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Located on the southern edge of the city, San Marco is the heart of Venice. It is the busiest of the sestiere, districts, as this is the location of the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica and the Campanile di San Marco. The campo, large square, in front of the basilica is home to world famous Cafe Florian and Caffe Quadri, which feature live music ensembles. The streets are lined with luxury designer shops and jewelers as well as luxury hotels. Prices here are inflated because this is the most well-known area of Venice. Watch the canals in this district for tourists riding the Gondolas. The Gondoliers, handsome and swarthy, dressed in iconic red and white stripes, sing as they push along liquid avenues.
SAN POLO AND SANTA CROCE
Technically two separate sestieri,often San Polo and Santa Croce form the smallest, oldest and most medieval part of Venice with a maze of tiny streets all leading to the Grand Canal. It has a residential feel. The Rialto Bridge is located here and is one of the three glorious and famous bridges in Venice spanning the Grand Canal. The northern section of this district is home to the city’s famous fish and produce marketplace “Mercato del Rialto” which is located next to the Rialto bridge (“Ponte di Rialto”). Here one will also find plenty of excellent traditional Italian osterias and trattorias. This would be a great area to wonder around and get a feel for how the locals live. The train station and bus station are located in the western section of this district.
The most elegant upper-class residential district in Venice with its larger calle (pedestrian streets) and houses on the Grand Canal just opposite San Marco. This sestiere lies in the southern part of Venice. The eastern part is home to the Academia and Guggenheim museums. The University, Ca’ Foscari and the Architecture University are located here thus this area has a large student population with an abundance of bars and stores that cater to their needs. Dosoduro is full of plenty of good, reasonably priced restaurants and pizzerias.
In the northern part of Venice, Cannaregio is filled with Renaissance-era synagogues and the Museo Ebraico which depicts Jewish/Italian life beginning in the 16th century. It is also in this sestiere that the train station is located. The main thoroughfare runs from the train station to the famous Rialto Bridge. This is the most heavily populated sestiere in Venice and the second largest in land area. Here you can walk down the large “Strada Nova”, a new and large street, a real shopping promenade. Off the Strada Nova, are many small streets with many local artisan shops, traditional crafts and not many tourists. The best restaurant street in the sestiere, if not the whole city, is Fondamenta Misercordia. On this street you can find Mexican and Syrian food as well as some great traditional restaurants. The crowd here is eclectic, a mix of student types and young families.
The largest and most residential sestiere, it covers the eastern half of Venice. It is considered the “Venice of Venetians”. Unpretentious and middle class, home to many students, artists and working class locals. A busy street life, alternative culture and a large park (“giardini”), make up the character of this sestiere. On the one hand it is calm here with not many tourists, but it is also very lively at the same time. The park is a pleasant quiet space and also a center for sub-culture, music and theatre. Every other year, the sestiere is home to the famous Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibit. Much of Castello is also occupied by the Arsenale, the great shipyard when Venice at its peak. It is not accessible to the public outside of the Biennale period, as it still contains some Italian Naval ships.
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