San Francesco may be off the beaten track, but the long trek over to the down-at-heel area beyond the gasworks is worth it. In 1534, Jacopo Sansovino was asked by his friend Doge Andrea Gritti to design this church for the Observant Franciscan order. The Tuscan architect opted for a deliberately simple style to match the monastic rule of its inhabitants. The façade (1568-72) was a later addition by Andrea Palladio; it is the first example of his system of superimposed temple fronts.
The dignified, solemn interior consists of a single broad nave with side chapels. The Cappella Giustiniani on the left of the chancel holds a marvellous cycle of bas-reliefs by Pietro Lombardo and school, moved here from an earlier church on the same site. In the nave, the fourth chapel on the right has a Resurrection attributed to Paolo Veronese. In the right transept is a fruity, flowery Madonna and Child Enthroned (c1450), a signed work by the Greek artist Antonio da Negroponte.
From the left transept, a door leads into the Cappella Santa, which contains a Madonna and Saints (1507) by Giovanni Bellini (perhaps assisted by Girolamo da Santacroce). From here, it is possible to make a detour and visit two of the church's peaceful Renaissance cloisters.
Back in the church, the fifth chapel on the left is home to Paolo Veronese's first Venetian commission, the stunning Holy Family with Saints John the Baptist, Anthony the Abbot and Catherine (c1551). The third chapel has trompe l'œil frescoes in chiaroscuro by GB Tiepolo (1743, recently restored). The second chapel has three powerful statues of saints Roch, Anthony the Abbot and Sebastian (1565) by Alessandro Vittoria.