Calle del Paradiso is an enchanting corner of Venice. The overhanging eaves with protruding wood beams (barbacani), the small shops opening onto the dark and narrow street, the smells from the nearby osterie, are elements that conspire to create a medieval-town feeling uncommon in the rest of Venice, but the arch, the bridge and the light at the end of the street will remind you that you are in Venice after all.
On the side of the arch facing the street, the Madonna protects two worshipers, a nobleman and a woman. The coats of arms on the sides of the Madonna belong to the Foscari (a lion) and Mocenigo families (two flowers). On the side facing the bridge, the Madonna protects one worshiper, a friar. Only the coat of arms of the Foscari family is displayed on this side, twice, one on each side of Mary. The origin and date of this arch are controversial. Some historians believe that the Foscari family commissioned the arch to celebrate the marriage of Pellegrina Foscari and Alvise Mocenigo which took place in 1491. This would date the arch as late XV century. However, the arch is clearly Gothic and more in the style of the XIV or early XV century. In addition, the coat of arms of the Foscari family is next to the man and that of the Mocenigo family next to the woman, contradicting the notion that the woman represents a Foscari and the man a Mocenigo. According to the records, the two houses next to the bridge were rebuilt by the abbot of the church of Santa Maria della Pomposa (near Ravenna) and in 1407 passed to the Foscari and Mocenigo families. According to other historians, the arch would commemorate this event. The image of the friar on the bride side seems to confirm this idea. This would date the arch as early XV century. To add just one more sliver of confusion, a plaque near the arch reads: "Arte Gotica, s. XIV"
How to get there. On the San Marco side of the Rialto Bridge go down the stairs and continue onto Salizada Pio X to Campo San Bartolomeo where you will see the smiling statue of Carlo Goldoni, Venice's favorite playwright. Just past the statue, make a right turn under Sotoportego de la Bissa which becomes Calle de la Bissa which twists to the left and then to the right. Continue on this calle and cross Ponte San Antonio (if you stop at Ponte San Antonio you will see to your right on the east side of the canal - Rio de la Fava- the beautiful facade of Palazzo Gussoni, attributed to the Lombardo family of architects. Continue onto Salizada San Lio (on the side of the church of San Lio). Some of the oldest houses in Venice are found here at the intersection with Calle delle Vele. They date from the XIII century. Continue on the salizada; after Calle delle Vele, the fourth intersection on the left is Calle del Paradiso. Make a left turn. The arch is at the end of the calle. A few steps away from here you can visit the Madonna # 7 (Santa Maria Formosa church) and #25 (Campo Santa Maria Formosa).