When we started to have six sestieri?
Which are ? These and other curiosities!
We call Venice: a fish! Taking a look to the map you can recognize the head, the tail….
Almost everyone knows the most popular sights that make Venice so unique, what we called the highlights of Venice: St. Mark’s square, the Rialto bridge, or the Grand Canal with its gondole. But there are hundreds of sites to see and things do in Venice.
Just walking around Venice you can find an unique courtyard, crossing a bridge or walking down a calle you can find yourself in front of a more secluded church, an unusual museum, an ancient cloister or a secret garden (I love running the secret gardens tour!)
You can find hundreds of hidden gems scattered throghout Venice six districts!
Let's start with the basics. For those who like exploring Venice on foot, it's essential to know that the historic centre of Venice still maintains its original division into sestieri (districts), the six parts into which ancient Venice was divided for tax and administrative purposes.
This division probably took place as early as 1171, during the reign of Doge Vitale II Michiel.
The sestieri are three on either side of the Grand Canal: San Marco, Castello, Cannaregio on the left side (de citra, on this side); Dorsoduro, San Polo and Santa Croce on the right side (de ultra, on the other side).
Each of Venice’s neighbourhoods has its own characteristics, offering you something a little different and distinctive wherever you wander.
San Marco: this is the political center of Venice and the ancient Serenissima Repubblica where is located San Marco square. There are many monuments and beautiful palazzi here including not too high buildings. The small district includes many of Venice's most famous sights, including St Mark's Square, Saint Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, Harry's Bar, the Palazzo Dandolo, Palazzo D'Anna Viaro Martinengo Volpi di Misurata, San Moisè, the La Fenice theatre, the Palazzo Grassi and Palazzo Bellavite, and the churches of San Beneto, San Fantin, Santa Maria del Giglio, San Maurizio, San Moisè, Santo Stefano, San Salvador, San Zulian and San Samuele.
Cannaregio: It is the second largest sestiere by land area and the largest by population.
Castello: Castello is the largest of the six sestieri of Venice, Italy. There had been, since at least the 8th-century, small settlements of the islands of San Pietro di Castello (for which the sestiere is named). This island was also called Isola d'Olivolo.
From the thirteenth century onward, the district grew around a naval dockyard on what was originally the Isole Gemini. The land in the district was dominated by the Arsenale of the Republic of Venice, then the largest naval complex in Europe. A Greek Mercantile community numbering around 5,000 in the Renaissance and late Middle ages was based in this district, with the Flanginian School and the Greek Orthodox Church of San Giorgio dei Greci being located here, of which the former comprises the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and post-Byzantine Studies in Venice and the latter is now the seat of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy.
Other significant structures were by the monasteries in the north of the quarter.
Dorsoduro: It is the artistic district of Venice, where many museums are located: Gallerie dell’Accademia, Ca’Rezzonico, Peggy Guggenheim collection, Punta della Dogana..
Dorsoduro includes the highest land areas of the city and also Giudecca island and Isola Sacca Fisola. Its name derives from the Italian for "hard ridge", due to its comparatively high, stable land. The original heart of the area was the Giudecca Canal, along which buildings were constructed from the sixth century. By the eleventh century, settlement had spread across to the Grand Canal, while later religious buildings including the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute and the Zattere quay are now its main landmarks.
In the nineteenth century the Accademia was set up in Dorsoduro and the Ponte dell'Accademia linked it to San Marco, making it an expensive area, popular with foreign residents. The western quarter end and the Giudecca, became industrialised around this time.
San Polo: the name it is taking place from the San Polo church. San Polo is home to the Rialto Market, which used to be the centre of trade and commerce for the Venetian Empire. Today, from Tuesday to Saturday in the morning hours there is still a major market here beside the Rialto bridge. The Fish market offers remarkably good value for money for those of you renting apartments.
As you walk through the narrow and meandering streets of San Polo you'll be passing by some of the oldest buildings in Venice. Also, along these narrow passageways you'll walk through the old artisan quarters of Venice, and the red-light district of Venice in ancient times.
The Scuola Grande Di San Rocco, is a 16th Century Renaissance building dedicated to Saint Roch the protector of the sick and plague stricken people. The building is still active as a popular venue for Classical Concerts in the evenings. It contains an extraordinary collection of works by Tintoretto.
Campo San Polo, is one of the largest squares of Venice, and is at the heart of the San Polo district.
Santa Croce: The area was once part of the Luprio swamp, but has been steadily reclaimed.
It is the area of the city most affected by the opening of the lagoon road in April 1933.
The district includes the Piazzale Roma, home to Venice's bus station and car parks, and around which is the only area of the city in which cars can travel. The tourist attractions lie mostly in the eastern part of the quarter, and include the churches of San Nicolo da Tolentino, San Giacomo dell'Orio, and San Zan Degola; the Fondaco dei Turchi; the Museum of the History of Fabric and Costume at Palazzo Mocenigo; the Patrician Palace; and Ca' Corner della Regina.
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My free walk in Venice tours:
Free Walk in Venice tours - Cannaregio and the Jewish Ghetto tour
Free Walk in Venice tours - The heart and soul of Venice: Carampane and Rialto tour
Free Walk in Venice tours - the hidden secrets of Venice and Dorsoduro: Venice off the beaten tracks