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Exploring Venice’s Castello neighborhood – history, food and Venetians

Written By | Feb 24, 2019
Castello sestieri, Venice, Travel, Italy, Venetian Arsenal, Jacquie Kubin

VENICE: Walk east beyond the throngs filling St. Mark’s Plaza, waiting to tour the Doji’s palace or enjoying dinner at the Caffè Florian. In business since 1720 notables such as Byron, Balzac, and Henry James have all dined at the Caffe, even as you can now.

Castello sestieri, Venice, Travel, Italy, Venetian Arsenal, Jacquie Kubin

Cafe Florian

Waking over yet another of Venice’s 400 odd bridges spanning the canals, the environment changes. The number of tourists decreases. These streets hide remarkable century-old churches, authentic eateries and neighborhoods.

You are in the Castello sestieri

After days of nothing but heat, humidity, brick and water, journey east to Castello where you can find green spaces and life as Venetians are living today.  Unfortunately most tourists never leave San Marco to explore all of what Venice offers. And that is a traveler’s error.

Venice’s Neighborhoods

Venice is a collection of three main islands and seven sestieri or neighborhoods. – Cannaregio, Castello and San Marco on the largest island. Santa Croce, San Polo and Dorsodouro on a second island and Giudecca on yet a third.

Related Article: Travel to Venice, Italy: The brilliance of St. Mark’s Square and Basilica

Getting there, wandering is probably the most enjoyable mode.  However, you can take the water taxi to the Eastern end and walk your way back, preferably to the Londra Palace, one of the Castello neighborhoods most luxurious properties.

Sant’Elena – Venice religious history dating back to 1028

The maps show you the green spaces, a delightful find as they are in some of Venices most luxurious private home neighborhoods. At the tip of the island find Sant’Elena  a Gothic-style, Roman Catholic church at the extreme east end of the sestiere of Castello in the City of Venice, Italy.

Castello sestieri, Venice, Travel, Italy, Venetian Arsenal, Jacquie KubinThe first chapel dates back to 1028 and the  Augustinian monks. Those monks dedicated their work, and the chapel to the Roman Empress Saint Helena. Helena was the mother to Emperor Constantine the Great.  She was born to a modest family, commoners, becoming the consort of Roman Emperor Constantinus Chlorus (293-306).

Helena is important to Christianity’s history.

During a religious pilgrimage (326–328), she toured the middle east, Syria, Palestina, and Jerusalem where lore says she discovered the True Cross. he made a religious tour of Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem, during which she allegedly discovered the True Cross, the physical remnants said to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

Empress Helena is revered as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Communion. The Lutheran Church commemorates her.

The Venetian Arsenal

The Venetian Arsenal or Arsenale di Venezia is a complex of former shipyards and armories that is still occupied by the Venetian Navy. Owned by the state, the Arsenal was responsible for the bulk of the Venetian republic’s naval power during the middle part of the second millennium AD.

The earliest date for the arsenal is 1104, or the early 12th century. It was created under the reign of Ordelafo Faliero.

Castello sestieri, Venice, Travel, Italy, Venetian Arsenal, Jacquie Kubin

Venetian Arsenal 1860 and 2017

It was “one of the earliest large-scale industrial enterprises in history building a flotilla, or fleet, that could help protect the Merchants of Venice on the Mediterranean as well as protecting the shores of the Republic of Venice.

The Venice Arsenal is undoubtedly one of the most interesting areas for sustainable development of the entire metropolitan area. With 48 hectares of land along the eastern edge of the Ancient City, the Arsenal is in the heart of the lagoon system.

The ability to mass-produce galleys or ships using an assembly line process was unique for its time. Thus resulting in possibly the single largest industrial complex in Europe prior to the Industrial Revolution. Find The Museo Storico Navale, a naval history museum located near the Venetian Arsenal. The museum was established by the Regia Marina in 1919.

Historic oared ship on display at the Naval Museum

It as so impressive as to be included in the poem in Dante’s Inferno:
As in the Arsenal of the Venetians
Boils in winter the tenacious pitch
To smear their unsound vessels over again
For sail they cannot; and instead thereof
One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks
The ribs of that which many a voyage has made
One hammers at the prow, one at the stern
This one makes oars and that one cordage twists
Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen.. (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Visitors to Venice need a day or two for those must-do tourist visits.

St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Ducal Palace, home of the political leader, the Doge. But you will miss Venice’s most beautiful places. Walk the narrow streets of Castello to find the neighborhoods, bars, ages old Churches and small cafes.

Each neighborhood is remarkable and deserves your attention. Step away from the tourist throng in San Marco and take hours to explore where the Venetians live.

In addition to finding green lawns, parks, and trees, wandering the narrow streets is an adventure in present-day Venetian life.  Buildings are brightly hued, clean laundry flaps colorfully in the wind.  On this end of the island is the Arsenal de Venice, the longest continuing defensive navy in the world.

Also find the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello a Roman Catholic minor basilica of the Patriarch of Venice.

Travel to Venice, Italy: The brilliance of St. Mark’s Square and Basilica

The present church and convent building date from the 16th century. However, a church has stood on the site since at least the 7th century. From 1451 to 1807, it was the city’s cathedral church. Unfortunately, it did not play a dominant role as it was overshadowed by the “state church” of San Marco.

During its history, the church has undergone a number of alterations and additions by some of Venice’s most prominent architects. Andrea Palladio received his first commission in the city of Venice from the Patriarch Vincenzo Diedo to re-build the facade and interior of St Pietro, but Diedo’s death delayed the project.

The privilege of living like royalty at The Londra Palace, Castello, Venice

After St Mark’s Basilica became Venice’s official cathedral (it had previously been the private church of the Doge), San Pietro fell into a state of disrepair. It was firebombed during the First World War and only through the efforts of conservation organizations has it been restored to its former state. Its ongoing conservation is now managed through its membership of the Chorus Association of Venetian churches.

The church is located on San Pietro di Castello (from which it derives its name), a small island off the eastern end of the main city of Venice.

Castello sestieri, Venice, Travel, Italy, Venetian Arsenal, Jacquie Kubin

Basilica di San Pietro di Castello

Wherever you wander in Venice, the Venetian sense of art and style are on brilliant display. Take your time to wander the back roads and alleyways. Visit the churches, leaving donations as you go.  Eat in the local shops.  Talk to the people.

It is an experience to last a lifetime.


Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning writer and wanderer. She turns her thoughts to an eclectic mix of stories - from politics to sports. Restless by nature and anxious to experience new things, both in the real world and online, Jacquie mostly shares travel and culinary highlights, introduces readers to the chefs and creative people she meets and shares the tips, life and travel information people want to read.