City Guide

Venice

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Introduction to Venice

Often referred to as the “City of Water”, Venice is the capital of the region of Veneto, which is known to be one of the most beautiful northern Italian cities. World-famous for its waterways, Venice is built up of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges, all contributing to a city that is full of character and beauty. 

In 1630, Venice began to lose its position as a centre of international trade, due to the plague killing a third of its inhabitants. Historically, the Venetian empire was a major exporter of agricultural products and, until the mid-18th century, a significant manufacturing centre. In the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, and every form of transport is on water or on foot. At first, this seems somewhat bizarre and is quite difficult to adjust to, however once you get used to it, it feels very natural.

Although the city appears small, it is really quite extensive for its size, and you won’t be stuck for anything to do during the days. The attractions in Venice include many outstanding formations, such as an impressive collection of tapestries and paintings. The amazing buildings and galleries showcase the artistic side of Venice. Venice is so achingly beautiful, with churches around every corner, and every campo filled with buzzing cafes. It feels very similar to living on a movie set and therefore makes a year studying there, somewhat magical.

Sections of Venice: Sestieri di Venezia

Venice is divided into six Sestiere. Each one has its own special qualities that make each sestieri individual:

San Marco- this is where you find Piazza San Marco. It is home to ‘La Basilica’, the famous church, known as the centre of Venice. This Piazza is constantly filled with musicians and orchestral music, the most stunning piazza in Venice by far. Buzzing with restaurants, the famous Florian and Aurora cafes, although very expensive, are amazingly beautiful! In this sestiere, you will also find La Fenice. This is the famous opera house of Venice, along with all the designer shops, for example Prada, Chanel, Bottega Veneta, all a little too expensive for lowly students! On the other side of the area, you will come across the Accademia Bridge, the bridge that crosses over to Dorsoduro. 

Tip; Bacaro wine bar– one of our favourite bars with a lovely atmosphere, friendly staff and free nibbles with drinks. It is also open till late, which is an added bonus.

San Polo- this district is one of the most interesting areas of the city. It is bursting with churches and hidden gems to see. This hosts the main route that connects Piazzale Roma to the Rialto Bridge. It is also where you will come across the convent church of the Minor San Francesco, known more commonly to us as the “Frari”. This church was built between 1340 and 1443 and is a good example of Venetian Gothic architecture. Inside the Frari Church it is possible to retrace the development of the history of Venice. Near the Rialto area, is Campo San Polo, which is one of the bigger squares of the city and a place full of life and young people. The Rialto area itself is full of typical shops and Italian style markets. The fish market here is very famous and offers a huge selection of fresh food which is also cheap for students! 

Tip; Birraria– scrumptious lazy lunching, especially when the sun is out. It offers really tasty food.

Cannaregio- this is the largest Sestiere of all. This is home of the ‘Ghetto’ which is the Jewish quarter and first recorded Ghetto in the world. There are many local Venetian shops, bars and restaurants when you walk down every street. It has a real Venetian feel to it, and feels how Venice would be without the tourists. The main walkway, Strada Nova, is the largest and longest in Venice and stretches from one end of cannaregio to the train station, Santa Lucia Ferrovia. A very exciting area to live, and very lively from first thing in the morning until last thing at night. 

Tip; "As you like it" Vintage boutique, offers a wide range of different clothing to the traditional Italian style. Well worth the trip!!

Castello- again, home to a stunning church, San Giovanni e Paolo, which is at the north of the island. This is also where the Ospedale is found; where else would you find a hospital with the most beautiful façade? You would think it was a church, and that’s one of the beauties of Venice. The other side of this Sestiere is where you find Giardini. Venice is a much built up island and it is rare to find a place that feels as spacious as the open green space of this area. It is amazing in the summer and feels like a breath of fresh air. The famous large Biennale exhibition is held here every other year; when worldly artists come to show their recent work. Campo Santa Maria Formosa, is a large buzzing Campo in the centre of Castello, with a brilliant gym and large library. Via Garibaldi is one of the many filled-in canals, which now acts as a main walkway, host to many restaurants, little shops and brilliant fruit stalls all with friendly sellers. Neighbouring Via Garibaldi is Arsenale, the famous naval area of Venice which used to house one of the largest naval fleets in Europe and is still home to a naval academy. You can often see navy officers wondering the Calles of Venice, quite the site! This is another good area to live in and many Venetian locals are residents here. 

Tip; Acuigheta– best pizzeria in Venice! (in our opinion). Produces cheap, thin base pizzas, with a variety of topping choices. Also, amazing cichetti most notably the Aranchino (hot balls of rice, vegetables and meat).

Dorsoduro- This is known as the student area and is the home of the Ca’ Foscari University and its buildings, libraries and student accommodation. It is also host to the famous Salute Church, the large church on the Venetian horizon which can be seen from almost everywhere. On the 21st November, there is the Madonna della Salute, a festival for the Virgin Mary. There is a big procession over the Grand Canal with everyone carrying candles – well worth going to! On one hand in Dorsoduro, we have the very contemporary Peggy Guggenheim, a famous art gallery which started in 1928 as a spin off from the New York Guggenheim gallery. It contains many important and famous works of art, namely Jackson Pollack and Vassily Kandinsky. On the other hand however, we have the antique art pieces in the Galleria dell’ Accedemia. There is a specialised art collection here, with a lot of work gathered from churches and other important buildings in Italy, especially in Venice. The Campo Santa Margerita is a campo in the heart of Dorsuduro, which is usually full of students and is lined with many student priced bars, restaurants and pizza parlours. 

Tip; Basking in the sun on Zattere during the summer months, with all the Italian students. Pop into “Nico” for a gelato!

Santa Croce- the oldest Sestiere in Venice. Again hosting more university buildings, many resident Venetians live here hence not often visited by tourists. This district extends from Piazzale Roma to the Railway Station and faces onto the grand canal. It is a quiet part of the city with many hidden squares. One of the main attractions of this area is Palazzo Cà Pesaro, a gorgeous building which faces onto the Grand Canal. This is where you come across the Venice Museum of Modern Art, which is one of the most important in Italy. You can find many works by internationally famous sculptors and artists. There are a few decent restaurants and bars in some parts of this district, making it a good destination for night life. 

Tip; Baffo’s bar, in Campo Sant Agostin, is currently a popular meeting point for young people.

Guidecca- this is a small, mainly residential island, opposite the sestiere of Dorsoduro. It is not attached to the main island of Venice. It is home to the Hotel Cipriani, which is nice to visit for a coffee, but unless you happen to be super wealthy, a coffee is all you can buy without breaking the bank. Also, all music students of Ca’ Foscari university should know that the Music department is on Guidecca and is easily reached by various Vaporetti.

Santa Croce- many large hotels occupy this long thin spit of an island. It has a beautiful beach resort and is so easy to get to. It is great to be able to enjoy both the history and glory of main Venice and then be able to go over to the Lido for fun on the sand. Also, a good way to see the Lido is to rent old school bicycles for the day and ride around, stop for lunch and carry on riding!