No ticket required: see top art for free at Venice’s San Giorgio Maggiore

A gondola passes in front of the island of San Giorgio in Venice.
A gondola passes in front of the island of San Giorgio in Venice. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (THE GUARDIAN) - Across the water from the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark’s Square, the island of San Giorgio is an integral part of the classic Venetian vista. The white facade and tall bell tower of Palladio’s majestic 16th-century church were immortalised in paintings by Canaletto, Monet and Turner. The church is one of the few in Venice that does not charge an entry fee, and inside there are paintings by Tintoretto – including his Last Supper, painted in 1592–94 – Jacopo Bassano and Palma Giovane. 

But Palladio’s masterpiece is only one of many surprising free attractions here. San Giorgo is the headquarters of the Cini foundation, whose arts centre, next to the church, hosts regular, free, exhibitions. 

Artist Zai Kuning with his work, Dapunta Hyang: Transmission Of Knowledge which is on display at the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2017. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

And during each Venice Biennale (ends Nov 26, 2017) this is a prestigious “collateral venue”. Tickets to the Biennale Gardens are €25 (S$45.40), but on San Giorgio, free shows running through the autumn include avant-garde glass sculptures by Ettore Sottsass, and one-man shows dedicated to arte povera pioneers Boetti and Pistoletto. The latter’s works are dramatically installed inside the church itself. The only paid attraction is the bell tower, a reasonable €3 to take the lift to the top, with much less of a queue than for the San Marco tower, and a much better view.