CANNAREGIO Situated in the north, it’s the most populated sestiere and it stretches from the Santa Lucia railway station to the Rialto Bridge. Have lunch in one of the typical restaurants, pubs or bacari in Fondamenta della Misericordia, then visit:
The Jewish Ghetto - This is the place where Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice takes place. In 1516, the Jewish discrimination reached Venice and the Council of Trent decreed that all Jews were to be confined on a small island in Cannaregio. The area took its name from the local iron works and the word “ghetto” (Italian for foundry) has since become a common name to indicate the place where a minority is segregated.
Madonna dell'Orto - It is ironic that the original church was dedicated to Saint Christopher. Today the patron saint of travellers might marvel at the lack of tourists in this area of Venice. In the 15th century, following the discovery in a nearby vegetable garden of a statue of the Virgin that was said to have miraculous powers, it was rebuilt and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Inside, there are great works by Tintoretto, who was one of the parishioners, including the famous painting "The Universal Judgement". Tintoretto's tomb is on the right side of the presbytery.
Campo dei Mori - In 1112 the three Mastelli merchant brothers took refuge in Venice. Mori (moors in English) refers to Morea or Peloponnese, from where the silk merchants hailed. The square is named after the stone statues of the three brothers.
Palazzo Santa Sofia - One of the oldest palazzos it has always been known as the Ca' d’Oro (golden house). Built for the Contarini family between 1428 and 1430, its last owner Baron Giorgio Franchetti bequeathed it to the state and today it is a public gallery.
CASTELLO The largest Venetian Sestiere, Castello is situated in the East and includes the Arsenal, once the largest shipyard in Venice. It stretches from St. Mark’s to Cannaregio in the West and Sant'Elena in the East.
Riva degli Schiavoni – This "promenade" along the southern quay of Castello takes its name from the merchants of Dalmatia (Schiavonia) who used to dock their boats here. Works by Canaletto from the 1740s and 1750s show the area swarming with gondolas, sailing boats and barges and it is still a mooring place for boats today. This lively quay with its stalls thronged with people is the first, fascinating glimpse of city life that greets the eye of those who arrive in Venice via water. It also has a great view of San Giorgio Maggiore.
La Pietà – La Pietà Church dates back to the 15th century and was originally an orphanage. It was rebuilt between 1745 and 1760 by Giorgio Massari. The Church had a famous choir, for which Vivaldi wrote cantatas and vocal arrangements.
San Zaccaria – This church, situated in a quiet square not far from Riva degli Schiavoni, features resplendent Gothic and classical Renaissance architecture. It was founded in the 9th century and completely restored between 1444 and 1515. A masterpiece can be found inside, “The Virgin Enthroned with Child and Saints” by Giovanni Bellini. The underground crypt houses the remains of eight of the city's doges.
DORSODURO Italian for "high ridge", this district is characterized by a relatively high and stable land in the South of Venice. The Zattere quay provides a window on this scenic Sestiere that is home to Venetian Universities and a very lively nightlife.
The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute - A main landmark and commonly known as the Salute.
The Galleria dell'Accademia - One of Italy's most popular art museums. It has 24 rooms in 3 historic buildings.
Campo Santa Margherita – This square teems with life, especially in the morning when the market is in full swing. It is flanked by houses from the 14th and 15th centuries and home to many unusual shops, fish stalls, herbalists, bakeries and cafés that offer a glimpse of typical Venetian life.
Ca' Rezzonico – One of the grandest palaces in Venice, built in Baroque style and richly furnished. It is also one of the few open to the public. Construction of the palace began in 1667 by Baldassarre Longhena and it was then bought by the Rezzonico family while still incomplete. The first great banquet took place there in 1758. Since 1934 the palace has housed the Museum of Seventeenth Century Venice.
The Academy Galleries – 3 buildings that once belonged to the Church house the largest collection of Venetian art in existence. They offer a complete range of works by the Venetian School, from the Byzantine Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from the Baroque to the Rococo. The main highlights are Carpaccio's "The Legend of St. Ursula", "The Coronation of the Virgin" by Veneziano and Giorgione's "The Tempest".
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – The small idiosyncratic collection includes works by famous modernists and futurists such as Picasso, Dali and Jackson Pollock.
SAN MARCO Considered the heart of Venice since the birth of the Republic, San Marco is the most famous Sestiere due to the homonym square and basilica. The most visited part of Venice and the most expensive, St. Mark was described by Napoleon as "the most elegant drawing room in Europe".
St. Mark's Basilica –Built in the shape of a Greek cross, with five enormous cupolas, it was consecrated in 832 AD to house the body of St. Mark. It was destroyed twice and rebuilt over the following centuries making it a perfect blend between Eastern and Western architecture. It became the Cathedral of Venice in 1807. Its most striking features are the mosaics on the façade and the famous Horses of St. Mark (replicas of the original golden bronzes which are now kept inside the Basilica). Inside, the treasure of the Basilica includes precious spoils from Constantinople and Italian works of art.
The Doge's Palace – Dating back to the 9th century, it was originally a fortified castle, destroyed by a series of fires and then rebuilt in the 14th and 15h centuries. It is masterpiece of Gothic architecture, both lively and elegant, built from Verona marble over arches of Istrian stone, lacework-like. Inside the Palace, don't miss Sala del Maggior Consiglio, (The Higher Council Hall), Sala del Collegio and the Prisons (connected to the palace by the famous Bridge of Sighs.
The Belltower – The original tower, which was completed in 1173, acted as a lighthouse for the sailors in the Lagoon. In the Middle Ages, however, it was used as a torture cage inside which offenders were imprisoned and left to die. It collapsed in 1902, but thanks to large donations in the following years, it was rebuilt and inaugurated on 25th April (St. Mark's Day) 1912.
Harry's bar – Founded by Giuseppe Cipriani, it is a modern legend that has hosted celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and Woody Allen. It claims credit for the invention of the drink Bellini and the Carpaccio dish. Classic Venetian dishes are served at prime prices.
SAN POLO Linked to San Marco by the well-known Rialto Bridge, it’s one of the oldest parts of the city, named after the Church of San Polo. In the past, Campo San Polo hosted bullfights and masked balls and today it is one of the most popular Carnival venues. It is also home to open air screenings and concerts during the Venice Film Festival.
The Rialto Bridge – Until the 9th century, this was the only link between the two banks of the Grand Canal. It was first built in wood and later in stone. A competition was held to design a new bridge in the 16th century and illustrious names like Michelangelo, Palladio and Sansovino participated. It was won, however, by the talented Antonio Da Ponte. The bridge is constantly packed throughout the day with crowds of people maneuvering their way between the souvenir shops, distracted by the constant comings and goings of the Grand Canal.
The Rialto Markets – At sunrise, heavy lead barges unload their crates full of fruits and vegetables on the quay alongside the Grand Canal. With alleys and squares named after their produce, Venetians have been coming to the Erberia (fruit and vegetable market) for centuries to buy fresh red chicory from Treviso, asparagus and small artichokes from the Islands of Sant'Erasmo and Vignole. The bustling fish market nearby offers sole, sardines, skates, cuttlefish, crabs, mollusks and much more. This characteristic, lively market closes around midday.
SANTA CROCE Linked to the mainland, Santa Croce is the only Sestiere where car circulation is partially allowed in Piazzale Roma.This area has an active nightlife. If you are hungry, Taverna da Baffo in Campo Sant’Agostino is a famous intimate restaurant. Generally, this Sestiere is a quiet area consisting of a medieval Eastern side and a modern Western block.
Cà Pesaro – Housing the Venice Museum of Modern Art, it overlooks the Grand Canal
Fondaco dei Turchi - Housing the Museum of Natural History
With a very different atmosphere and far fewer crowds, the Islands of Glass and Lace, Murano and Burano, make for a picturesque day trip.