Venice / AreasGallery
Castello is the Venice which is still for the Venetians, a bordering area in which the daily rhythms of life in its narrow lanes and squares have not changed significantly despite the advent of mass tourism and which precisely for this offers a charming perspective of life, of the work, chat and ease of the elderly inhabitants seated outside their houses.
And yet the whole picture also contains the strong contrasting scene of the waterfront of the celebrated Riva degli Schiavoni, filled to the brim with the market stalls, tourists and tourist operators of the area. This is the true identity of the Castello sestiere.
The sestiere, the largest in Venice, takes its name from the fortress which at one time stood on what is now the island of San Pietro, which became the focus of religious power in Venice. The church of San Pietro was first episcopal and then patriarchal see, thus effectively dividing Venice into three areas: the Rialto became the commercial heart, San Marco the political, and Castello the religious. In 1807 San Marco took the place as the cathedral of Venice.
There are many pretty churches in the area, from La Pietà, greatly famous in the Baroque period for its fervid musical activity, to San Zaccaria and San Giorgio dei Greci, until Santi Giovanni and Paolo, the greatest Gothic church in Venice.
Castello has much more to offer. There are in fact the Museo Diocesano and the Fondazione Querini Stampalia, with works by Giovanni Bellini, Giambattista Tiepolo, and Pietro and Alessandro Longo, together with an enormous library.
The sestiere of Castello in Venice is of course famous also for the presence of the Arsenal, where from the 12th century the most powerful naval fleet in the world was built. Not only a shipyard, the Arsenal was rather a mini-city enclosed by crenellated walls, complete with warehouses, workshops and foundries. Today the area known as the Corderie is used as an exhibition space during the Biennale. The Arsenal also contains the Museum of Naval History.
Another feature of the sestiere is its public gardens, for which it holds the record: there are in fact the gardens which the Biennale uses for its exhibitions, and the pine woods of Saint Elena.