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The San Polo district, Venice’s smallest sestiere, borders with the Canale Grande and the sestiere of Dorsoduro and Santa Croce. It is well-known for its famous fruit and vegetable markets in the mornings and lively bar scene in the evenings. Read below to find out how to spend an outstanding day in this small Italian neighbourhood.
The Rialto Bridge, which was first opened in 1591, is probably the most famous and most visited bridge in the whole of Venice. Since the 12th century, a number of wooden bridges had occupied the same spot we find the Rialto Bridge in today. Today’s bridge is made of Istrian stone, a type of white marble that is especially typical of Venetian artworks at the time. The Rialto Bridge is 22 meters wide and 48 meters long and has been the only way to cross the Canale Grande for nearly 300 years, from the early 16th to the early 19th century. This iconic landmark, which is probably also the most photographed bridge of Venice, cannot be missed on a trip to the city.
Campo San Polo is the second biggest square in Venice after St. Marks Square. The square has a long-standing history with a whole range of different uses over the years. First, it was used for the cultivation of fruit and vegetables, then it turned into a famous market place in the early 7th century and established itself amongst Venice’s locals. Later, in the 16th century, the place was used as a playing arena for various games and tournaments. Today the square is primarily visited by young Venetian families with their children.
The Rialto area is particularly well-known amongst locals for its famous market, open every day, from the San Polo area to the famous Rialto Bridge. The market is frequented mostly by Venetian locals with a continuous passage of boats and carriages full of fruits, vegetables and fish specialties from the Adriatic sea. The area is most alive during the day, when locals do their weekly shopping and enjoy a glass of wine and delicious snacks in the traditional trattoria and osteria in the area.
Vaporetti, which refer to water buses in Venice, are used as one of the main means of transport in and around the city. These water buses are regularly used by locals to get around the city, as the vaporetti are the easiest, most efficient and cost-effective mode of transport. Travelling through the channels is also a lot quicker than walking through the streets and the various stops in the city are very well located. Vaporetti are equally popular with tourists, who use them to both get to hotels and restaurants and to explore the city via the many tours on offer.
The Camerlenghi Palace is a magnificent building on the riverside of the Canale Grande, on the inner side of the Volta del Canal, in the immediate vicinity of the famous Rialto Bridge. There are hundreds of windows of the Canale Grande side along with a façade of marble. In former times, the camerlenghi were public officers who were responsible for managing the financial responsibilities of the state. Today, the Camerlenghi Palace still hosts the financial magistrate of the city of Venice.
Just off the Rialto Market, the Rialto daytime bar, All’Arco, is a truly authentic place to enjoy a glass of wine or spritz during the day. Aside from a tiny two-person table on the street in front of the bar, All’Arco offers standing space only. White and red wine are the drinks of choice with an excellent selection of Italian wines, mostly front small vineyards and individual producers in the north-east of the country. All’Arco is a great place to experience local culture and mingle with Venetians.
The Canale Grande, travelling from St. Mark’s Basin on one end to a lagoon near the Santa Lucia railway station on the other, has been Venice’s most significant waterway for centuries. The 3,800-meter-long canal used to be the center of Venice’s trade and many wealthy Venetian families settled along the canal and built magnificent houses in Venetian-Byzantine style, most of which can still be admired today. Today, the Canale Grande is mostly used by different means of transport, such as the traditional gondolas and vaporetti. The best pictures can be taken from one of the four bridges that cross the canal, such as the Ponte Degli Scalzi.
The San Polo district is full of charming little shops that still promote Venetian handicraft. Alberto Sarria and his shop of authentic handmade masks, however, stands out amongst other shops in the area. Since 1980, owner Alberto Sarria has been producing traditional Venetian masks and experimenting with different techniques in order to achieve a personal, distinct style. Even though there are a wide range of masks and other traditional decorations available in the shop, the masks for the Venetian carnival are the most famous.
Ruga Rialto 777, San Polo, Venice, Italy, +39 041 520 7278
The Scuola Grande di San Rocco, in the heart of the San Polo district, was originally a confraternity that was founded in 1478. The project to design the school was given to the famous Venetian architect, Bartolomeo, whose building was marked by two halls – a characteristic of the majority of Venetian schools. The whole interior of the school is decorated by outstanding artworks of Venetian artist Jacopo Robusti, better known as Tintoretto, and his students. Today, the school is open for visitors every day of the year, except New Year’s Eve, Christmas and Easter.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm