Northern Route (blue)

We shall start form Piazzale Roma heading to Rialto. We will see Santa Lucia church on our left, just after the train station.

As we said, the church was on the land that was to build the railway terminal, and therefore it had been scheduled for demolition in 1860. Then the body of the holy Saint was shifted elsewhere, precisely on July 11th, 1860.

Walking along Lista di Spagna, just five minutes away from the train station, on our right we will find the church of San Geremia and Lucia.

San Geremia

After the shifting took place, the sacred body remained on the high altar for seven days before being placed on a side altar waiting for the new chapel to be completed. It was built using the materials coming from the demolished presbytery, on a model by Andrea Palladio, and had been inaugurated exactly three years later, on July 11th, 1863. More details about the history of St. Lucia:

In 1935 the Patriarch Angelo Roncalli, who later would have been Pope Giovanni XXIII, and made Saint after his death, decided that the holy relics needed more attention and more care.
The status of the holy body was wonderful, but he suggested to make a silver mask that covered the face. The result was truly amazing: Lucia seems to be sleeping, eyes closed, her hair flowing.
She is dressed in purple and gold, the right hand comes out of the wide sleeves of her tunic, her head is resting on a cushion of Damascus and the body on a mat of yellow silk.


On the inside of the crypt you will see a beautiful painting of the martyr created by Jacopo Palma il Giovane.


After the visit to Santa Lucia, our journey continues on Rio Terà San Leonardo and Strada Nova, before getting to Ca D’Oro.


This 15th century palace, stongly wanted by the trader Marino Contarini, has this name as the facade facing the Grand Canal was covered in gold. Owned by the Baron Giorgio Franchetti, it was restored in 1896 to display his private collection of works of art.

This story reminds us of the actual change in ownership of Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal.

At Ca’ d’Oro you can enjoy the beauty of the place. On the first floor you can see, on a small paint representing the four doctors of the church, you will notice an arc frame on the nose of one of them.

On the top floor there is a poster showing some of the tiles that have been removed about fifteen years ago from the floor of the Annunciation chapel in San Sebastiano’s church. The removal was necessary to restore the church. The 348 tiles are now kept at Ca’ D’Oro, in the restoration workshop of the Superintendence of Fine Arts of Venice. We can date the tiles back to 1510, as reported on one of them even if the floor was probably laid in 1531. That is when the Lando family bought the chapel and the central area of the floor shows four tiles as the symbol of the surname.


We can notice that, on the right low corner, a pin or “rivet” frame is placed on a 16th century book with closed hinges. The scientific object used as a reading aid is a meaning of culture and knowledge. This is just one of the two glasses on the floor and it is still the oldest representation of glasses on a tile. The attention to details, used to draw the glasses on the tile, allow us to make a comparison between this and another image in Venezia, but does not clarify whether it is from Venice or not, as analisys on the main material do not say where it came from. As we are going to see on route S, near the Gallerie dell’Accademia another fantastic image is kept. Both glasses are decorated with small white dots that surround the entire frame, making it softer. This denotes a particular focus of Venetian manufacturers when making these objects: in about 250 years from the invention, it has not yet undergone any structural changes.


Looking closely at this magnificent picture, only one particular difference can be seen between this image and the fresco painted by Tommaso da Modena in Treviso, 1348: the two circles that hold the lenses have some bumps on the lower part; these are hooks that serve as a link to open the ring and insert the lenses.

They were then fixed with satin ribbon as we can see in another excellent representation which is located at Cappella Maggiore near Vittorio Veneto (TV), in the little church of the Holy Trinity called “The Mattarella”.

In a lunette of the vault representing the four evangelists, San Marco, holy patron of Venice, is represented, on purpouse, with a cabinet containing glass vases and a pair of glasses.


Our journey will proceed towards Rialto. At the end of Strada Nova, follow the signs to Campo San Giovanni e Paolo. Inside the church next to the hospital, there should be (the conditional tense is used because after two further visits and requests I have not found the object) a large bas-relief called “The Presentation in the temple” of Torretti, master of Canova.

Dr. De Lotto, in his book of 1956, entitled “From Nero to emerald glasses of Cadore”, photographed and reproduced one of the characters in relief, and included this sentence.

“I would be very grateful if someone was able to give any information needed to find the object. I recommend you to visit this site anyway, to discover the history of the Serenissima.”

Our journey continues to Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Those who had the chance to make a detour, just after the second bridge, towards Campo Santa Marina, you will be able to admire the exterior of Counts Van Axel’s Palace (nursery school today) on their right, where we have a piece of our collection from.


Once arrived at Santa Maria Formosa, proceed to the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.

Since ancient times the Serenissima had started to trade relations with Dalmatia, on the opposite side of the Adriatic Sea, which had proved to be very important for the growing influence of Venice in historical and political field at the time. These relations became even closer after the entire Dalmatia passed under Venetian rule in early 1400. In Venice, the Dalmatian immigrants, also known as “Slaves”, gathered in brotherhood and the Dalmatian community, resident and transient, decided to erect at its own expense, the current school. As the Holy Patrons of the Dalmatian community were San Giorgio, San Trifone and San Girolamo, the school took the name of San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.

Here inside, there is a series of paintings by Vittore Carpaccio. In the representation of San Girolamo’s death, we will admire another great performance of a monk: while reading San Girolamo’s scripts, he is wearing a pair of glasses, but the most important thing is a very rare representation of a glasses’ case hanging on his belt.

Morte_S_Girolamo The end


Route Centre (red)

Our second route, called the “Center”, will follow the Piazzale Roma – Rialto – San Lio itinerary.
It is a route that thousands of Venetians walk everyday, as it connects Piazzale Roma (the way into Venezia) to the heart of the city: Rialto.
With its antique shops and traditional market, it is the city core,  where  probably the spectacles were invented.

San Rocco

Leaving Piazzale Roma behind, walk across the Papadopoli bridge and its historical gardens heading to San Rocco. About six minutes later you will get to the homonymous Campo, where you can see the church (which sacred relics of the saint are resting in) and one of the oldest and most important “Schools” of Venice, the Scuola Grande
Rated as one of  the richest in Venice, this “Scuola” stores a series of paintings by Jacopo Tintoretto between 1564 and 1588, Tiziano, Tiepolo and many others that make it compete with the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The school is open to people everyday except for New Year’s Day, Easter day and Christmas day, 9.00am to 5.30pm.
The destination of the specs’ collector is the upper room. The view on top of the stairs is just amazing. The upper room, with its vault covered by Tintoretto’s paintings, was furnished on the second half of the seventeenth century, by the artist Pianta il Giovane, with wood panels where a dozen of sculptures and a beautiful carved in wood bookcase can be seen.


All the 64 books that make it, are represented standing on the back, except for one of them which is been left laying by its reader. On the book there are great perched glasses on their case.


At a closer look they might recall English arc spectacles ( that are going to be made during the following century ), with a steel bridge and rings made of leather and horn. The case reminds tiny boxes of Nuremburg spectacles.

Looking at the sculptures along the wall, we can see the bust representing “Science”.


The bust stands on a book and lying on one of these there is another pair of glasses. The spectacles are placed on a bag case with the opening top and its shape recalls leather specs. Unfortunately the bridge is missing.


For realism and rarity, these two examples are worth a visit to this wonderful site.Right after this, just a minute away from Campo San Rocco, we would have the chance to see the Frari’s Church with its magnificent white marble monument devoted to Tiziano and Canova.
Beside the church, set in an ancient Venetian residence we could see a noble insigna: The collector’s attention is suddenly captured by the string that holds the shield.



The memory runs at once marked by stone preserved in the Museum of Ancona, where he represented a couple of glasses of the ‘400.
We had a fantastic bridge spring, due to the same representation in the central pivot point. Teaching in the subject, it would not make any sense to think that the shield is suspended from a spring and so I think it is merely a way of representing the intersection of the two arms by the sculptors.


Just beside the Frari’s Church, there are the state archieves, where the “Chapters of GlassArt” are stored. These “Chapters” are rules for those who manufactured crystal, divided in chapters, where it is written about eyeglasses lenses as well as magnifying glasses. These are the oldest documents so far.

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Another 10 minutes further on, direction Rialto, we can find two of the three streets in Venezia, that carry the art of Optics in the name, as well as some representations of antique spects from over the last 30 years.

As you arrive to “Rugheta del Ravano”, better known as “Ruga Rialto”, you can come and visit our shop. In the floor it is placed a representation of Cardinal Ugo da Provenza ( First representation of a mano wearing specs in history, ndr.).


You will always be welcome and you can take a look at our private collection, which is updated every three months.


Just 50 meters away, placed in the ancient market of Rialto, on your left you can take a picture of a tiny street called “Ramo dell’ochialer” and just behind it, ”Calle dell’ochialer”. The Venetian topography is dated back to the end of 1500, and, as reported by Tassini in his “Venetian Curiosity”, in the chronicles of October 12, 1619 in this area there was a spectacles maker known as Zuane (Giovanni) Ochialer who lost his son Battista (Bapthyst), due to smallpox. It could be a coincidence,  an homonymy, or it could be the same person, but in another report in 1610 it is written about Zuane Ochialer related to another accident. We will talk again about this subject in our southern route.   Fresco representation “Rialto”



Just a few meters further ahead there is the “Sotoportego Ruga dei Oresi” ( sotoportego is a covered alleyway ) which had been restored some years ago and while cleaning, the frescoed vaults had re-appeared. Unfortunately just a few frescoes have been recovered and there is just one section dedicated to the arts and crafts of Venice. However, there is no trace of glasses on what remains to us.
Walking down the sotoportego, where nowadays just a few activities are still working, we could find a bijoux jewellery store, named “Rialta”, which had been restored and re-painted about 30 years ago. The scenes represented on the walls were set in the 18th century. Among all the characters, a violinist was wearing a pair of glasses. Unfortunately all the paintings have now been removed regardless, with no care for the past, by the estate agency that now is set there.
On the left side of the sotoportego, we will get to Campo S. Giacometto, where we can see the oldest church in Venezia, which once was the seat for the art of goldsmiths.

Now we just have to walk across the monumental Rialto Bridge and walk past Campo San Bartolomeo, heading for San Lio. Guerra Pharmacy has an old print on the window facing the Campo, named the alchemist by Johan Stradanus. The glasses on the alchemist’s nose are very well represented.

Our journey continues to Campo Santa Marina. Walking ahead, direction San Giovanni e Paolo (where the main hospital is) towards St. John and Paul, from the second bridge you walk across, you can photograph the building on your left belonging to Van Axel family (nursery-school today), which we have a piece of our collection from.
The End

Southern route (violet)

The southern route connects two different accesses to the city: the new and the old, following a route which is almost unknown to tourists.
Start from the left corner at Piazzale Roma, and walk along the very long Fondamenta dei Tre Ponti, heading to Accademia. Then walk along Calle Ragusei.

As you get to Campo dei Carmini, just turn left, passing Fondamenta del Soccorso and then Fondamenta di San Sebastiano, to get to the homonymous church. In its chapel of the Annunciation were originally kept the tiles representing the glasses. These tiles are now kept, as we saw on N route, at Ca’ d’oro. Right in front of the church you can see Calle dell’Avogaria. Walk down this street and then Calle Lunga San Barnaba, until you get to Ca’ Rezzonico, which is a museum since the 18th century, a big mansion on the grand canal times before. There are just a few glasses represented in the paintings in there, and not very important also. But the two globes and the furnishings of an old pharmacy, kept on the first floor, are worthy a visit.

It is time to go back to Campo San Barnaba. Now pass the Sotoportego del Casin dei Nobili, and walk over the following bridge. Just approximatively 15 meters further on, and just before the Toletta book shop, you can see the sotoportego della calle Eremite on your right. Exit on Fondamenta del Borgo and walk along it. On your left you will notice a street which is closed by a gate. That is the place where the last glasses factory was. It is called Calle Occhialera.

The factory closed in the 1796, one year before that the Serenissima had fallen in 1797, but still a few good craftsmen were in the city to make frames, lenses and tools for their clients. Some rewards are listed below:


Year 1816, For “camera lucida” made to draw object with prospective, “Silver Medal”.
Year 1816, periscopic spectacles Wollaston type, “Special Mention”.

OLIVO ANGELO di Venezia:

Year 1819, for the invention of double telescope, “Silver medal”.


Year 1825, spectacles selection, “Silver Medal”.

As previously said on “C” route, Tassini, in his Venetians chronicles, says that there was a Bortolo Ochialer[1] living in Borgo San Trovaso. On August 26th, 1612, his baby girl was born dead. He would have called her Caterina.
The same suburb is mentioned in another happening. The son of Zuane Ochialer, who we spoke in the “C” route about, used to live here. It could be homonymy, or maybe then same family used to run both the factory in San Trovaso and the selling point in Rialto. The chronicles say that Antonio had been violently sodomized out on the streets by the heberdasher’s son. It was Feb. 26th, 1610.
The journey continues on Fondamenta Bontini, towards San Trovaso, which is one of the last “squeri” still existing in Venice. Further on, walk across the bridge and follow Fondamenta Priuli. In just two minutes you will get to Gallerie dell’Accademia.
Your visit to the Accademia will be surprisingly nice, as in the “capitolare room” there is a portion of the altar-piece made by Carlo Crivelli. Carlo Crivelli was born in 1430 in Venezia. He moved to Dalmatia, when being convicted for having lived with a woman already married. He decided then to stay there definitely in 1460, while still calling himself a Venetian painter, by signing all his works “OPUS CAROLI CRIVELLI VENETI”. He died in 1494 in Ascoli Piceno.
The big painting on wood had been made between 1488 and 1490, along with St. Girolamo and Ansovino, painted on another board, and with Madonna della Candeletta, which is exposed at Pinacoteca in Milano. It was nearly destroyed during the 1799’s earthquake, and then by a carpenter who was using it as a planing board.


The two Saints, Pietro and Paolo, are standing one beside the other and they are reading. Pietro is wearing a great representation of compass spectacles, maybe made out of painted iron.
As said for the tile at Ca’ d’oro, the painting of the glasses is extremely accurate and it is then possible to make a comparison between this and the one at Ca’ d’Oro. They both have a series of white dots along the main structure. This type of details is very rare on the ground-plan. As the painting is from 1490 and the tile is from 1510, we might assume that they very close in terms of location. Crivelli’s love for his homeland could make us think that the glasses are from Venice as well as the tiles. But the painting had been made in Marche, where the production of pottery and majolica was very flourishing. Unfortunately we have none of these frames with us that could testify our theory, so it will remain not certain until some new proof will clarify the subject.

There is another painting by Crivelli, where it is possible to see a specs’ case. San Giacomo della Marca is painted on wood, dated 1477, and it is now kept at Louvre, Paris. The case hangs from the belt of the Saint.


Surprises at the Accademia are way long from being over. Just looking at the ceiling of the room you are in, you could admire another pair of glasses.

There are bas-reliefs on the ceiling itself, and in one of the four circles with the evangelists, St. John is in his study-room, and a pair of rivet-spectacles is laying on the small writing-desk.

             Accademia-Veniceab                   Accademia-Venice-3ab

Now visit to the Accademia is over. Walk over the temporary wooden bridgeand walk to Piazza S. Marco. Once you got there, get to Correr Museum from the Napoleonic side. It is one of the most important museums in Serenissima’s history. In it many prints, paintings and other objects are kept. Among all the items, it is possible to see some representations of both glasses and cases.

With the purpose of making a catalogue named “Gli abiti de’ veneziani”, G. Grevenbroch painted, in 1754, representations of many different jobs. Glasses are in the hands or on the desks of:
– The lawyer and the book-keeper
– The venetian gentleman at his desk
– The taylor




Among all the items normally used for navigation, it is possible to admire a nice paper-machè made telescope, signed by Leonardo Semitecolo. The best item anyway is the old insegna of the “Vagineri” congregation. Basically they were cases’ makers who founded the congregation in 1314.

Due to the restoration carried out in 1733, we don’t know whether images have been removed or added, or modified. It looks like a catalogue of all the items made by these people and among them you can see some glasses cases.

You are now at the end of route S. Only one thing is left to do: sit in the world’s most beautiful living room, as Napoleon said. In Piazza S. Marco there are still two of the oldest cafés in the world, the Quadri and the Florian.

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You can have a break, have a drink, and find out that on the mirrors of the XIX sec.that cover the entire Quadri café, there are images of venetians carrying fàce-a-main type specs.

Venise 013a Venise 016a

Venise 018a Venise 019

A special thank to Alexis Wanlathem for the images of the Quadri Caffè.