The perfect place for a Photography workshop in Venice!
The environment in which the blacksmiths work is severe, dark, with spots of light coming from the high skylights, lying here and there on the machinery.
One of the thing I like to do the most, during a Photo tour in Venice or even when I’m alone, it’s to get lost in the small streets, squares, or “fondamente” I’ve never saw before. This year I got an unique opportunity to find something special, thanks to the Association of Photography Marco Polo I founded three years ago. In fact, every year we give ourselves a photographic theme to work on, and this year we decided to focus strongly on Venice in order to discover one by one its Sestieri (in Venice the districts are called “Sestieri”, because they are six: Cannaregio, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Polo, San Marco and Castello).
This year it’s about Cannaregio.
As you can see from the map, the Cannaregio district goes from the railway station as far as the bridge that leads into Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo, therefore in this large area you can find some places invaded by turists, but also others places, more quiet and more popular. The “off the beaten track” are of course the areas I like the most, and during a recent walk along a lonely and sunny “Fondamenta”, my attention was drawn to a sign hanging on a door: "Quality Craftsmanship". So I immediately went inside to explore this slice of Venetian life I had never noticed before and I found the workshop of a blacksmith!
Or better, of two blacksmiths. In fact, Paolo and Francesco are two brothers, the youngest is now 74 years old. They started working here since the age of nine, the same age as, many years before, did their father Gino. The environment in which the blacksmiths work is severe, dark, with spots of light coming from the high skylights, lying here and there on the machinery. There are two big rooms. The first one is lower and above it, until the late 1800s there was a Murano glass beads deposit. The second room is higher, but with a careful eye you will note that the side walls have some walled windows. Originally it was not a laboratory, but a public small square! The floor still has the stones used to pave Calli, Campi and public Fondamente.
The walled windows belonged to the houses that, with their perimeters, now border the atelier of the blacksmiths. Unbelievable but true, you can still see the gutters that once were discharging rainwater in the small square, but now, since this was covered with a roof to obtain the laboratory, they lie unused, and no one has ever taken them away. Inside a so special place there will for sure be a surprise, and in fact I got to know that the two blacksmiths are specialized in the restoration of the architectural works of the famous Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa!
Years ago, working on a book concerning the Province of Treviso, published by Biblos, I photographed the famous Brion tomb of San Vito di Altivole, of Carlo Scarpa. It is a monumental complex with an adjoining church, where among other things, the architect himself was buried.
And here in Venice, in this place that sometimes seems to me the antechamber of Dante's hell, but instead it’s a really quiet place where time has stopped, someone is taking care of the operas of this famous architect. Other important work by Carlo Scarpa I saw been restored in the workshop come from the Foundation Querini Stampalia. All work are made by hand, one by one, starting from his original drawings!