The less-visited Castello district that accounts for the city’s far eastern section is perfect for a fascinating walking tour via quiet squares and neighborhood cafés. A stroll along waterside Riva degli Schiavoni, named after Slav sailors from the Dalmatian Coast, leads past a procession of palaces and La Pietà, the church where Antonio Vivaldi used to give musical instruction.
Then it’s on past the stuccoed ochre Ca’ di Dio, or House of God. Now a convalescent home, it once hosted pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. Over a bridge is the huge Arsenale shipyard, where galleys and warships were assembled during the centuries of the Venetian Republic. Encircled by a high crenellated brick wall, the shipyard is open during art shows such as the Biennale extravaganzas.
Close to Castello’s southern edge is broad Via Garibaldi, lined with eateries such as cheerful Trattoria Giorgione. Next to a lively market, the road forks, and you turn down a shady, tree-lined avenue constructed under the late 18th-century French dominion. Here a statue of Garibaldi towers over a pond crawling with terrapins, which have been released here by locals.
At the rear of Castello, accessible by a long wooden bridge, is the sleepy backwater of San Pietro, site of settlements dating back to the 7th century. Its handsome church of Palladian design, the Chiesa di San Pietro di Castello, was actually the cathedral of Venice up until 1807, when Basilica di San Marco took over.
During the Venetian Republic years, the ecclesiastical authorities were all but confined here, well away from the city’s seat of power at San Marco, to keep Church and State separate. Nearby, the public gardens of Sant’Elena and its playground are a good spot to relax with a book or enjoy a picnic.
Biennale Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, San Vidal, San Marco 2893;
Chiesa di San Pietro di Castello Campo San Pietro;