Most of the tourists who arrive on Giudecca Island are attracted by Il Redentore, the famous creation of Andrea Palladio, and only a few know that the island hosts another church attributed to the great architect, the Church of Santa Maria della Presentazione, also known as Chiesa delle Zitelle or, simply, Le Zitelle.
Le Zitelle is part of an ecclesiastical complex set up by the Jesuit Benedetto Palmi, to provide shelter to beautiful young girls (zitelle) from poor families who otherwise would become prostitutes.
Poor virgins were taken in and trained in lace and music making. They were protected until the age of 18, when they could choose between marriage or becoming nuns. If they chose the marriage, a husband will be found and a dowry will be provided.
The church was built between 1581 and 1588 by the architect Jacopo Bozzetto, after a project belonging to Andrea Palladio, which was initially intended for another location.
The assignment of the church to Andrea Palladio is somehow controversial. Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio argues that in the absence of the documents that would link Palladio to this creation and because Palladian style is not very clear in this construction, the project could well belong to another architect.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The monastery develops in a horseshoe shape around the church, leaving the space behind the church apse for a courtyard. The façade of the church has two levels, with two narrow windows on the lower level and a large window on the upper level. Two small bell-towers are symmetrically built on top, with a large dome behind them.
Le Zittele hosts works of art signed by Palma il Giovane and Francesco Bassano, one of the four sons of the more famous Jacopo Bassano. On the left altar, we can find works by Antonio Vassilacchi, known as Aliense.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can reach the Church of Santa Maria della Presentazione, on the Giudecca Island, with ACTV Line 2, Line 4.1 or Line 4.2, stopping at the Zitelle station.