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Venice's Sestiere

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First, let me be one of the last to wish you a Happy New Year! I hope this year is filled with joy and hope-realized for you.

I know I’ve been away for a bit, as many of you have reminded me as you asked and wrote, “Where are your articles on Italy?”  But, I’m back now. However, I do feel a bit fickle about my absence because of what I was doing when I wasn’t preparing my Italy, Our Italy articles.

During the next few weeks, I will be going over the various districts, or ‘sestiere’, of the most interesting, beautiful and mysterious city in the world – Venice.

I hope you don’t think less of me when you find that I was working on photos from our latest trip – a trip to England, Scotland and Ireland. There were fewer vineyards there (actually, we saw none), less pasta and wine (we made up for the wine with ciders), but the people were just as friendly as those of our Italian encounters. I’d have to say that the countryside of the UK environs was a good bit more cultivated and elegant than those of Italy…but maybe simplicity and magic are what continues to draw us to Italy.

At any rate, it took me a good bit of time to get through the photos from our trip. If you would like to see just a few of the photos from our England-Scotland-Ireland trip, you can see them by clicking this button...

During the next few weeks, I will be going over the various districts, or ‘sestiere’, of the most interesting, beautiful and mysterious city in the world – Venice. I began this journey with the article on the San Marco sestiere on February 16, 2016 in the article titled ‘The Sestiere of Venice”.

As this new year progresses, I’ll cover the other 5 sestiere of Venice. In each, I will give you a quick overview of the sestiere. Then I will cover where to stay and where to eat in that sestiere. If there is something else that I think you need to know of that sestiere, I’ll include that, too.

Here is the simple map similar to the one I included in the article on the sestiere of San Marco.

This map presents a rather modest view of the six sestiere. I say 'modest' because this map just cannot characterize the world that it represents and that awaits you...you will have to experience it on your own.

You will note that the map includes the Giudecca island, which is not actually one of the six official sestiere. Further, not all maps show the same delineations for the sestiere. For instance, some show the Giudecca to be part of Dorsodouro. While others show that orange, polygonal island at the eastern end of Giudecca (the island on which the church of San Giorgio Maggiore sits) to be part of the sestiere of San Marco. For our purposes, we will use the delineations shown in the map above as we work through the sestiere.

Finally, understand that there are many, many islands in the Venetian lagoon (around 117 it is estimated) that are not considered to be within the districts of Venice – islands like Murano (glass), Burano (lace and colorful homes) and San Michele (dead people).

I'm wondering if you remember what the six sestiere and Giudecca have to do with the accouterments of a Venetian gondola. If not, you can review that in the San Marco sestiere article

Here is a rather different view of the six sestiere of Venice…this in the form of a Google maps satellite view. I want you to see this to see just how large the municipality of Venice is.

Venice is quite huge. Note just how many buildings there are. From east-to-west, Venice is about 3 miles, while north-to-south, it is just shy of 2 miles. Within these six square miles you will find 409 bridges crossing over the 177 canals that divide Venice into 117 islands. 

And in this detail view below, you can see churches, gardens, pozzi, restaurants, boats, canals and bridges. 

There are places you will never see as you stroll Venice, as they are kept hidden behind walls and locked doors, like the one of which I wrote here. In Venice, intrigue abounds now as it has for centuries!

You've seen our favorite sestiere of San Marco, so tune in next week when we visit our second most-favorite sestiere, San Polo.

Ciao for now,

Steve

ps:  The Berlin Foto Biennale is now over. If you missed the significance of that exhibit this past fall, please see my previous article here

The Sestiere of Venice

Every once in a while, I’ll tell you more about a particular sestiere, in order of my personal preference for visiting. Today, I give you the sestiere of San Marco.

 

Last week I told you about the Punta della Dogana, and in that description, I mentioned the 'sestiere' of Venice, and I promised to explain what they are about.

The word 'sestiere means 'district' in English. In Venice, there are 6 such districts, or sestiere. 

 

Sestiere Overview

Here is a map of the six sestiere.

pescesestieri.jpg

If you count the colors and names, above, you will actually see seven districts. This is because the Giudecca along the bottom of the map, though technically one of the districts, is not traditionally counted among those of Venice, proper. Nor is the Lido, which would be still lower on the map if it was displayed. And there are many other area of the Venetian lagoon which are not counted in the sestiere, like Murano and Burano.

The 'ferro' of this gondola has representations of the sestiere of Venice. The six rectangular bars protruding to the left represent each sestiere, while the one aimed to the right represents the afore-mentioned Giudecca. The other, fancier protuberances to the left? Unofficial embellishments by the owner.

Each of these districts has its own charms -- some more popular than others, and thus, some are much, much more crowded. But if you want to be where the action is...where the main attractions sit, you may well want to find lodging within these popular sestiere. Here's the thing: many of the tourists who descend on Venice during the day are not actually staying on the Venetian island, and most vanish around 5pm each afternoon to catch a bus back to the mainland.

Every once in a while, I'll tell you more about a particular sestiere, in order of my personal  preference for visiting. Today, I give you the sestiere of San Marco. 


Introduction to San Marco (Saint Mark)

In this photo, I'll put some focus on the sestiere of San Marco. This photo gives you an idea of the true size of Venice. Though San Marco is one of the smallest of the sestiere, you can see in the photo below that there are many, many buildings in its warrens. For you, that means that there is much to explore!

The sestiere of San Marco is chock-a-block full of marvelous sites, restaurants and hotels. First and foremost is the Piazza San Marco (the most obvious area of the photo, above), where you will find, besides the huge piazza itself, the Basilica San Marco and the Doge's Palace. The Museo Correr, within one of the buildings which form the piazza, is an excellent way for you to find out about the ancient town where you now find yourself.

A side note regarding the Piazza San Marco: there is only one 'piazza' within Venice, given the moniker because of its size; the rest of the public open areas are called either a 'campo' or a 'piazzetta'. 

San Marco is also where the beautifully-restored La Fenice opera house is located. Also in San Marco are the large campi of Santo Stefano and Sant'Angelo, which can be seen within the bend of the Grand Canal to the left of the photo.


Shopping San Marco

Shopping? My gosh but there is a lot to buy within the confines of San Marco. From trinkets and hand-fashioned glass, to designer labels of every sort.

My wife, Ellen, has twice purchased frames for her eyeglasses within San Marco. Here is a pair, though, that she did not buy!

The two main shopping streets are Calle Larga Ventidue Marzo, which connects the Piazza San Marco with Campo Santo Stefano, and the interlinked Merceria San Zulian and Merceria Orologio, which lead from the Rialto Bridge to Piazza San Marco.


The Look of San Marco

So, San Marco is where the action is. If you visit Venice and do not travel to San Marco, you really haven't been to Venice, at all. In the photo below, all of what you see along the water in this photo is within the district of San Marco.

A panorama of a good bit of San Marco, taken from the campanile of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore

Here are a few photos that I've taken within San Marco's boundaries.

Digitally painted, hidden-away area of San Marco

And here is the Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon dubbed 'Europe's Drawing Room'.

A view of the massive Piazza San Marco from the balcony of Basilica San Marco


Sleeping San Marco

Our favorite place to stay in San Marco is the Hotel Flora. This hotel is an oasis of tranquility withing the hubbub of San Marco. Here are a couple of photos of this quaint hotel. The windows at the top of the hotel...ours. 


Eating San Marco

Our favorite San Marco restaurant? That would be Antico Martini. This excellent restaurant has been in continuous operation since 1720. Here are a couple of photos of Antico Martini, both current and very old.


So, that's the sestiere of San Marco. If you go to Venice, you need to spend at least one-whole day in this essential district. Want to see some of the out of the way places? I'll take you there.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

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