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Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Former German trade centre, future department store

Fondaco dei Tedeschi

Next to the bustling Rialto bridge and Campo San Bartolomeo the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (or Fontego dei Tedeschi in Venetian) was the main trading centre, living quarters and warehouse of German-speaking merchants in Venice, similar to the Fondaco dei Turchi.

Originally built in 1228, the building caught fire and was rebuilt in the early years of 16th century by Scarpagnino on a square plan around a large courtyard with a medieval well. It became a major transit point for luxuries from the Orient destined over the Alps, goods which were unloaded under the portico (and were charged a commissino by the Serenissima); on top were living quarters for some 160 merchants. Three Venetian nobles called Visdomini oversaw operations.

They didn't stint on the decoration: Giorgione and Titian were commissioned to fresco the exterior in works that helped to make both artist famous (only a few fragments survive, now housed in the Ca' d'Oro), while Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto frescoed the interior, although again sadly little has survived.

In the 20th century, the building became the main post office, but as operations ceased it was sold in 2008 to the Bennetton Group. Although opposed by preservation groups, they are at the time of writing busily transforming the it into a cultural centre and department store, slated to open in late 2016.

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vaporetto: Rialto

Text © Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls

Images by: Didier Descouens, Creative Commons License, VeniceWiki