The tiny church of S. Vio, now closed, which gives the name to the Campo and Rio opposite which we now are, has a pretty history attached to it. It seems that one of the most devoted worshippers in this minute temple was the little Contessa Tagliapietra, whose home was on the other side of the Grand Canal. Her one pleasure was to retire to this church and make her devotions: a habit which so exasperated her father that one day he issued a decree to the gondoliers forbidding them to ferry her across. On arriving at the traghetto and learning this decision, the girl calmly walked over the water, sustained by her purity and piety.
The next palace, at the corner, is the Palazzo Loredan where the widow of Don Carlos of Madrid now lives. The posts have Spanish colours and a magnificent man-servant in a scarlet waistcoat often suns himself on the steps. Next is the comfortable Balbi Valier, with a motor launch called “The Rose of Devon” moored to its posts, and a pleasant garden where the Palazzo Paradiso once stood; and then the great and splendid Contarini del Zaffo, or Manzoni, with its good ironwork and medallions and a charming loggia at the side. Robert Browning tried to buy this palace for his son. Indeed he thought he had bought it; but there was a hitch. He describes it in a letter as “the most beautiful house in Venice.” The next, the Brandolin Rota, which adjoins it, was, as a hotel, under the name Albergo dell’Universo, Browning’s first Venetian home. Later he moved to the Zattere and after that to the Palazzo Rezzonico, to which we are soon coming, where he died.
Next we reach the church, convent and Scuola of S. Maria della Carita, opposite the iron bridge, which under rearrangement and restoration now forms the Accademia, or Gallery of Fine Arts, famous throughout the world for its Titians, Tintorettos, Bellinis, and Carpaccios. The church, which dates from the fifteenth century, is a most beautiful brown brick building with delicate corbelling under the eaves. Once there was a campanile too, but it fell into the Grand Canal some hundred and seventy years ago, causing a tidal wave which flung gondolas clean out of the water. We shall return to the Accademia in later chapters: here it is enough to say that the lion on the top of the entrance wall is the most foolish in Venice, turned, as it has been, into a lady’s hack.
The first house after the Accademia is negligible—newish and dull with an enclosed garden; the next is the Querini; the next the dull Mocenigo Gambara; and then we come to the solid Bloomsbury-blackened stone Palazzo Contarini degli Scrigni and its neighbours of the same ownership. Then the Rio S. Trovaso, with a pretty garden visible a little way up, and then a gay new little home, very attractive, with a strip of garden, and next it the fifteenth-century Loredan. A tiny calle, and then the low Dolfin. Then the Rio Malpaga and after it a very delectable new residence with a terrace. A calle and traghetto, with a wall shrine at the corner, come next, and two dull Contarini palaces, one of which is now an antiquity store, and then the Rio S. Barnaba and the majestic sombre Rezzonico with its posts of blue and faded pink.