- Visitors must pay an entry fee to access the inside of the church.
- The church houses paintings by artists Palma the Elder and Bartolomeo Vivarini.
- Keep an eye out for the grotesque carved head at the base of the bell tower—it is said to ward away evil spirits.
The church of Santa Maria Formosa is on Campo Santa Maria Formosa in the Castello district of Venice. The closest Vaporetto stop is Rialto. Visitors can also arrange a water taxi to stop right at Campo Santa Maria Formosa, or head to the church on foot. When to Get There
The church is open during the week and closed on Sundays except for mass. Its cool interior is a welcome break from the sun on hot days.
Walk Over the Rialto Bridge
A 5- to 10-minute walk from Santa Maria Formosa is the Rialto Bridge, an important landmark in Venice. The oldest of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, the Rialto has been a feature of the city since the 12th century (the current bridge dates from the early 16th century). The bridge, with its unique covered sides, is home to shops selling leather goods and Venetian souvenirs.