The 121 islands of central Venice are divided into six districts known as sestieri, and the houses within each sestiere are numbered in a sequence that makes sense solely to the functionaries of the post office – this explains how buildings facing each other across an alleyway can have numbers that are separated by hundreds.

Venice’s main thoroughfare, the Canal Grande, divides the city in half – three sestieri to the west and three to the east. On the east side of the Canal Grande is the sestiere of San Marco, the area where the majority of the essential sights are clustered, and accordingly the most expensive and most crowded district of the city. East of San Marco is Castello, and to the north is Cannaregio – both of which become more residential, and quieter, the further you get from the centre. On the other side of the Canal Grande, the largest of the sestieri is Dorsoduro, stretching from the fashionable quarter at the southern tip of the canal to the docks in the west. Santa Croce, named after a now-demolished church, roughly follows the curve of the Canal Grande from Piazzale Roma to a point just short of the Rialto, where it joins the smartest and commercially most active of the districts on this bank – San Polo.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Italy features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

13 striking pictures of Venice Carnival

13 striking pictures of Venice Carnival

With the 2018 carnival season about to kick off, Rough Guides author and photographer, Kiki Deere, revisits one of Europe's most colourful festivals: Venice…

25 Jan 2018 • Kiki Deere insert_drive_file Article
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Discovering Palermo: why you should give Sicily’s capital a chance

Discovering Palermo: why you should give Sicily’s capital a chance

A city of grit and forgotten grandeur, for too long Palermo has resigned itself to being a film set of crumbling palaces, sun-worn facades and pockmarked backst…

08 Dec 2017 • Olivia Rawes insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right