The majority of tourists pouring into Venice make plans to see the main sights: Saint Mark’s square, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge, the Grand Canal. Admittedly, these should not be missed. They are grand, glorious, incredible. However, there’s a whole other city to explore and fall in love with, if you just venture a few streets beyond.
On the east end of the city lies Castello, the largest of the six sestieres or districts of Venice. Most noted for the Arsenale, Venice’s great shipyard where war ships and merchant vessels were produced production-line fashion beginning in the early 1100’s, today Castello is where you can get a taste of everyday Venetian life, away from the crowds.
It’s a short ride on the #1 vaporetto to the Arsenale stop. Walk just a short way, two bridges to the east, and you’ll discover another world – Via Garibaldi. Via Garibaldi, the only street bearing the name Via in the city, is a wide, white marble lined street that used to be a canal in a former life. Filled in long ago, it serves as the hub of a very lively community. This is where you’ll rub elbows with the residents of Venice going about their daily lives, something you will not experience if you confine your stay in Venice to the major sights of San Marco and the Rialto.
Whether it’s locals out buying their groceries for whatever they will be cooking that night, or neighbors meeting up for a drink and a bit of socializing, or children playing together in the street, this is local Venetian living at its best. Via Garibaldi houses the local farmacia, the fruit and vegetable vendors, the fish mongers, household goods stores, a few clothing shops, a barber, the wine shop, cheese vendor and bakeries, among others. Everything you need for daily life. Wander, look, linger. Stop at one of the many outdoor cafes for a glass of wine and some people watching. Enjoy a stroll up and down Via Garibaldi. Amaze yourself as you realize the difference the short distance makes between St. Mark’s Square and this end of town.
At the far end of the street, where the canal begins again, you’ll discover the old vegetable boat, still doing business there on the canal as it has for ages. You don’t see something like this very often, in fact there are only two such boats left in Venice.
Do a little exploring by wandering off on a side street or two. You may just find yourself the only person there – with a bit of Venice all to yourself! Nothing could be more magical. Or you might just turn down a street to discover this:
Before you leave the area, take a few minutes to stroll down Viale Giusseppi Garibaldi, the wide tree lined promenade Napoleon had constructed in the early 1800’s, linking Via Garibaldi with the waterfront and the entrance to the public garden, Giardini.
Treat yourself to an hour, or a half day, discovering the “other Venice”. Via Garibaldi awaits you.
Karen Henderson and her husband Michael moved to Venice in 2008 to escape the rat race of their hectic American careers. Karen blogs about their transition to expat life and their daily adventures in Venice on her blog, The Venice Experience .
Concierge tip: If you are in Venice and want to experience a Thanksgiving Day in true Italian style check out this special Thanksgiving Menu available at the Luna Hotel Baglioni (early reservation recommended).