Geography of the area
San Polo is situated within the upper curve of the Grand Canal; a fairly small district with lots of secretive lanes, some interesting sights including the Rialto Bridge, and shopping ranging from glove shops to the famous Rialto fruit and vegetable markets. It’s atmospheric and contains some useful addresses for shopping and for eating.
Around San Polo
San Polo contains some busy tourist spots but much of the district consists of quieter lanes and pleasant campi, Venetian squares. Campo San Polo, the area’s hub, is the largest open space in Venice after Piazza San Marco; a wide, irregular, dusty sort of square where local children and pet dogs run and play while adults chat. In the summer there’s an open-air cinema here.
The liveliest part of San Polo is the section including the Rialto Bridge, which is always thronged with tourists. Here there are souvenir stalls and, by the Grand Canal, the famous Rialto markets where you can admire the food stalls or stock up for a summer picnic. There is also some rare open space alongside the Grand Canal, where you can sit at an outdoors table among a mixture of tourists, students, and locals, and enjoy a scenic aperitivo.
A busy route leads from the Rialto to Campo San Polo and onwards to the Frari church; a sequence of narrow lanes which have some interesting shops on either side, though you’ll have to squeeze yourself out the way of pedestrian traffic if you want to gaze in the windows. We like the shops here; although the thoroughfare is busy, there is not the same tourist-trap atmosphere that you find on the other side of the Grand Canal towards St. Mark’s. Along the way are some decent small shops selling jewellery, art, stationery, gloves and various souvenirs and oddments, from Beatles memorabilia to Venetian cotton bags made by convicts.
San Polo highlights and tourist attractions
Rialto Bridge – Venice’s famous shop-lined bridge over the Grand Canal.
Rialto markets – historic, colourful and still a good place to buy fruit, veg and fish.
San Polo – the principal church of the sestiere.
Casa di Goldoni – the home of the playwright Goldoni.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari – large church packed with art.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco – filled with masterpieces by Tintoretto.
Hotels in this district of Venice tend to be clustered around the Rialto; a convenient location for that first sight-seeing trip.
> Hotels, B&Bs and apartments in San Polo
Eating and drinking
One of the best places to eat pizza in Venice is the informal Birraria La Corte in Campo San Polo, a busy pizzeria with tables outside on the large square in summer. There is a row of nice bars which also serve food facing over the Grand Canal between the Rialto Bridge and the markets; a great place to sit and sip a spritz or Prosecco (or cup of tea) while gazing at gondolas gliding by; the prices aren’t too steep either. We’ve recommended several San Polo restaurants in our good restaurants list.