Accademia Galleries ★★★

Paolo Veronese painted a "Last Supper" in 1573, but censors were incensed by the rowdy crowd scene, so Veronese retitled it "Feast in the House of Levi", Accademia Galleries, Venice, Italy (Photo © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Paolo Veronese painted a 'Last Supper' in 1573, but censors were incensed by the rowdy crowd scene, so Veronese retitled it 'Feast in the House of Levi'

Venice's premier painting museum

If you only make time for one museum in Venice, make it the Accademia.

The collections cover the giants of Venetian painting from the 13th to the 18th centuries, and are housed in the gallery space of Venice's Accademia della Belle Arte (Academy of Fine Arts), established in 1750 in the former Scuola della Carità chapterhouse and convent attached to the (deconsecrated) Santa Maria della Carità church.

Since this is, technically, an art school (its second director was late baroque master of the swirling-heavenly-clouds ceiling fresco, Giambattista Tiepolo), and since art has ben long taught in chronological order, that is how the Accademia is arranged.

This means your visit to the galleries starts off in the 14th century with the likes of Paolo Veneziano's Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece, continues through Giorgione's weirdly lit The Tempest, and Giovanni Bellini's many Madonna and Childs, and ends with Carpaccio's intricate Cycle of St. Ursula and Titian's late Pietà.

Tintoretto's The Stealing of St. Mark

Tintoretto's The Stealing of St. Mark commemorates the Venetian merchants who, in 828, spirited the body of the famed saint and Evangelist away from Alexandria during an era when acquiring bona fide saints was de rigueur for relic hunters and Italy's hyper-competitive maritime capitals competed to see who could steal the best saint then build a cathedral around his bones.

The Tintoretto painting is, obviously, a bit fanciful, depicting the long-dead saint as a fresh, rather muscular corpse being borne in the arms of the Venetian thieves—er, "borrowers."

The real story is a bit grislier.

Paolo Veronese's Feast in the House of Levi

Here's another fun art anecdote at the Accademia: When Paolo Veronese unveiled his enormous painting The Lord's Last Supper in 1573, it was shocking not only for its size (at 42 feet long, one of the largest canvases of the 16th century), but also for its rather racy depiction of our Lord and Savior and his buddies. The artist had portrayed this holiest of moments as a rousing, drunken banquet that resembled paintings of Roman orgies.

The rising puritanism of the Inquisition had a conniption, and the church promptly charged the painter with irreverence—and threatened to indict him on the very serious charge of heresy. Veronese quickly re-titled the work Feast in the House of Levi—a scene that still had Jesus in it, but a Jesus surrounded by secular guests who were free to engage in acts of gluttony—and the mollified censors let it pass.

 
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Photo gallery
  • Paolo Veronese painted a
  • The Ambassadors Depart (1495) by Vittore Carpaccio, Accademia Galleries, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Arrival of the Pilgrims in Cologne (1490) by Vittore Carpaccio, Accademia Galleries, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Madonna dei Camerlenghi (1567)— Madonna and Child on Throne and Saints Sebastian, Marco and Theodore, venerated by three Camerlengo (Lorenzo Dolfin, Michele Pisani and Marin Malipiero) with the secretaries—by Tintoretto, Accademia Galleries, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
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  • , Accademia Galleries, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • A detail from
  • A detail from
  • , Accademia Galleries, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The Sala dell
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Tips

How long does the Accademia take?

It'll take you a good 90 minutes to three hours to peruse this vast collection of masterpieces by color-obsessed Venetian artists.

Note: The last entry to the museum is 30 minutes before closing.

Book ahead!

Fire regulations mean they limit the number of visitors inside, which can sometimes translate into long waits to get in—especially in summer when you can might wait in line for anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.

That makes it well worth the small fee to reserve your entry time, either by calling the main number (above under "Details") or at the museum's website or at Select Italy.

Audio tours

Audio tours are available for €4; two can save by sharing a tour (with two headsets) for €6.

Check your bag

They'll force you to check your daypack—officially only if is it's more than 10x30x15 cm (4x12x6 inches), but in my experience they flag anything larger than a small purse—and charge you €1 for this "service."

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).

 

Related

Why are there so many lions around Venice, and did they really steal the corpse of St. Mark?