Old & New
In early Renaissance times Giudecca, then very rural, housed the villas and pleasure gardens of the Venetian aristocracy, long before it became fashionable for their summer villas to be built along the Brenta River on the mainland.
Many private gardens, with mature trees, still survive and can be glimpsed behind high walls. These include the six acre Garden of Eden, Venice's largest garden, at the end of the Rio della Croce, although this was created from a former artichoke field in 1884 by an English gardener, Frederick Eden, with advice from his sister-in-law Gertrude Jekyll, the famous Victorian landscape designer.
Many monasteries and nunneries were built on Giudecca, a few of which survive to the present day. Over the past two centuries Giudecca was home to some of the main manufacturing industries of Venice, including boatbuilding, ropemaking, brewing, matting, asphalt, textiles and flour milling, many of the factories located on the sites of former convents and monasteries. With the decline of these industries Giudecca also fell into decay, until recently...
A new renaissance
Currently undergoing something of a Docklands-style renewal, Giudecca nowadays is a place where the old and the new rub shoulders more than in any other part of Venice. New housing and converted factories and warehouses sit alongside boatyards and more traditional dwellings.
The large 19th century gothic Stucky flour mill (Molino Stucky), described by the novelist L P Hartley as "battlemented, pinnacled, turreted, machicolated, a monument to the taste of 1870, that might have been built out of a child's box of bricks" is currently undergoing reconstruction into a new 250-room Hilton Hotel. Other parts of this complex have already been converted into modern apartments.
Alongside Molino Stucky you will find the famous Fortuny fabric factory, opened in 1919, with its well-guarded production techniques still surviving to this day. (For more information, see the Fortuny website.)
Old ways and new canals
The recently completed Judeca Nova complex, where you will find two of our apartments, has been built on the former site of the Junghans clock and watch factory. Here you will see one of the original factory chimneys preserved as an industrial souvenir. Stylish award-winning modern architecture, complete with a new theatre, new canals and a small harbour, link up with Venice's existing waterways.
Just behind the church of Santa Eufemia, Giudecca's oldest and itself undergoing restoration, a former monastery is being converted into a state-of-the-art business centre which will serve as an incubator for small high-tech companies. The Venice of tomorrow, with a bright future not reliant on tourism, is being created on Giudecca today. Yet it still retains its peaceful and lived-in charm.
.....and some famous inhabitants of Giudecca, old and new
The great Italian Renaissance painter and sculptor lived on Giudecca for 10 months in 1529 while in self-imposed exile from the Florentine court of the Medici. There is still a street named after him.
Alfred de Musset
The french Romantic poet and playwight Alfred de Musset, 1810-1857, who wrote the first french language modern dramas and was much influenced by Shakespeare, lived for a while on Giudecca. He is also famous for his intense relationship with the novelist George Sand, depicted in the 1999 film ‘Enfants du Siecle'.