Known for its impressive stone bridge and great shopping, San Polo is a favorite spot along the Grand Canal for both tourists and locals. While it can become crowded in the late afternoon, earlier or later in the day it is the perfect place for authentic Italian shopping. Explore this gem of Venetian culture and buy some souvenirs.
Perhaps the biggest attraction in San Polo is the Rialto Bridge. This 1591 construction is the latest of several iterations that date back to the 12th century. All have played important roles in the Venetian economy. Cross the Rialto Bridge on foot using the exterior staircases and enjoy panoramic views of Venice along the Grand Canal. Glide beneath the bridge on an intimate gondola tour if you have the time.
Any first-time visitor to San Polo must see the area’s churches and museums. Start by visiting the Church of San Polo. Take time to appreciate the numerous artworks that fill the Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco, while not itself a church, houses Christian commemorative paintings by Tintoretto that rival any of those in the churches.
Wander through the markets and alleys common in this area. The fashion stores here range from as specific as wallet and watch and glove shops to full boutiques. Purchase produce from the vendors around the Rialto Bridge, fresh from the morning delivery. Stock up on vegetables, fish and spices and prepare an authentic Italian dinner.
San Polo is on the upper part of the Grand Canal, a short walk north from San Marco. Stay in one of the hotels near the Rialto Bridge, optimally located for accessing the sights at St. Mark’s and elsewhere. While you’re here, try a pizza at Birraria La Corte, which was once both a bull stable and a brewery. This restaurant has delicious Italian entrees and a notably wide range of famous pizzas. Together, they give you a wonderful reason to return to this sestieri multiple times, whether or not you stay here.