One of my favourite spots in Venice is the Scuola Grande di San Marco and the surrounding area, better known by Venetians as the monumental public hospital entry hall. When friends ask me for advice on what to see in Venice, I always suggest to pass by Campo San Giovanni e Paolo and look up at the magnificent 15th-century facade. I have loved it since my first days in Venice. I struggled believing people I actually know were born here! Forget big, grey and often sad buildings; if you need to get hospitalised in Venice, walk through this 1437 building, financed and built by one of the most important and influent “corporations” of the time.
The imposing facade is full of bas-reliefs and spectacular perspective techniques, marbles and sculptures, and it hosts precious Tintoretto paintings. The whole construction is besides S. Giovanni e Paolo church, and the square itself, a wide area with access to a canal and one historic “pasticceria”, is the perfect spot to enjoy the sun and the wonderful surroundings while sipping a good coffee.
Although you could access the Scuola Grande S. Marco for free, pretending you wish to visit a relative in the hospital, this is getting harder, as they are now restricting free access. Why? Too many impolite tourists have been entering the building without thinking it still works as a living and functional structure for the city, thus not fit to host picnics and extemporary parties.