Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore (Venice, Italy)

Almost everyone notices them, though they are not part of Venice itself. The church and bell tower on San Giorgio Maggiore gleam across the waters separating the island from Venice. The attraction is not visited nearly as much as Venice itself. It requires a short vaporetto ride from the Piazzetta.

The church was designed by Andrea Palladio, the great Venetian Renaissance architect. Its neoclassical style, based on Greek and Roman principles, was so profound that it influenced Christopher Wren, the great London architect, and Thomas Jefferson when he built Monticello. Its brilliant white marble contrasts sharply with its surroundings, especially on clear days against blue skies and aquamarine waters. What strikes you immediately is that there is no formal covered portico but rather the appearance of one, flat, almost two-dimensionally against the entrance. The columns also are mounted on extremely high pedestals.

san giorgio basilica
San Giorgio Basilica

Masterpieces by Jacopo Tintoretto are inside the church, including The Last Supper. Palladio’s architectural design is also unusual in the amount of light let in by the many clerestory windows, shaped like lunettes and based on Roman bath designs.

View from the campanile toward San Marco

Not commonly known is that the view from atop the bell tower rivals, even exceeds the one from St. Mark’s. At 60m (almost 200ft) high and a replica of St. Mark’s, not only do you get a resplendent view of Venice looking north, but a commanding vista of the surrounding waters and the marine vessels that ply them. To get to the top, you take an elevator, unusual for Italy.

san giorgio interior
The interior space is well illuminated by the many windows

Our stay on the island was abbreviated since we needed to get back to our hotel for dinner.

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