San Giobbe, Madonna dell’Orto, San Giacomo dell’Orio, San Martino, San Zaccaria, San Francesco della Vigna, San Rocco*. Neo-classic, Baroque, Gothic, Renaissance, and then Palladio, Tintoretto, Palma the Younger, Veronese. A compendium of the history of art, a collection of architectural styles, precious paintings and frescoes, sacred ornaments … and basketball courts.
In Venice, churches are not only a place for prayer and meditation, but more often, they are also the place where it is easy to find a cement basketball court. It is difficult to determine when and how this connection between the Catholic Church and basketball was born (by the way, a connection, which remains very solid even overseas where many Catholic universities excel at basketball). Perhaps it was just out of necessity: basketball, unlike other sports, can be played even in makeshift gyms and in the very confined spaces of a simple courtyard.
Sometimes it is accessed through the inevitable parish hall, the traditional meeting place of many Venetian children. But not infrequently, you can venture through the silence and the semi-darkness of rectories and sacristies, emanating fragrances of flowers and incense. Mysterious places, which are often bare, but where, we, as children, who dares deny it, seemed to be able to grasp the essence of the divine mystery much more than before the altar. And then, through a string of barely furnished and barely heated rooms, a small door and back to the natural light of a courtyard with high walls, two baskets recently flanked by two football goals, the pitch line markings are hand painted. The rumble of the ball bouncing was often heard during the Mass (needless to say, you could not swear) and it finished only when darkness fell. Many of these courts are still accessible.
If you lack the courage to play, just go in for a visit (check out San Zaccaria). And if it seems that the combination is too frivolous, provided that there is a full agreement on what is sacred and what is profane, just think about how many of us have asked the man “up there” for a three-pointer to get in. And if even this was not enough to convince you, Inside Venice is ready to recommend the most scenic alternative playground in the world: St. Elena: it will be difficult to maintain your concentration while the sun sets over San Marco basin.
* The list is incomplete