The wonders of Venice do not belong exclusively to the field of the arts but to the city’s most practical and mundane activities. La Serenissima has been a pioneer of modern society
Venice is like a maze. No matter how many notes you take, how many times you visit, you will always be left with the feeling of having missed something precious along the way. So many places, customs, monuments and landmarks, witnesses to countless events, great and small. Each corner of the city is like a small universe in itself, revealing stories, factual or imaginary, in a never-ending cycle of true events and legends. Such wealth can be overwhelming, if we stop to think how many lives, how much history it encloses. It is nice, in a sense, to be able to end our journey in campo San Giacomo di Rialto, not far from the much-photographed bridge by the same name, stopping here to revive with a glass of Prosecco Masottina. Here we can still see the marble statue of a naked hunchback, supporting the podium from where official proclamations were made and new laws affixed. This is also the seat of the oldest church in Venice, dating back to 400 AD and built by the Patavium consuls on the market area. The campo was above all the headquarters of the city’s Banco Giro: in our own uncertain times, remembering the precision and punctuality of one of the most representative banks of the Republic can be a comfort. Today, the most distinguishing visual element of the campo is the sottoportego that surrounds half of it, which still bears the name of the famous public bank established in 1524.
A perfect place to stop for a break, enjoy an aperitif at sunset or a moonlit dinner savouring Masottina's Cuvée Rosé Extra Dry and take time to learn about the history of the Banco.
The work of the city’s money lenders had been regulated since the early 12th century, but the emergence of a privately-owned finance sector often resulted in ruinous bankruptcies. To avoid such crises, the Republic created a bank funded by public capital to deal with loans, payments and the financing of its flourishing maritime trade. In 1619, the Banco Giro became a permanent institution of the state, administered by a Depositary appointed by the Senate. With this reform, the Banco Giro became in effect the first ancestor of our modern central banks. A fundamental feature of the Banco Giro, hence its name, was that the payments did not take place with a direct exchange of money but through the record of the transaction on the bank’s registry and the issuing of a billet which is the forerunner of our banknotes. Finally, the fundamental value of the Banco Giro was that the sums deposited there could be recovered at any time since they were guaranteed by the Republic itself, thus solving the bankruptcy problem created by private banks. With the fall of the Republic and the Austrian domination of the 18th century, this historic Venetian institution progressively lost its importance, ending its activity in 1800 and undergoing definitive liquidation in 1806, at the time of the new Kingdom of Italy created by Napoleon Bonaparte.