It was an early morning when my footsteps echoed against the tall buildings of one of the hundreds of narrow alleys in the inner bowels of Venice, La Serenissima, the most serene city. As the city was waking up, I imagined how little had changed here in some respects. Centuries ago, I would probably have met the same silence, my footsteps would have resounded in the same way. I thoroughly enjoyed walking the empty alleys and squares, hardly seeing others. Venice has always been a popular destination for people throughout the ages, for its uniqueness; it now gets so many visitors year-round that finding authentic parts of Venice is always more difficult.
The best places to look for the real Venice, is in the outer sestrieri or wards. Castello is the biggest of them all. Named after the castle that stood on small San Pietro island on the east of Castello, it is probably the most varied area of Venice. Here, you can find quiet canals, monuments, churches, and museums, but also parks, a sports arena, the Arsenale, location of the famous art festival Biennale is held, and great views over both the outlying islands and the skyline of San Marco and surroundings from the Riva degli Schiavoni.
It never fails to surprise me how concentrated tourism is, even in the most touristy places. When walking along the Riva degli Schiavoni from the San Marco square, you have to zigzag around groups of tourists from all over the world. Pretty soon, though, you are walking alone, and once you reach the Parco delle Rimembranze on Sant' Elena island, you are virtually alone. From here, there are still vast areas of Castello to explore: the backside canals to the north, streets where you barely see a single soul, unexpected little squares, small parks, a little harbour with boats bobbing on the green water of Venice, a church where people just are coming out after prayer. Here, you get a taste of daily Venetian life away from the spectacular, iconic, and cliche places of the city. You can see a mother carrying her buggy over a bridge, laundry hanging over a canal, an old woman shuffling down the street with a shopping bag, two women chatting in the street, a man repairing his boat.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Castello (Italy). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Castello. Read more about this site.