The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute ( or simply the Salute) is one of the most famous religious buildings in Venice. Its monumental white silhouette, nestled on the banks of the Grand Canal, does certainly not go unnoticed!
Follow Captain Ulysses on a tour of this iconic monument of the ‘City of the Doges’. Let’s go! 👉
Short history lesson
In the summer of 1630, a plague epidemic broke out in the city of Venice. Within two years, nearly a third of the population of the ‘Serenissima’ was decimated.
Helpless, the Senate decided to call upon the protection of the Virgin and to implore her mercy by building a monumental basilica in her honour.
The project, which was entrusted to Italian architect Baldassare Longhena, began in 1631 and took 56 years to complete.
Santa Maria della Salute was consecrated on November 9, 1687, 5 years after the death of Baldassare Longhena, who devoted over 50 years of his life to the construction of the basilica.
Visiting Santa Maria della Salute
The exterior of the Basilica
With its monumental dimensions, Santa Maria della Salute most certainly does not go unnoticed. The Salute is the Venetian monument resting on the largest number of stilts: 1,156,627 in total!
Its imposing façade, with its two domes of different sizes, is a blend of classical and baroque influences. The uniqueness of the basilica’s architecture also lies in its orecchioni, the spiral volutes marking the transition between the façade and the domes.
The Salute’s octogonal layout is an explicit allusion to the Virgin’s crown. The exterior of the basilica is adorned with no less than 125 statues, including a statue of the Virgin on top of the great dome, a statue of St. Mark on the small dome, statues of the four evangelists and countless statues of angels.
The interior of the Basilica
The interior of Santa Maria della Salute is organized around a wide central space surrounded by 6 chapels, one which keeps an magnificent painting by Titian.
The marble pavement, representing intricate geometric patterns, is a work of art in its own right.
Be sure to have a look at the high altar, which is adorned with a Byzantine icon representing the Virgin and crowned by a statue of a the Madonna and Child saving the city from the plague.
The Sacristy (€4) is home to a collection of sumptuous masterpieces, including Tintoretto’s famous Marriage at Cana.
Numbers and symbolism
Legend has it that Santa Maria della Salute was built based on the numbers 8, which is a symbol of hope and salvation, and 11, which is a symbol of faith.
And these two numbers do seem quite pervasive:
- The basilica has 8 sides
- There are 8 columns inside the building
- 16 steps (8x2) lead inside the basilica and 11 lead down to the Grand Canal
- The basilica is 121 feet (11x11) long, 88 feet (8x11) wide and each side of the octagone measures 44 feet (4x11).
Coincidence? What do you think?
⚓Attention, sailors! ⚓
Looking for more tips and suggestions for your trip to Venice ? Check out the Capitain’s article on the best things to do in Venice!
Admiring Santa Maria della Salute from the Grand Canal
Unsurprisingly, Captain Ulysses – who is a seasoned sailor – insists that you’ll get the best view on the basilica onboard a boat, sailing down the Grand Canal.
If you’re interested in navigating the peaceful waters of Venice’s main channel, three options:
- Taking the vaporetto (the cheapest option)
- Going on a guided tour on the Grand Canal (intermediate option)
- Going on a gondola ride on the Venetian channels (the most expensive option… but also the most romantic! 🌹)
Getting to Santa Maria della Salute
The nearest vaporetto station is Salute (line 1). If you plan on using public transports (vaporetto and/or bus) several times during your stay in Venice, Captain Ulysses recommends that you opt for a transport pass.
The basilica is open to visits every day:
- from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Beware, the sacristy’s schedules are slightly different. It is open:
- from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission to Santa Maria della Salute is free. You will have however to pay €4 per person to access the Sacristy.
the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin
Every year, on November 21, Venetians commemorate the end of the plague with an important religious ceremony: the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin (Festa della Madonna della Salute).
Venice is a very touristy city and you’ll have plenty hotels to choose from, but, be warned: they are overall rather expensive. If your budget is tight, Captain Ulysses suggests staying in Mestre, just outside of Venice, where hotels are much more affordable and you’ll find regular buses to Venice. Find out more here. For intermediate budgets, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Hotel Le Isole: ideally located a few steps from St. Mark’s Square, this beautiful hotel boasts spacious and elegant rooms. And if you’re looking for a more luxurious option in Venice, then Captain Ulysses most definitely recommends the Londra Palace nestled in a Venetian palace on the Riva degli Schiavoni.
Tickets, guided tours, gondola tours, day-trips… There are plenty of things to do in Venice. But the city is often packed with tourists, which is why Captain Ulysses recommend that you book your activities online and opt for skip-the-line tickets. The Captain suggests having a look at Musement and Tiqets, which are online platforms specialised in selling tourist activities worldwide.
Venice is synonymous gondola and vaporetto. As an accomplished sailor, Captain Ulysses can only recommend that you embark on a boat ride on the Venetian canals. But beware of cams: some gondoliers tend to take advantage of tourists! That’s why the Captain advises that you book your boat tour on a reputable website like here or here.
If you’re planning on visiting all of Venice’s top sights, Captain Ulysses recommends you to opt for a Citypass,which will give you access to a selection of the city’s must-see sights and monuments. There’s a variety of citypasses to choose from. Find out more here.
To get to Venice from the airport, you’ll have four poptions: the bus, the vaporetto (orange Alilaguna Arancio line), the taxi or the water taxi. It’s up to you to choose the option that works best for you! 🙂 Be aware, however, that the historic centre is pedestrian, and buses and taxis are not allowed to operate there.
Get ready to walk. The historic centre is not accessible to buses or cars. The local type of public transport is the vaporetto: boats travelling on the water. If you’re planning on using the vaporetto regularly (in Venice or to visit the surrounding islands like Murano and Burano), or if you are staying in Mestre and have to take the bus to Venice everyday, you might want to consider opting for a Public Transport Pass. You can book it here.
Venice is a city easily accessible by plane, train and bus. To book your plane tickets, Captain Ulysses recommends Skyscanner, which allows you to compare countless flights to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible. Overnight trains are also a great way to save time (and money) ! For more information, visit Trainline.com.