TRAVEL

The 6 Sestieri: An Insider’s Guide to Venice’s Distinct Neighborhoods

Explore Dorsoduro's church of Santa Maria Della Salute. (Photo: Getty Images)

Thanks to its labyrinthine streets and impossible canals, Venice is one of the world’s easiest cities in which to get lost. But with a bit of research, it is also the easiest town to understand. From a bird’s-eye view, Venice is made up of two central islands that look like intertwined hands.

Neighborhoods, called sestieri, subdivide the islands into six characteristic areas, which range from busy marketplaces to quiet communities. Here’s a look at each of these distinct sestieri.

Dorsoduro

Traverse the wooden Accademia Bridge to arrive in Dorsoduro, known for its charming artsy vibe thanks to a mix of families and university students. Its beautiful palazzi and campi (squares) are picture-perfect, and the area is peppered with bars, galleries and restaurants.

The southern neighborhood spans from Punta della Dogana, the old customs building at the very eastern tip of the island, to the Port Authority in the most southwestern edge and includes Giudecca, the long residential island immediately to its south.

Sites not to miss: Gallerie dell’AccademiaPeggy Guggenheim CollectionIl Redentore, Campo Santa Margherita, Chiesa Le ZitellePunta della DoganaSanta Maria della Salute.

Castello

Campo Santa Maria Formosa. (Photo: Getty Images)


Named for a former fortified palazzo, Castello is the largest of the six sestieri and the greenest. Its western border lines up with the edges of San Marco and Cannaregio, so expect a bustle of tourists and souvenir shops.

Head east down the calle and along canals; the farther afield you go, you’ll find Castello becomes a charming microcosm where the tourist flow trickles down to a near standstill.

Eventually, the eastern half of Castello becomes a large public garden and shipyard — the Biennale Giardini and Arsenale — home of the annual La Biennale festival. The cemetery island San Michele is also part of Castello.

Sites not to miss: Basilica of Santi Giovanni e PaoloChurch of San Zaccaria, Campo Santa Maria Formosa, Complesso dell’Ospedaletto

San Marco

St. Mark’s Square. (Photo: Getty Images)

Named for the city’s patron saint, San Marco is the most visited of all Venetian sestieri. The sestiere’s heart is Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), the number-one destination for all visitors to Venice. Here you’ll find tourists taking photos of the inimitable Basilica San Marco or enjoying a spritz at the square’s historic cafés.

The San Marco neighborhood spans from the Rialto Bridge to St. Mark’s Square, so once you’ve visited the piazza, head deeper into the neighborhood. Wander past small-scale piazzas and peek into lavish museums, and keep an eye out for waterfront photo ops across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore island, also part of sestiere San Marco.

Sites not to miss: Basilica di San MarcoDoge’s PalaceTeatro La Fenice, Campo Santo Stefano, Palazzo GrassiScala Contarini del BovoloMuseo CorrerCaffe Florian

San Polo

To many, this tiny sestiere is the heart of Venetian life. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Venice, San Polo is a dynamic neighborhood filled with families, shops and students who all seem to converge on Campo San Polo, the second-largest square in Venice.

San Polo is also a thoroughfare for tourists walking toward San Marco after visiting the Rialto market, the historic and picturesque fish market.

Sites not to miss: San Giacomo di RialtoSanta Maria Gloriosa dei FrariGrande Scuola San Rocco, Campo San Polo.

Cannaregio

The Rialto Bridge. (Photo: Getty Images)

Cannaregio is the gateway to Venetian life. Starting from the steps of the Venezia Santa Lucia train station and extending eastward on the famed Strada Nuova to the Rialto Bridge, Cannaregio is a vivacious sestiere of boutiques, restaurants, squares and palaces.

The wide Strada Nuova is a busy shopping promenade, while its side alleys lead to niche communities like the Jewish Ghetto, which dates back to the city’s original 4th-century Jewish settlements. Fondamenta Nuova, the northern edge of Cannaregio, connects to the island of Burano via vaporetto (boat).

Sites not to miss: Ca’ d’OroMuseo EbraicoChurch of Santa Maria dei MiracoliChurch of Madonna dell’Orto and the Oratorio dei Crociferi

Santa Croce

This sestiere is said to have a dual personality. The southwestern area of Santa Croce is a transport center, with Piazzale Roma as a hub for buses and taxis. Its northeastern area is more typical of Venice, filled with canals and alleys lined with historic palaces. Though tiny, Santa Croce packs a cultural punch with lavish architecture ranging from Byzantine to contemporary.

Sites not to miss: Fontego dei TurchiSan Giacomo dall’OrioSan Zan DegolaPonte della Costituzione (Constitution bridge) and Palazzo Mocenigo


This article is part of a series which appears
Venice travel for Marriott Bonvoy Traveler.

Keeping up with Contemporary Rome

This article first appeared in Marriott Traveler, August 2017

You'll find street art on nearly every corner and every wall in Rome, especially in the Quadraro neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images) 

You'll find street art on nearly every corner and every wall in Rome, especially in the Quadraro neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images) 

The Eternal City’s 3,000-plus years of history are visible every time you walk its streets — turn any corner and it seems an ancient ruin rises before you. But lately it’s become apparent that Rome’s sidewalks are also dotted with more modern interests. 

Turn away for a spell from the city’s storied wonders and lean in to new museum and gallery initiatives — you may discover contemporary art as Rome’s newest wonder. 

The Museums

The MAXXI Museum is housed in Zaha Hadid’s concrete undulation in the Flaminio neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images)  

The MAXXI Museum is housed in Zaha Hadid’s concrete undulation in the Flaminio neighborhood. (Photo: Getty Images)  

When in Rome, it’s not all about the old. Though the city has an incredible and limitless lineup of museums devoted to Italy’s ancient, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art, the Eternal City keeps its eternal vibe with a dynamic modern and contemporary art scene.

La Galleria Nazionale, housed in a palace containing Italy’s main collection of post-unification Italian art, is dedicated to who’s who in Italian art, from neoclassicists, Macchiaioli and futurists to Arte Povera and contemporary artists.

In 2016 director Cristiana Collu revamped the century-old building and changed up the permanent collection to create a new interpretation in the nonlinear exhibition “Time Is Out of Joint.” Canova faces off with Twombly, while Clemente, Modigliani, Beecroft, Penone, Calder, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Pollock and Balla hang out.

For a full-on 21st-century focus, head to the MAXI Museum, Zaha Hadid’s concrete undulation in the Guido Reni district in the Flaminio neighborhood. MAXXI devotes its halls to work produced only in this century, with a permanent collection, temporary exhibitions and Italy’s largest modern architecture archive.

Museo MACRO is Rome’s only contemporary gallery and working studio space. (Photo: Getty Images) 

Museo MACRO is Rome’s only contemporary gallery and working studio space. (Photo: Getty Images) 

For a smaller step into contemporary, Museo MACRO is Rome’s only contemporary gallery and working studio space. Located in a former Peroni beer factory, MACRO hosts exhibitions as well as artists in situ. Also, keep an eye on the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, a temporary exhibition space that occasionally hosts contemporary art and photography shows.

 

The Galleries

La dolce vita refers to Rome’s heyday in the mid-1900s, when the city was a world’s stage of fashion, performance and art. Somehow that vitality took a slumber for a few decades, only to wake up, thanks, in part, to Gavin Brown.

The New York gallerist chose the “quiet” (i.e., southern) area of the Trastevere neighborhood for the Rome outpost of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (GBE), one of his six art spaces that include spots in New York and Los Angeles. Brown wowed the art world by choosing Sant’Andrea de Scaphis, a deconsecrated 8th-century church, for his Rome location.

Known for amazing exhibitions and even more amazing contemporary artists such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Urs Fischer, Alex Katz and Ed Atkins, the intimate space hosts site-specific installations as well as multi-work shows.

After GBE, keep on the trail of other emerging artists by visiting Frutta Gallery, Galerie Emanuel Layr and Monitor, and then catch up with contemporary art’s heavy-hitters like Giuseppe Penone, Cy Twombly, Rachel Whiteread, Kiki Smith and Richard Long at Gagosian Gallery and Lorcan O’Neill.

The Streets

Get outside. Everyone knows that Rome is all about life on its streets. Since the days of Julius Caesar, the city has been a hotbed of contemporary art; its walls were canvas to ingenious and indignant graffiti.

Over the centuries street art has painted itself into Roman daily life. From scratchings and tags to gorgeous calligraphy, rebellious stencils and larger-than-life murals, street art is on every corner and every wall, and there is no better area to experience all of it than Quadraro.

A periphery neighborhood outside of the city center, Quadraro has become a full-immersion outdoor museum since artist David Vecchiato (Diavù) launched Museo  del Urban Art MURO in 2010.

Some the best local and international artists including Diavù, Alice Pasquini, Camilla Falsini, Jim Avignon and Zio Ziegler have graced Quadraro’s walls with evocative paintings, transforming Quadraro into living and continually evolving exhibition of incredible street art.