Districts & Attractions – Introduction. The name Venice is derived from the ancient Veneti people, who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice. The city has been also known as the “La Dominante”, “Serenissima”, “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals.”
Venice (Venetian: Venexia, Italian: Venezia, Latin: Venetia) is the capital of the region of Veneto. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice (Centro storico). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), with a total population of 2.6 million.
The city stretches across approximately 118 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The saltwater lagoon approximately 50 km in length, stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po (south) and the Piave (north) rivers. The city is mostly 1 m above sea-level; buildings are supported on millions of poles driven into the sediment, made predominantly from alder wood. Over 160 canals are spanned by more than 600 bridges.
Canals are flushed out by tides that sweep in from the Adriatic Sea, through three channels that pierce the ring of sand bars or “lidi” protecting the lagoon.
Venice has six districts or “sestieri” namely: San Marco (including San Giorgio Maggiori), San Polo, Santa Croce, Cannaregio, Dorsoduro (including the Guidecca and Isola Sacca Fisola) and Castello (including San Pietro di Castello and Sant’Elena).
Sestiere is derived from the word sesto (a sixth) and is thus used for towns divided into six districts. Each district was administered by a procurator and his staff. Nowadays, each district is a statistical and historical area, without any degree of autonomy. The six fingers or phalanges of the “ferro” on the bow of a gondola represent the six districts.
The districts consist of parishes, initially seventy in 1033, but reduced under Napoleon and now numbering thirty-eight. These parishes predate the sestieri, which were created in about 1170.
Each parish exhibited unique characteristics, but also belonged to an integrated network. The community chose its own patron saint, staged its own festivals, congregated around its own market centre, constructed its own bell towers and developed its own customs.
Other islands of the Venetian Lagoon do not form part of any of the sestieri, having historically enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy.
Each sestiere has its own house numbering system. Each house has a unique number in the district, from one to several thousand, generally numbered from one corner of the area to another, but not usually in a readily understandable manner.
Although there are six districts, it is possible to cross the city on foot in under an hour and indeed it is often quicker to walk than catch a water bus. The zones do not really have strict divisions, but they are characterised in different ways, often not particularly obvious to the casual visitor.
Please click on the links below, to see my other 6 related “Districts and Attractions” posts:-
Districts & Attractions: Introduction Districts & Attractions: Introduction Districts & Attractions: Introductions