In between World War I and II there was a fascist-born ban in Venice and beyond on books by Jewish authors. That censorship never reached the halls of Fondazione Querini Stampalia and its extensive library, where the principle of Free Speech was upheld, though the Director might have to go into hiding to maintain it.
Today it is an oasis of a different kind for Venetians—keeping the doors open to its posh and wifi-enabled library relatively late into the night. It hosts meetings, concerts and more—making it a center for Venetian culture today. Scholars are drawn here to study its vast archives, which include everything from medical texts dating back to the time of the plague to military maps detailing historic battles long before the time of the Republic.
For the Venetian tourist however—even time-strapped ones—Fondazione Querini Stampalia is more. A visit to Fondazione Querini Stampalia gives you a vivid window on how the Venetian gentry lived in the 16th ,17th and 18th Centuries. Though banks and businesses continue to make donations adding to its high-value historic art collections to this day, the lion’s share of the collections came to be in 1869 when an heirless Querini noble donated his estate to the city and people of Venice.
A guided tour lets you glimpse at everything from this wealthy family’s art collections, stylish furniture, elaborate chandeliers, music books and early musical instruments, and settings of fine china. Many of the big name artists you encounter elsewhere in Venice such as Pietro Longhi or Giovanni Bellini have works here.
By this writer’s lights, the treasure of treasures though ,are the works by Gabriel Bella showing scenes of Venetian public life, from regatta to funerals, that combine to set your imagination afire on what life in Venice was really like for this family and other Venetians.
Architecture enthusiasts will want to find their way here to admire the innovations made by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa who re-engineered walls, doors, and entranceway from the canal to create internal water channels that transform the periodic flooding problems the palace had to manage into aesthetically engaging internal water channels. You also see his touch in the garden area, which hosts theatrical events as well as childrens’ entertainment.
For any tourist carrying work to do on their vacation, as Americans are often wont to do, it’s difficult to imagine a better spot in Venice to plant. Work may command your attention, but the sumptuous library surrounds will keep whispering in your ear to do as little as necessary so you can get back to your bigger job of enjoying Venice.
For more information about FONDAZIONE QUERINI STAMPALIA or to book a tour visit the FONDAZIONE QUERINI STAMPALIA website.
Or, to help arrange a visit to Fondazione Querini Stampalia, as well as visits to Venetian ateliers preserving traditional crafts, and other Venice adventures contact Ornella Naccari of ON-View Travel Agency, a member of the Divertimento Group.