San Polo and the Rialto, Venice
Running to the east of the Rio di San Polo as far as the Rialto, San Polo is the smallest sestiere, and is the oldest and most mediaeval part of Venice, a maze of tiny streets all eventually leading to some part of the Grand Canal.
The Liveliest Quarter of Venice since the 11th Century
San Polo has been the liveliest quarter of Venice since the 11th century when it became the centre for the city’s markets, after they were moved here from Campo San Bartolomeo. The larger streets and squares are named after the merchandise that is still sold there (Naranzeria – oranges; Casaria – cheese; Speziali – spices; Erberia – vegetables).
This where you’lll find the famous Venice fish market, with stall after stall of fresh fish and shellfish and other creatures from the Adriatic Sea and the lagoon, and a large open vegetable market. In the surrounding area there are butchers, bakeries, wine shops, florists, a record store, a linen shop: as they say, tourists shop in San Marco, residents shop in San Polo.
Osterie and Bacari – the places to eat and drink!
On the Rialto and everywhere else in San Polo the enjoyment of food is honoured, even in its most simple and popular forms. Look for ‘osterie and bacari‘, taverns that also provide ready-made dishes including saòr, bigoi, tripe, fegato alla veneziana(liver), fish fries, as well as the typical ‘cicheto’ (a morsel on a stick). There are bars everywhere and the wine is quaffed at a much earlier hour than in other parts of the city. Some of the best, and most famous, Venetian restaurants are in San Polo.
The Rialto – Right in the Heart of Venice
San Polo can certainly get crowded in the high season, especially on the main thoroughfare that runs from the Rialto bridge to Accademia. Thanks to its strategic position right in the heart of Venice, it’s considered one of the best starting points for visiting museums and major monuments. The beautiful Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal with its Rialto Markets and its little shops is characteristic of the area. In this district it was customary to ‘live over the shop’, i.e. dwellings and workplaces were often combined.
Modern Art at “Cà Pesaro”, but also Veronese, Tiepolo and Tintoretto
Don’t miss the Modern Art Museum “Cà Pesaro”, with masterpieces by Klimt, Chagall, and Kandinsky. In the southern part of San Polo make sure to see the imposing Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Friari and the Renaissance architecture of the adjoining Scuola Grande di San Rocco, in which are works by Tintoretto. In Campo San Polo, the largest square of Venice after Piazza San Marco, you can also visit the Church of San Polo, with art works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Tintoretto.
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