Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute ☆☆

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy (Photo by Murray Foubister)

The Church of the Virgin Mary of Good Health

Usually referred to simply as "La Salute," this majestic and compact 17th-century baroque jewel proudly reigns at this commercially and aesthetically important point: next to the the old dogana (customs house) at the tip of Dorsoduro and almost directly across from Piazza San Marco, where the Grand Canal empties into the wide Bacino San Marco basin.

In 1631, Venice had just survived yet another plague (which left 46,000 Venetians dead) thanks to the divine intervention of the Virgin Mary of Good Health (La Salute).

The Republic voted to honor her by building this church in her honor (much as they had with Il Redentore), and this time commissioned the revolutionary designs of a fairly unknown young architect, Baldassare Longhena.

Longhena would go on to design, among many other projects in Venice, the Ca' Rezzonico, but La Salute would continue to occupy his attentions for the next 50 years.

He died a year after the church's official inauguration—but, sadly, five years before its final completion.

The octagonal Salute is a baroque masterpiece, built of Istrian marble and marmorino ("little marble," actually bricks coated in marble dust).

Its exterior is an architectural festival of exuberant volutes, scrolls, and more than 125 statues.

All that busy-ness falls away when you enter the cool, restrained, and perfectly proportioned interior—which, unlike just about every other church in Venice, is suffused with light.

It is also suffused with decoration—festooned with statues above a polychrome marble floor, the altars on the octagonal walls highlighted by altarpieces by Luca Giordano.

The high altar, flanked by ancient Roman columns, houses a Byzantine Madonna and Child painting brought back from Crete.

Don't miss the small gallery of important paintings in the Sacristy (through a small door to the left of the main altar; modest admission fee).

Titian painted several of the ceiling panels and portraits of the Evangelists and church doctors, and decorating the right wall is Tintoretto's magnificent Marriage at Cana.

La Salute is also a popular place for free concerts, which frequently make use of the fine 1782 organ.

Photo gallery
  • , Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Murray Foubister)
  • , Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Murray Foubister)
  • The interior, Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • The main altar designed by Baldassare Longhena itself dominates everything. The sculptural group on the altar represents a Madonna with child, to represent the Salute that defends Venice from the plague. It is the work of a very active Flemish sculptor in, Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Didier Descouens)
  • , Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Moonik)
  • The dome interior, Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • , Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by GeorgeDement)
  • Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria della Salute, Italy (Photo by tiseb)
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How long does La Salute take?

Honestly, you can be done in 15–30 minutes, but do take the time to pop into Venice's least gloomy church.

Free concerts

The church hosts frequent free concerts (significant in that many other Venetian churches throw concerts, but most charge admission).

Check the monthly calendar ("Calendario Mensile") on the church's website (under the "Programma" menu) for more information.

Mass at La Salute

Mass is said Sundays at 11am, Monday through Friday at 4pm, with frequent organ Vespers at 3:30pm. 

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.).



Flickering candles in the church and a temporary pontoon bridge across the Grand Canal