Venice – a walk around San Polo

As I mentioned before, San Polo is the oldest sestiere (quarter) of the city (settled before the 9th century) so there are a few historical sights to see. My map here.

First of all is the Rialto Bridge itself which has become a major attraction in its own right.

Built in 1588 to improve access to the market it has become one of the focal points of the city. You get this classic view of the Grand Canal from the central portico at the apex of the two ramps.

After you descend the ramp on the Rialto side, you come fairly quickly to San Giacomo di Rialto, said to be the oldest church in Venice. Its origins are lost in the mists of time but it’s thought it was originally built in the 11th century and the medieval clock was added in the 15th century.

The Mercato di Rialto is nearby, and as it’s a star attraction itself, I’ve given it its own post. In the evenings the area is one of the busiest bar districts.

For me one of the main pleasures of San Polo is just wandering around the atmospheric streets…

…catching occasional glimpses of the canals…

…and the bridges that crisscross them.

One bridge with a story to tell is the Ponte delle Tette aka ‘the Bridge of the Tits’. In the 15th century prostitution was a major industry in Venice (it’s thought over 10,000 women were engaged in it) so the authorities tried to restrict it to the neighbourhood around the bridge. The prostitutes were encouraged to display their breasts from the windows of the buildings nearby. The practice was seen as a way of preventing transvestite prostitutes from getting work as homosexuality was considered a worse social problem at the time.

The main square in the neighbourhood is Campo San Polo. There are several bars with terraces here, as well as public benches if you want to take a rest.

Another important church in San Polo is the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. One of the three largest churches in the city, it houses masterpieces by Titian and other Renaissance artists. You can see pictures of its interior in my coming post on churches.

Another good place to stop is Caffe Dei Frari on Fondamenta Frari, which has a good view of the church.

In the evening the cafe becomes a cocktail bar called Il Mercante It’s quite an atmospheric spot.

Just around the corner is Scuola Grande di San Rocco, where you can see an amazing ceiling by Tintoretto, but sadly I didn’t get around to it.

After Scuola Grande di San Rocco, I continued walking south into the next sestiere, Dorsoduro…

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