Sightseeing Tours of Secret Venice

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San Polo – Venice

Venice - San Polo - Palaces
Venice - San PoloVenice - San Polo - Campo San PoloVenice - San Polo - Campiello del Remer

Located along the Gran Canal San Polo is the smallest of the Venice’s sestrieri. San Polo is also one of the oldest districts and it is named after the Church of San Polo, a beautiful gothic church dedicated to the Apostle Paul. Since the beginning of the 11th century its ground hosts the Venice’s market where today it is still possible to buy local fresh products or simply enjoy the unique atmosphere. The Rialto Bridge is the most famous attraction of the area: the views photographed from the bridge are famous all around the world.

Some of the most renowned spots of Venice are located in the San Polo area, however much of the district is quite and tourists that are looking for some peace can wondering around its lovely campi (squares) or simply relax sipping an aperitivo with the locals in one of the many little bar of the area.

Campo San Polo is the second biggest open space in the city after St. Mark’s square; during the summer’s months an open-air cinema is hosted in this beautiful piazza.

Things to see

The western part of San Polo is mostly famous for its churches. The legend says that the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto is the oldest one in Venice, while the impressive Chiesa dei Frari is among the most famous churches of the lagoon.

Visitors that are looking for some shopping, but wanted to avoid tourist traps, will appreciate the narrow lanes of San Polo where many little and interesting stores are located.

Rialto – Venice

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The Rialto is part of the San Polo Sestriere famous for its market and the Rialto Bridge. The area was the first inhabited one of what it will became the city of Venice. The banks of the canals were higher than in other parts of the lagoon so it was easier to settle here. At the beginning of the 9th century after Pepin the Short tried to invade the lagoon the government was moved from Malamocco in Rialto; the area was considered a safer place. When the power was transferred to the Doge’s Palace Rialto became the commercial center of Venice. In 1097 the market was moved here and the area grew in importance. Many warehouses were built, shops and banks too. The market was very popular for the spice trade, until the Spanish and Portuguese opened the route to the Americas it contributed to the wealth and growth of the Serenissima. Its decline coincided with the one of the city.

At the beginning of the 16th century a devastating fire destroyed almost all the edifices of the Rialto zone; among the important buildings only the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto survived.

Today this is one of the most famous area of Venice. Every year thousands of tourists explore its narrow streets, enjoyed the many shops and of course photograph the unique Rialto Bridge; the views from this bridge are among the most photographed in the entire worlds.

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However in Rialto is still possible to have a taste of the real Venetian life. Trying one of its characteristic Osterie is in fact a unique experience. These place have maintained their original atmosphere; sitting in one of their little tables visitors stay next to real Venetians. Order a glass of local wine and some cicchetti (small snacks) and embrace the life of this charming city!

Chiesa dei Frari – Venice

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The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, known simply as Chiesa dei Frari, is one of the most important churches of Venice. It is located in the central San Polo district and it is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary.

When the Franciscan friars arrived in Venice at the beginning of the 13th century they occupied an abandoned Benedictine Abbey. After a decade Doge Jacopo Tiepolo donated them the land and they started to build a church. Half century later the church was completely remodeled and almost doubled in size. The construction was extremely slow and it took more than a century to be completed. The church’s campanile is the second tallest in Venice after the St. Mark’s one.

The exterior of the Chiesa dei Friari is made of bricks, its simplicity wants to remind to the visitors the austerity of the Franciscan’s Order. The church is one of the most beautiful example of Italian Gothic Style.

Things to see

The interior of the church offers to the visitors many stunning pieces of art. A perfect example is the Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro a splendid painting by the Renaissance genius Titian. The master paint also the Assumption of Mary for the main altar. However this painting was initially criticized because too innovative; only later its beauty was finally understood and its pioneering style made Titian famous. The artist was buried in the church.

In the church it is also possible to admire the stunning Madonna with Child and Saints by Giovanni Bellini and the first Donatello’s Venetian work John the Baptist.

Rialto Bridge

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The Rialto district was one of the first areas of Venice where people settled. It developed quickly and became an important economic center in the city. Banks, shops and vendor stalls congregated here while merchants from all over the world came to trade charcoal, wines, seeds, jewels and many other things. This richness of activity convinced the government of the Republic of Venice to connect the business district to the political district, leading to the inception of the Rialto Bridge.

The very first Rialto Bridge was made of boats moored to each other. This system lasted until the 13th century as it was not very convenient; if the boats needed to move, it was a tedious process to remove the planks that connected one boat to the other. An actual wooden bridge was built but the wood quickly decomposed and the bridge collapsed. Many other wooden bridges were built over time with the same result –or worse, they were destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, at that time the construction of wooden bridges was easier and cheaper than the alternative.

Things to see

It was not until the 16th century that Venetians finally decided to build the bridge out of stone. Many famous architects such as Palladio, Sansovino and Michelangelo offered their designs for a new bridge with several arches. In the end it was the proposal of Antonio Da Ponte, with only one arch, that was chosen in 1588.

For a long time, the Rialto Bridge was the only bridge on the Grand Canal, however now there are four. The Ponte dell’Accademia and the Ponte Degli Scalzi were both built during the 19th century while the last bridge, the Constitution Bridge, is very recent –it was inaugurated in just 2008!

Very often criticized in its day, the Rialto Bridge has survived floods and thousand of tourists and Venetians alike crossing it every day. Today, the Rialto Bridge is one of the emblems of the city; it can be seen on nearly all advertisement for Venice and is often used to illustrate anything related to the city of Venice.


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Venice, sometimes referred to as the “Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia”, has always been a fascinating city. In fact, it is considered one of the most fabulous cities in the world, looking like no other with its canals and colored palaces built on the water. Its carnival in February is, of course, something not to be missed: each year the city maintains this traditional carnival that originates from the Middle Ages and during which people compete with the most beautiful of costumes and masks.

The original population came to Venice in the early 5th century in order to escape from the invading barbarians. Many refugees escaped the mainland and increased the preexisting population of fishermen, turning Venice into a thriving trade city. During the decline of the Roman Empire, Venice became the property of Byzantium. The first person to uphold the traditional role of Doge was Paolo Lucio Anafesto, nominated in 697, but he was considered more of a Byzantine official. It was not until 727 that a real Doge, Orso Ipato, was elected. The decline of Venice started during the Renaissance period when the rival city of Genoa became more powerful thanks to the discovery of the North America. In 1797, the territories of Venice were shared between Austria and France then in 1866, Venice joined the Italian Unification, leading it to where it is now.

Things to see

Venice is composed of six different districts: Cannaregio, San Marco, Castello, Santa Croce, Dorsoduro and San Polo. The city is built on more than 100 hundred islets made of mud, with more than 400 bridges to allow people a cross the different canals that run through the city. The three most famous Venetian bridges are: the Accademia Bridge, the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs.

Nowadays, Venice attracts thousands of tourists each year and organizes many events and festivals such as the International Architecture Exhibition between June and September, the Carnival of Venice in February, or the International Venice Film Festival in September. Unfortunately, the fate of this legendary city is in great question: many plans have been made to save it from the rising waters and pollution but its future is still uncertain.