Progetto Rialto’s Popular – and Resilient – Lecture Series Le Lezione della Storia is Set to Resume at the Gallerie dell’Accademia

The series opens on 24 January 2023 at 17:00, with a talk by publisher and art dealer Luca Zentilini on Venetian Printing from the 15th to the 20th century

The arrival of the Covid-19 crisis in early 2020 seemed at first to grind everything to a halt. However, it soon emerged that many people and organizations did not stop all; instead they chose to learn, and find new and different ways to continue their work.

Such is the case with Associazione Progetto Rialto. Having only just formed in 2019, Progetto Rialto had partnered with the Gallerie dell’Accademia to present a series of talks – the Lezioni della Storia (History Lessons) – that were aimed not only at tourists but at all of the different types of people who visit from around the world for different reasons and those who live in the city both permanently and transiently.

This point is worth emphasizing, because although Rialto is legitimately considered the heart and soul of Venice, as well as its literal point of origin, Rialto was also and just as importantly once a vital center of international commerce – a “World Trade Center” that attracted visitors from all over the world, a good number of whom took up residence in the city for varying lengths of time. It was this very influx of outsiders that made Rialto – and Venice – such a powerful attraction for so many people, whether they were local natives or not, and such a potent site of commerce and culture.

As such, the history of Rialto has a great deal to teach us, and following that belief Progetto Rialto launched the Lezioni della Storia with three very successful public events at the Accademia in January and February 2020, starting with the history of the market itself, from its origins to its current decay, the challenges of tourism, and Venice’s relationship with the Muslim world. The well-known speakers that followed discussed trade (both maritime and overland), crafts production and industrial innovation in the modern age, the role of women in administering wealth, the spice trade and a great deal more. The overriding goal is to help the market operators and to regenerate and redevelop a very important urban area from its current decay.

Then the pandemic hit, and Progetto Rialto became one of those groups that did not stop, but rather just changed the way it worked. In fact, the Lezioni series resumed on November 30, 2020 via Zoom and Facebook streaming. Despite the difficulties, it became clear that the themes being discussed were indeed of great interest for Venetians and for those who love Venice and follow its events from afar. Moreover, the themes discussed in the Lezioni seemed to become even more relevant in a moment where people everywhere had begun to talk about “sustainability” in their daily lives, of “neighborhood stores” and zero-kilometer products. This environment helped to spark an active, lively and proactive attitude among the members of the Association and an increased sense of vitality for the work it was doing.

This online format had its benefits as well. First of all, the videos of each presentation remained online on YouTube and could therefore be viewed at any time after the actual event, available to all who either missed the event or just found them online and were interested. Another benefit of the format was that anyone who wanted to participate actively in the Zoom sessions was able to request credentials and join the conversation. The sessions featured speakers from other Italian cities (Padua, Udine, Naples), but also from Paris, and San Paolo in Brazil. Viewers joined in from around the world.

This unique marriage of history and technology allowed the series to continue online for all of 2021, up to the summer holidays of 2022. This adaptation to a major event in current history, unfolding in real-time, has helped to generate great interest not only in the multifaceted history of Rialto, but also and in particular for building a project for Rialto’s future. That work is ongoing and will be the subject of a future article.

Now in 2023 the situation with Covid has stabilized, and the current health safety protocols have allowed a return to an almost “normal” pursuit of cultural life in the city. Thus Associazione Progetto Rialto and Gallerie dell’Accademia have decided to relaunch the Lezioni della Storia with a series of in person events and with renewed enthusiasm. The theme for this year is “The Market for Art. Art in the Market”, with lectures planned from January to April that will explore this subject over a long arc of time (from the 15th to the 20th centuries). The invited expert speakers will tell listeners the story of how and where trade in art was done in Venice, whether it was paintings, sculptures, engravings or print.

It is well-known that the Rialto market (understood as a location where the exchange of products, relationships and languages took place) is part of the very DNA of Progetto Rialto, and it is also clear that the Accademia represents a very special place in the city in which to present this history. This important partnership has overcome a historic challenge to continue talking about, and learning from, the Lessons of History.

The lectures are available free to all until tickets run out, and will also be recorded and made available for viewing on Progetto Rialto’s YouTube channel and the museum’s web site.

The calendar for the Spring 2023 Lezioni follows:


24 January 2023 – 17:00

Luca Zentilini – publisher and art dealer

Stampe venete dal XV al XX secolo. Mercato e collezionismo/Venetian printing from the 15th to the 20th century. The market and collectors


7 February 2023 – 17:00

Linda Borean – Università di Udine

“Non può negarsi alla Pittura un titolo nel commercio”. Mercato e collezionismo d’arte tra Venezia e l’Europa nel Settecento/”Painting cannot be denied a title in trade”. The art market and collectors between Venice and Europe in the 1700s


28 February 2023 – 17:00

Isabella Cecchini – Istituto di Storia dell’Europa Mediterranea (ISEM–CNR)

L’arte con gli occhi dei funzionari. Le licenze di esportazione e il ruolo della Soprintendenza a Venezia: un caso di studio attorno al 1920/Art in the eyes of the officials. Export licenses and the role of the Superintendent in Venice: a case study around 1920


7 March 2023 – 17:00

Claudia Caramanna

I “Mercati” dei Bassano. Arte e vita in Terraferma/The “Markets” of the Bassano. Art and life on the mainland


21 March 2023 – 17:00

Bernard Aikema – Università di Verona

Mercati d’arte e ‘branding’: Venezia e Anversa a confronto/Art markets and ‘branding’: a comparison of Venice and Anversa


4 April 2023 – 17:00

Lorenzo Lazzarini – IUAV

I marmi e le pietre dei monumenti veneziani: una introduzione/The marble and stone of Venetian monuments: an introduction


18 April 2023 – 17:00

Clarissa Ricci – Università di Bologna

“Venezia il più bel mercato del mondo”: le politiche commerciali della Biennale di Venezia/“Venice, the most beautiful market in the world”: the commercial policies of the Biennale di Venezia

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