When I was a student I couldn’t understand and appreciate the building where my college was situated, as I was too busy studying old Greek and doing Math homework. Marco Foscarini was an ancient convent of Augustinian nuns, dedicated to Saint Catherine. In other words, every day when I was at school, I was in a glorious place, rich in history and deep religious faith.
Classrooms were on the top floor replacing the monastic cells, aligned in long corridors with a fantastic view of the Venetian rooftops. There was a beautiful cloister with Gothic arches that students loved, just because it was used as a volleyball camp. That’s right: we were playing volleyball in a such historic place. The volleyball net was tied between a wall and a high pole inserted not so far from the central well. Sometimes one of us straightened out the pole with strong blows; not one of us became a professional volleyball player, though, believe me!
There was also a lecture hall which had a window on the central structure of the long-desecrated church, dedicated, as I mentioned, to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. An incredible painting by Paolo Caliari, also known as Veronese, decorated the main altar of the church and represents Saint Catherine’s mystical wedding. This masterpiece is now exposed at the Accademia Gallery. Other important paintings belonged to this church, including Tintoretto’s cycle on Saint Catherine’s life, and are now conserved in the Patriarchy Palace.
A wide garden on the back side of the school had a football field, a better volleyball camp and a long path that we used as an athletics track.
The college — which had also a connected national boarding school — now offers a European Studies course that is the modern version of the classical one I attended. During my tours, I often talk about my college. It is worth knowing (not really the biographical note) that this school, like many others in Venice, is located in historical buildings which haven’t change much over the centuries and preserve the original architecture.
Beginning in 2003, Marco Foscarini College hosts a permanent Physics Museum, dedicated to the Abbot Antonio Maria Traversi. In the exposition, there are about 200 instruments of the study of physics, the majority are still perfectly functioning and used for experiments in labs. I remember a practical experiment our teacher did regarding the expansion of metals due to a heat source. A piece of metal exploded – at least this is how I remember it – hitting my leg. Nothing serious, but I did retain a lot of what was taught in that lesson! The museum is open to visitors upon specific request and reservation. Contact me, it will be my pleasure to take you through these historic and magnificent halls. And don’t forget to ask me how my physics test went!