If you read my blog, or have traveled along with me on one of our trips here in Italy, you know that when the crowds get heavy, I prefer to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Of course that’s quite a challenge when you’re visiting a city like Venice. Amidst the throngs of tourists around St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge and the Grand Canal, how can one possibly experience a bit of the real Venice?
Pretty easily, actually. (Click to watch my video short, What We Love About Venice)
Venice, like other historic cities in Italy, has real neighborhoods where people work and shop and eat and … well …. live. They live there. And after seeing the must-see sites, visiting a real neighborhood is a breath of fresh air.
One of my favorite of Venice’s six historic neighborhoods (sestieri) is Cannaregio, because you can get off the beaten path and actually feel Venice in Cannaregio. You can wander its calli (narrow avenues), sit along its rii (canals) and duck into its sotoportegi (passageways) to your heart’s content.
In this part of Venice – historically a working class and manufacturing neighborhood – you’ll see more private boats than hired gondole and more families than street vendors – a welcome change. Plus the many churches are spectacular (and respectfully quiet) and good restaurants are easy to find.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to see in Cannaregio too, like the Venetian Ghetto and the splendid Ca’ d’Oro, but most visitors merely pass through on their way to the Fondamente Nuove Vaporetto stop or to the train station.
For those of us who decide to stay, to get to know Cannaregio better, I suppose we selfishly prefer it this way. Because an early morning walk through this picturesque sestiere – having the calli and rii all to ourselves – is dreamlike … and truly unforgettable.
Pamela Haack creates and hosts boutique-style, small group tours that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps visitors experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way – off the beaten strada.
She is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites, as well as her popular blog, Off the Beaten Strada in Italy.
Pamela lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.