Once the living quarters and store house of the Germans (tedeschi) in Venice, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi roof terrace now offers visitors a view usually only accessible to noble owners of palazzi on the Grande Canal.
From Riches to Rags to Riches
Venice may have traded with East, built structures blending occidental and oriental styles and been the home to a vast number of nationalities, but each nationality still had its alloted ‘space’. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi as it is today was built 1505 and 1508 after a previous building (1228) was destroyed by fire. While the interior structure was very functional, a warehouse of simple architecture, the exterior was spectacular. Giorgione was commissioned to design a fresco cycle covering the whole facade. We know that Titian was also involved however it is still unclear in what capacity. There is debate over whether Titian was engaged by Giorgione merely as a helper or, as Vasari asserts, he was independently commissioned;
…through Barberigo Titian was commissioned to paint some scenes for the same building, above the Merceria.” Vasari: The Lives, 445.
There is also confusion over who was responsible for which facade and which figures. For example the torsos of two women (now only an etching remains, a 17th century copy made by Antonio Zanetti) are remarkably similar to Titian’s figures in Sacred and Profane Love, while a fragment of a Nude, which is now in the Galleria Franchetti, displays bold colours that are characteristic of Giorgione. It is wonderful to think of the jewelled colours of Giorgione’s figures reflecting kaleidoscopically in the waters of the Grand Canal. Sadly, however, most of the frescoes have been eroded by the salt water, and those which remain have been preserved in the Galleria Franchetti (Ca’ d’Oro).
The German merchants remained in the building until the Napoleonic occupation of Venice. It subsequently became the headquarters of Poste Italiane in the 20th century. In 2008 it was bought by the Benetton group who commissioned architect Rem Koolhaas to transform it into a luxury department store. It opened to the public in October 2016.
Spectacular Roof Terrace
The department store sells many beautiful things, from luxury brands to special Venetian produce. However their real gem is the roof terrace which overlooks the Grand Canal. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi sits on the curve of the Canal right beside the Rialto, so you get a view down both ways of the Canal. It is truly a memorable view, one that’s very hard to find unless you own one of the Palazzi on the Grand Canal! If you time it for sunset it is magical, and it’s just a pity there’s not a bar up there.
How to Access the Roof Terrace
Even though the terrace only opened a few months ago, it has become extremely popular, and now entrance is by timed slot. To book your slot you can either visit earlier in the day and use their machines to book, or you can go online on their website. You then just show up at your alloted time and show your confirmation email to access the terrace. The advantage of this is that there are a limited number of people on the terrace at a time so you won’t be fighting to take pictures in front of the view. NOTE: You only get 15 minutes on the terrace so don’t be late!
The website of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi can be found here.
Opening hours 10 AM – 8 PM