Saving the Virgin City of Venice

The history of Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa and its cause to save  “City of the Virgin”

Casa delle Zittelle Venice

The Palladio Hotel & Spa was originally a home for young women at risk of turning to prostitution

One of the many reasons for my fascination of boutique hotels is that for many of them, they have a captivating historical past, an enthralling story that just makes staying in a hotel all the more intriguing.

War, murder, religious revolt, social reform – you name it, a hotel stay makes the experience especially unique when you are able to dig into the past and let your imagination run away with you.

The Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa, situated on the island of Giudecca has a wonderful story of how a group of noble women in the Renaissance period used their wealth to help protect women against sin, at a time when social views were very different to how they are now in today’s world.

Prostitutes Venice

Prostitutes in the early 16th century were a symbolism of luxury and indulgence.

 The fashionable trend of prostitution

Venice is one of those special cities in Italy that have so many alluring stories.  To think that at the beginning of the 16th century, around 12% of the city’s population was working in the trade of prostitution.  In fact, it was one of Venice’s principal tourist attractions!  Depicted as the “City of the Virgin”, although one could say equally that of Venus, her prostitutes were a symbolism of luxury and indulgence. They were welcomed with open arms by society, the State and even the Church. Seen as a way to maintain social harmony, it was morally better to visit a prostitute than undertake the crimes of rape, adultery and sodomy.

High-end escort in Venie

Veronica Franco was a renowned Italian poet and courtesan in 16th century Venice

However, two major events in Venice’s history slowly began to change the social view of prostitution. When a major earthquake hit Venice in 1511, it was seen as “God’s punishment” for the city’s sins.  The consecutive occurrences of plague, syphilis, economic downturns and battle losses were also excuses to blame the vice of prostitution.  But it wasn’t until 16th century that serious action to curb further damnation of the city was taken.

Hotel on Giudecca lsland

The hallway of the Palladio Hotel & Spa

Wealthy citizens helping those in need

Instigated by the arrival of the Jesuits and their plea for action to be taken against the malevolency of prostitution, a group of deeply religious Venetian noble women founded in 1561 the Casa delle Zitelle (The Home for Unmarried Women).  It was a philanthropic effort to house, educate and protect vulnerable women who were at risk of falling into a life of sin.  Their vision was to instill Christian virtue in these women’s day-to-day lives, while preparing them for life as a wife and mother or, alternatively, as a nun. Italy at the time was not only the founders of the Renaissance; but also the launching the new philanthropy of the 16th century.

Bauer Hotel in Venice

The Palladio Hotel & Spa has one of the largest privately-owned gardens in Venice

It is within the grounds and walls of the five-star The Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa where young girls would undertake lessons in reading, the training of a skills such lace-making and other marketable skills, which would help support the charity and also the possibility of augmenting their own dowries in order to increase their chances to marry respectable artisans and workers.

At the time, Giudecca was seen as an island of piety.  With already nine churches, four of them within convents, the whole ideal of lush gardens, scenic views and nuns praying for Venice for its sins, formed an oasis of physical and spiritual well-being for Venice.   The Palladio & Spa Hotel has still kept that aura intact.  With its fabulous gardens (one of the largest in Venice) and its wellness sanctuary, it really is a fitting location to unwind, relax and see Venice from a more reflective perspective.

Your hotel

To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, The Bauer Palladio Hotel & Spa, Giudecca Venice

Nathalie Salas

Nathalie Salas is a freelance travel writer and marketing consultant based between the UK, Italy and the UAE. Pursuing her passion of boutique hotels, she reviews hotels around the world as well as helping them to improve their marketing strategies. Nathalie is Editor & Founder of travel site Perfect Boutique Hotel, writing also for, Masquerade and Global Citizen.

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