Although a relatively small city, Venice, Italy is home to a number of vibrant neighborhoods, each of them with its own character and history. Administratively the historical center of Venice is split into six areas called “sestiere” (which means a “sixth” in Venetian dialect), a tradition that has held up since the 12th century. The present sestieri map dates back to 1711. Besides the six sestieri, Venice actually includes Giudecca, the Lido, Murano, Burano, and a few other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. While staying in Venice’s historic center is expensive, we highly recommend it for anyone who wants to get an authentic experience in Venice and values a chance to get to know the city and its people beyond the museums, the tacky souvenire vendors, and the crowds.
It is indeed a hard choice of accommodation between the different areas of Venice, each home to its own set of traditions and cultural features. It’s possible, however, to make an educated decision based on various factors that we will help you uncover in this article.
To start off, it is worth noting that while some neighborhoods are more central than others, all have their attractions and advantages, and the entire city can be traversed from East to West in about an hour and a half on foot. The number of residents in Venice’s historical center keeps declining every year and is currently below 60,000. Today for better or worse the city is largely home to businesses and is a hub of tourism activity thanks in part to the huge cruiseships that dock in its port. There are lots of hotels, hostels, B&B’s and rental apartments in all areas of Venice, and those visiting Venice will be pleased to know that the city is largely welcoming and has no “bad” or dangerous areas.
Santa Croce: The Gateway To Venice
Santa Croce takes its name from the church that once stood here but was unfortunately demolished by Napoleon. With the bus terminal at Piazzale Roma, the multi-story parking garages, the so called “people mover” and the ship dock at Stazione Marittima, Santa Croce has established itself as a commuting area of the city and the transportation hub for tourists. This neighborhood of Venice has the most connections to mainland Italy, and is therefore buzzing with activity all day long.
The only bridge that connects Venice to the mainland, Ponte della Libertà, was built on Mussolini’s order in 1933. It connects Santa Croce area of Venice with Mestre for car traffic, which, unlike in the rest of Venice, is partially allowed in this neighborhood, albeit only in a very small part of it – and with strict limitations. However, for those interested in exploring other neighboring towns in addition to Venice by car, while being a a 40-minute walk away from Piazza San Marco, Santa Croce is an excellent choice. Despite its transport links, Santa Croce maintains its identity as authentic Venetian neighborhood with its fair share of bars and restaurants, art galleries, and attractions such as Ca’ Pesaro, a former palazzo hosting International Gallery of Modern Art, and Fondaco dei Turchi, a magnificent palazzo dating from 1225 that was subsequently owned by Dukes of Ferrara before being given to Ottoman merchants for use as a community center and a warehouse, which currently houses the Venetian museum of Natural History.