This “tangle of little streets and canals” forms the inner heart of Venice, observes Michelin Travel. San Polo and Santa Croce face San Marco across the Grand Canal -- an area where “the traditional urban fabric is best preserved.” Superb churches and scuole feature through San Polo while Santa Croce is a most traditional neighbourhood with a decor far removed from its surroundings. These two sestieri (official districts) “have lived in symbiosis since the dawn of Venice,” notes Veneto Inside.
San Polo is “a small but pretty sestiere with remnants of its medieval roots,” says Wandering Italy. The district formed the commercial hub of Venice in the 11th century, with its thriving fruit, vegetable, fish and meat markets. San Polo still preserves much of its ancient popular charm in its shops, stalls and bacari and, as home of the Rialto Market, “provides restaurants in the area with the freshest ingredients,” writes Riley Londres on The Culture Trip.
Campo San Polo is the second biggest square in Venice after St. Mark’s Square -- a vast expanse that “was once not just a busy marketplace, it was used for festivals, masked plays, ceremonies, dances and bull baiting,” writes Venice the Future. The Camerlenghi Palace is “a magnificent building on the riverside of the Canale Grande,” writes Sophia Karner at The Culture Trip. Located on the inner side of the Volta del Canal, in the immediate vicinity of the famous Rialto Bridge, it boasts “hundreds of windows of the Canale Grande side along with a façade of marble.” The Church of San Giacomo di Rialto could be the oldest church in Venice -- “the only certainty is that the Church existed in 1152 and that the date of consecration goes back to 1177,” observes Chorus Venezia. And the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, in the heart of the San Polo district, was originally a confraternity that was founded in 1478. The building remains almost untouched and houses more than 60 paintings “preserved in their original setting.”
Ca’ Pesaro is a 1710 palazzo that houses two “intriguing galleries,” writes Lonely Planet -- Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna and Museo d’Arte Orientale. “While the former includes art showcased at La Biennale di Venezia, the latter holds treasures from Prince Enrico di Borbone's epic 1887–89 souvenir-shopping spree across Asia. Competing with the artworks are Ca’ Pesaro’s fabulous painted ceilings, which hint at the power and prestige of the Pesaro clan.” Then there’s the aristocratic Palazzo Mocenigo, bequeathed to the city by the family’s last descendent. “The palazzo’s piano nobile has been restored and installed with riveting costumed vignettes by the revered opera director and designer Pier Luigi Pizzi,” enthuses Hamish Bowles in Vogue. Located in front of the Mocenigo is San Stae, built by the Mocenigos in the 1670s as the family crypt and ornately decorated in the late Italian Baroque style. “The building is decorated with colossal sculptures and rich paintings by famous Venetian artists,” notes Where Venice.
“The great charm of San Giacomo dall’Orio,” says Chorus Venezia, “lies in a sombre and archaic exterior enclosing an ingeniously articulated interior.” The church was founded before the 10th century and no-one knows exactly who San Giacomo dell’Orio is. Finally, take some time to relax in the Parco Pubblico Papadopoli, one of Venice’s few green spaces where there are wonderful statues to be admired.
The Rialto Market has been “Venice’s beating heart” since 1097, says Jackie DeGiorgio at Food Republic. “Scallops, John Dory, cuttlefish, sardines, sea snails, clams, razor clams, mantis shrimp, mussels, eels and soft-shelled crabs are among the multitude of sea creatures that swim in these shallow, plankton-rich waters; any self-respecting Venetian restaurant serves Rialto Market fish.” And if you wend your way through the stalls you’ll eventually find the famous Pescheria, “a Renaissance loggia right on the Grand Canal that for centuries has shaded the fish vendors of Venice,” says Reids Italy. “This is where Venetian chefs buy the seafood you will be eating at dinner -- or, if you are impatient for it, at lunch.” As the hours of the day pass, the Rialto changes with it. “During the day, there are mainly people doing their shopping, workers and adults. In the evening, it becomes the meeting point for the long aperitifs,” observes The Venice Insider. Get a feel by looking at this video.
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