Geography of the area
Dorsoduro is one of six sestieri or districts of central Venice, and is located on the south-western side of town. It includes the long southern shore of Venice which faces over the water to the Giudecca.
Dorsoduro is our favourite district of Venice. It houses some of the most picturesque canals and palazzi, and some of the town’s great art showcases, without the pretension and tourist traps that you might expect. It’s a studenty area, home to Venice’s Ca’ Foscari University, and has more late-night drinking bars than the rest of Venice. The general vibe is artistic, youthful and relaxed.
Dorsoduro’s eastern end stretches out to the panoramic Punto della Dogana. At this end of the sestiere you’ll find grand palazzi, mostly well-maintained, and the most attractive stretch of the Grand Canal, passing under the Accademia Bridge. Over to the west are the docks, preceded by stretches of humbler working-class housing. In between are many winding canals; the sort that just have to be immortalised in holiday photographs.
The district’s hub is Campo Santa Margherita, a long campo which fulfils just about every function of a public square: in the daytime you’ll find a market, children playing, antique stalls, locals walking dogs, a supermarket and cafes. In the evening this becomes Venice’s liveliest nightspot – although that is not saying a lot in this tame city. Still, the bars are open until midnight or later, and throngs of young people gather here to sip the occasional drink and to catch up with friends.
Dorsoduro highlights and tourist attractions
Accademia – Venice’s great art gallery
Peggy Guggenheim Collection – modern art in an unusual palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Santa Maria della Salute – this church dominates several of Venice’s most famous views.
Ca’ Rezzonico – a museum of the 18th Century in the Grand Canal palazzo where Robert Browning died.
San Sebastiano – a colourful church decorated almost entirely by Paolo Veronese, who is also buried here..
The Zattere – a long promenade along Venice’s southern shore, facing over the water to the Giudecca.
Church of the Carmini – large church with paintings by Lorenzo Lotto and Cima da Conegliano. The adjacent Scuola has a ceiling by Giambattista Tiepolo.
Eating and drinking
To pass a comfortable (and affordable) evening drinking, you can’t do much better than Campo Santa Margherita or the bars which you’ll find en route to the Accademia Bridge. Dorsoduro has the usual tourist restaurants, but also plenty of cheap eats for the student population.
The eastern end of the Zattere, along by Venice’s old salt storehouses, can be empty and atmospheric. The western section, where you’ll find bars and a kiosk selling drinks, is where locals go to bask in the spring sunshine. If there are Biennale shows hosted there, or by special appointment, try to visit the glamorous Palazzo Zenobio on Fondamenta del Soccorso, with its Baroque ballroom and grand garden pavilion. It’s now an Armenian institute, and offers cheap hostel-type accommodation. The squero – gondola boatyard – at San Trovaso is an interesting sight.
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