The Giorgio Cini Foundation, occupying much of the former the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, was established by Count Vittorio Cini as a memorial to his son, who died in a plane crash in 1949.
The Foundation is dedicated to the arts and humanities and holds frequent international conferences (including G7 summits in 1980 and 1987) as well as special exhibits. It also houses the Fondazione Antonio Vivaldi, dedicated to the reissuing of all his works.
But San Giorgio was always noted for its scholarship, thanks to Cosimo de’ Medici, who in 1433 spent his brief exile from Florence here in the company of his favourite architect, Michelozzo. The two busied themselves building and endowing the monastery’s first library, with was later demolished in the 16th-century rebuilding plan.
The first cloister, or Cloister of the Cypresses, was designed by Palladio and, as has been noted, looks more like a palace courtyard than a religious cloister. The Library, by Longhena, with elegant 17th-century wood shelving by Francesco Pauc, separates it from the second, or Cloister of the Laurels, by Andrea Buora.
Adjacent to the latter is Palladio’s first work for the Monastery, the magnificent Refectory (1559–63, now a conference hall); it was from here that Napoleon pinched Veronese’s Marriage at Cana, now in the Louvre. Don’t miss the Grand Staircase (1643) that Longhena built off Palladio’s cloister, a theatrical masterpiece in a limited space that was very avant-garde in its day, and inspired many a northern Italian architect.
The tour also includes the new Laberinto Borges by Randoll Coate, a garden in honour of the great Argentian writer Jorge Luis Borges.
The Foundation also manages the art-filled Palazzo Cini, Vittorio Cini's palace in Dorsoduro.
Images by: Charles Hutchins