Venice / Areas


San Polo and Santa Croce

Two sestieri which have lived in symbiosis since the dawn of Venice. Held together by the protective arm of the Grand Canal which embraces them as the central peninsula of the city, San Polo and Santa Croce both derive their names from their respective churches dating from the 9th and 8th centuries.

The borders of the two areas are not easily distinguished: let us say that towards Santa Croce the population thins out and in the network of narrow lanes commerce is less than in San Polo, which is in fact that area's true nature.

San Polo extends from the abrupt curve of the Grand Canal where the Rialto arose: the mercantile heart of Venice already in the 11th century, with its fruit and vegetable and meat and fish markets. In 1514 a terrible fire destroyed a large part of the district; this led to the Republic's reconstruction of the area with the buildings which today make it famous: the old and new workshops, the Palazzo dei Dieci Savi and the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi.

San Polo still preserves much of its ancient popular charm in its stalls, small shops, and bacari, small bars where people stand and consume the typical ombra of wine and various snacks.

Among the monuments the Rialto stands out prominently in all respects: its famous porticoed structure with two rows of shops, the work of Antonio da Ponte is one of the most beautiful views of the canal. The sestiere is perfect for strolling around in, starting along the Ruga degli Orefici and passing into the medieval Calle della Madonna, following through narrow calli which open on to sun-lit squares. That of Campo San Polo is the largest public space in Venice after Piazza San Marco. The whole area is studded with ancient churches: that of San Giacomo di Rialto (famous for its statue of the gobbo - hunchback - of the Rialto who is reading sentences) was founded in the 5th century.

Further unmissable sights include the Ca’ Goldoni, birthplace of the playwright which now houses a museum dedicated to him, the Franciscan church of Santa Maria dei Frari, the Scoula Grande di San Rocco, and Ca’ Pesaro, the masterpiece of Baldassare Longhena, today home to the Gallery of Modern Art.