Accounting for the huge crescent between the northern bank of the Grand Canal and the lagoon, the bustling sestiere of Cannaregio reaches from the railway station to the city hospital. It was home to Marco Polo and artists Titian and Tintoretto, and boasts landmark churches such as Madonna dell’Orto along with the old Jewish Ghetto. Named after the canne (reeds) that once filled its marshes, it is crossed by Strada Nova, the city’s main thoroughfare, but also contains Venice’s narrowest alley, the 58-cm- (23-inch-) wide Calle Varisco. This vibrant area has its own market, craft workshops and rowing clubs, while relaxation comes at the string of shady parks and laid-back cafés and bars that line the maze of backstreet canals.
Calle Ca’ d’Oro, Cannaregio 3932 • 041 520 03 45 • Open 8:15am–2pm Mon, 8:15am–7:15pm Tue–Sat, 9am–7pm Sun • Adm • www.cadoro.org
Behind the resplendent palace’s (see Ca’ d’Oro) beautiful Gothic tracery is a column-filled courtyard paved with coloured tesserae. Inside is the Galleria Giorgio Franchetti, a collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics donated to the State by Baron Giorgio Franchetti in 1916, along with the building. One highlight is Andrea Mantegna’s painting St Sebastian (1560) pierced by arrows “like a hedgehog”, in the portico leading to a loggia overlooking the Grand Canal. An ornate 15th-century staircase leads to 16th-century Flemish tapestries on the second floor.
Museo Ebraico, Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, Cannaregio 2902/B • 041 715 359 • Open 10am–5:30pm Sun–Fri (to 7pm Jun–Sep) • Closed public and Jewish holidays • Adm
The word “ghetto” originated in Venice, derived from getto (casting) due to an old iron foundry here. As of 1492, many Jewish refugees reached Venice after expulsion from Spain and in 1516 they were obliged by law to move to this area. Subject to a curfew to prevent their fraternizing with local women, they slept behind locked gates, their island circled by an armed patrol boat. Waves of arrivals saw each language group build its own synagogue and raise the buildings to seven floors in height. Today around 30 Jews still live in the ghetto, while a further 470 reside in other parts of the city. The synagogues can be visited with a guide, and there’s the Museo Ebraico (museum of sacred objects).
The restructured Malibran Theatre, situated in this photogenic square, was erected in the 1790s on the site of a house, where the famous 13th-century explorer Marco Polo was born. Other early Gothic buildings remain, their timber overhangs set off by bright-red geraniums. Along with the adjoining bridge, the square was named in honour of the explorer whose stories about the Orient in Il Milione continue to inspire travellers.
Campo dei Miracoli, Cannaregio • 041 275 04 62 • Open 10:30am–4:30pm Mon–Sat • Adm • www.chorusvenezia.org
A “jewellery box” of marble slabs and exquisite bas-reliefs, this Renaissance church (see Santa Maria dei Miracoli) was named after a miracle-working icon from 1409, said to have resuscitated a drowned man and now enshrined in the main altar.
In this odd, funnel-shaped square your attention is drawn to three statues of Arabian-style “Moors” – but neither North African nor Muslim, they hailed from Morea in Greece. Rioba, Sandi and Afani Mastelli were medieval traders who made their home in the family palace around the corner. Next to the bridge over Rio della Sensa is a doorway marked No. 3399, once the home of renowned 16th-century artist Tintoretto.
Strada Nova, Cannaregio 2233/A
The “Casa degli Speziali”, the oldest pharmacy in Venice, carries on its business in modern premises alongside its restored 16th-century rooms. Displayed on original briarwood shelving adorned with Baroque statues in Arolla pinewood are rows of 17th-century porcelain jars used for storing medicinal ingredients; for safety reasons, poisons were kept in a rear room. Pharmacies in Venice were strictly regulated and numbered 518 in 1564, the year their guild was formed.
Parallel to the Strada Nova but worlds away from the tourist bustle, these adjoining quaysides have a real neighbourhood feel. There’s a good sprinkling of osterie (wine bars) alongside Mexican and Middle Eastern restaurants, a continuation of former trade links: the word “ormesini” derives from a rich fabric traded through Hormuz, now in Iran, and imitated in Florence and Venice. Ormesini leads into Misericordia and to the towering red-brick Scuola Grande building. Used as the city’s basketball team headquarters for many years, it occasionally opens for temporary exhibitions.
Campo S Geremia, Cannaregio • Closed to the public
Abandoned when its wealthy merchant owners fled to Vienna at the fall of the Republic, this 17th-century palace overlooking the Canal di Cannaregio acted as a silk factory, saw-mill and primary school, but was badly damaged in 1945 when a boat loaded with munitions blew up in front of it. Luckily, the wonderful ballroom frescoed by Tiepolo has been restored. The palace belongs to RAI, the state broadcasting service.
Campo S Alvise, Cannaregio • Open 10:30am–4pm Mon–Fri, 10:30am–4:30pm Sat & Sun • Adm • www.chorusvenezia.org
This church is said to have been commissioned by a Venetian noblewoman in 1388 to honour Saint Louis of Toulouse after the saint appeared to her in a dream. Major restoration took place in the 17th century, when the ceiling was painted with frescoes by Pietro Antonio Torri and Pietro Ricchi. Other notable works of art in the church include paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo – Ascent to Calvary, Crowning with Thorns and The Flagellation.
Opposite the cemetery island of San Michele, this lagoon-side pavement is an important jumping-off point for ferries to the northern islands and sports one of the city’s rare petrol stations. The ample quaysides were not constructed and paved until the mid-1500s; until then the waterfront reached back to Titian’s garden (No. 5113, Calle Larga dei Botteri), giving unobstructed views of the Alps on a clear day.
Banned by Republic law from practising manual trades, many Jews were skilled doctors or moneylenders. Most were refugees from other parts of Europe, and they are credited with introducing rice-based dishes to Venetian cuisine. As remembered by a memorial in the ghetto, few returned from the Nazi camps of World War II.
Begin the day with the Galleria Franchetti in the lovely Ca d’Oro, but leave plenty of time for the balconies that overlook the Grand Canal and the mosaics in the courtyard. Afterwards, follow Strada Nova in the direction of the railway station to the Bottega del Caffè (Calle del Pistor, Cannaregio 1903; 041 714 232; closed Wed) for the best coffee in Cannaregio. Only minutes away is the fascinating Jewish Ghetto, where you can take an informative guided tour of the many remaining synagogues in the area.
For a revitalizing break, lunch at Hostaria alla Fontana is recommended (Fondamenta di Cannaregio, Cannaregio 1102; 041 715 077; closed Apr–Oct: Tue; Nov–Mar: Sun).
Wander up the canal towards the unusual, three-arched Ponte dei Tre Archi. Return over the bridge and head for Fondamenta della Sacca, which affords good views of the Dolomites on a clear day. Many ways lead east from here, but try to take in the church of Madonna dell’Orto for the Tintoretto paintings, then Campo dei Mori to see the house where the artist once lived.
On Fondamenta Ormesini, pop into Al Timon, where energetic waiters will serve you a glass of north Italian wine (Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2754; 041 524 60 66; closed Wed).
Strada Nova, Cannaregio 4391/C
Close to Campo SS Apostoli, this gift shop is a stockist of fascinating holograms, Murano glass delights, masks and chunky jewellery.
Rio Terrà della Maddalena, Cannaregio 2367
One of the best shoe shops in Venice offers an irresistible selection of women’s footwear, clothes and accessories.
Rio Terrà San Leonardo • Mon–Sat
In the morning and late afternoon this area functions as a lively open-air produce market. In autumn the air is thick with the aroma of roasting chestnuts.
Salizzada S Geremia, Cannaregio 317
Come here for original handmade glass beads in brilliant hues and myriad shapes, window hangings and Christmas decorations.
Fondamenta dei Ormesini, Cannaregio 2590
This is the place to go to hire a Carnival outfit. It offers a wide range of period costumes and formal evening wear. It also organizes mask-making courses.
Fondamenta Ormesini, Cannaregio 2778
This studio and exhibition space of resident artists Nelson Kishi and Robin Frood sells original drawings, paintings, prints and posters.
Salizzada S Canciano, Canareggio 5577
Handmade Murano glass beads are turned into beautiful jewellery by the family that runs this shop. Demonstrations of the crafting process are held on the premises.
Strada Nova, Cannaregio 3928–3930
Italian spectacles are stylish and good value, and this well-reputed optometrist can make up prescription glasses the same day.
Calle del Teatro Malibran, Cannaregio 5886/A
This friendly, well-stocked store carries English-language volumes on Venice, as well as offering a book-exchange programme.
Calle del Fumo, Cannaregio 5306
The marvellous handmade stationery on offer at this shop is made by a modest artisan and is popular with international VIPs.
Calle Priuli, Cannaregio 3726 • 041 520 05 38 • €
This classy seafood restaurant with a lovely courtyard for summer dining is noted for its seasonal specialities.
Rio Terrà della Maddalena, Cannaregio 2063 • €
Try the creamy and delicious bacio (kiss) of hazelnut and chocolate at this ice cream shop.
Campo Widman, Cannaregio 5405 • 041 521 10 21 • €€€
Pasta dishes and delicate blends of seafood and seasonal vegetables are on offer here (see Osteria Boccadoro), as well as desserts and an extensive wine list.
Campiello Remer, Cannaregio 5701 • 041 522 87 89 • Closed Wed • €€€
This converted warehouse has upturned barrels as tables and offers a delicious buffet menu.
Campo S Fosca, Cannaregio 2393 • Closed Sun • €
Enjoy a drink and snack at this laid-back bar with live music. There is a good range of quality beers.
Fondamenta S Felice, Cannaregio 3628/A • 041 528 51 40 • Closed Mon & Tue, 2 weeks in Aug • €€
Canal-side restaurant (see Vini da Gigio) serving innovative traditional dishes.
Fondamenta Savorgnan, Cannaregio 511 • 041 244 02 14 • €
Appetizing, simple meals are served at this canal-side café.
Fondamenta della Misericordia, Cannaregio 2553 • 041 524 43 79 • Closed Mon • €€–€€€
The impeccably presented Venetian fish-based dishes on the menu at this restaurant are given a tasteful modern twist.
Fondamenta della Sensa, Cannaregio 3272 • 041 720 744 • Closed Mon & Tue, 2 weeks in Aug • €€
It is important to book well ahead for this popular place. Among the culinary delights on offer are fish and meat dishes, as well as a wonderful zabaglione dessert.
Calle dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4367 • 041 241 27 47 • Closed Mon & Wed lunch • €
This low-key restaurant offers diners tasty cicchetti (bar snacks) while friendly staff serve more substantial traditional Venetian fare.