San Polo Walking Tour, Venice (Self Guided)

San Polo is the smallest and one of the oldest districts in Venice, established circa 9th century AD. It has hosted the city's main market since 1097, and been linked to the eastern bank of the Grande Canal, via the Rialto Bridge, since the 13th century. Apart from the bridge, other attractions in the area include the Church of San Giacomo di Rialto, the Campo San Polo, the House of Goldoni, the Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the Church of San Rocco and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. If you're in love with Venice, you'll find plenty to see in this part of the city!
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San Polo Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: San Polo Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Venice (See other walking tours in Venice)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.5 km
Author: Daniel
Scuola Grande di San Rocco

1) Scuola Grande di San Rocco (must see)

The Scuola Grande di San Rocco ("Confraternity of St. Roch", protector against plague, which had struck Venice in that century) building was established in 1478 by a group of wealthy Venetian citizens, next to the church of San Rocco, from which it takes its name. In 1564 the painter Tintoretto was commissioned to provide paintings for the Scuola, and his most renowned works are to be found in the Sala dell'Albergo and the Sala Superiore. All the works in the building are by him, or his assistants, including his son Domenico (they were both executed between 1564 and 1587). In the Sala Superiore, works on the ceiling are from the Old Testament, and on the walls from the New Testament. Together, they show the biblical story from Fall to Redemption. Nowadays, Scuola Grande hosts an unbelievable quantity of Christian art – from lithographs to paintings, frescoes, sculptures, and stained-glass.

Why You Should Visit:
Within this building is what many consider the most beautiful room in the world.
Rarely busy or crowded, it is an oasis of peace, culture, Venetian history...
Photos don't do it justice. You can't help but be overwhelmed by it.

Make sure to get an audio guide as there are no descriptions.
Wear warm clothes (it gets quite cold inside) and take your camera.
The mirrors in the chapter room allow you to study the ceiling art without having to strain your neck.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

2) Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (must see)

Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari was founded at the beginning of the 13th century and during the decades that followed it was enlarged several times in order to accommodate the growing number of parishioners. The imposing edifice is built of brick and is one of the city's three notable churches built in the Italian Gothic style. In common with many Venetian churches, the exterior is rather plain. The interior contains the only rood screen still in place in Venice as well as the biggest altarpiece in Venice, "Assumption of the Virgin" by Titian. The other piece of art by Titian in the church is "Madona di Ca'Pesaro", under which the grave of the painter lies.

Why You Should Visit:
The dimension and beauty of this place are extraordinary, covering several layers of Venetian history and art.
Getting to it is another attraction as it's slightly off the beaten path and in a charming area with plenty of character.

Pay cash – no credit cards accepted.
Modest dress code required (covers provided).
Do take a guidebook or free pamphlet by the ticket office as an aid.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun: 1-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Gilberto Penzo

3) Gilberto Penzo

What to buy here: Handmade boats and ships.

Venice is world famous for it's gondolas, which tourists can see in the Grand Canal, but there are many other types of boats and ships in the lagoon. For instance the water-buses, the so called „Vaporetti“. And in the long history of Venice, the inhabitants built a large number of different types of boats and ships. Many of them still exist as models in Gilberto Penzo's shop. He sells his models nearly all over the world – his customers are both private persons as well as museums. All the models are handmade and unique – and the detail is amazing. The shop is a haven for anyone interested in the history of venetian ship building and naval traditions, Gilberto Penzo is recognized worldwide as an expert in venetian ships. In his shop you can buy not only ship-models but also kits to build, for instance, the famous venetian gondolas yourself. For example, one of the gondola kits contains 42 pieces, the gondola is 50 cm long and it's scale is 1:20.

If you want to buy one of the unique models or a kit, visit the shop of Gilberto Penzo. The adress is: San Polo, Calle II die Saoneri 2681. This is just about 300 meters away from the famous „Campo San Margherita“. If you are going there by waterbus, you have to get off at the „San Toma“ busstop. The shop is opened from Monday to Saturday from 9 – 13 and 14-18. Prices start at about 35 EU for a gondola kit. For bigger models, which are very detailed, you have to pay up to several hundred Euro.

4) Tragicomica

What to buy here: Masks.

Venice and masks – these two have been closely related since old times. In former times, Venetians wore masks not only during the famous „Carnevale“. They wore them for almost any outgoing activity, dinners, going to the casino, theater and more. Even the rich who lost their money and gone down to begging were still wearing masks– a way to hide their face and their shame. Some of the most important and typical masks have their origin in a venetian theater play, the so called „Commedia dell'arte“. Those masks show the actor as a typical lawyer, doctor, servant, butcher, hunter and more. When walking through Venice, you will find out quickly that you can buy masks at nearly every street corner. But beware! Most of them are not manufactured in Venice but in China or Taiwan, and they are not in fact very venetian.

If you want to be sure you buy a typical venetian mask, you can visit a marvelous shop situated near the Rialto Bridge. The name of the shop is: "Tragicomica“, the adress is: San Polo, Calle dei Nomboli 2800. It is situated close to the Vaporetto Station „San Toma“.The shop is opened from Monday up to Saturday, 10 – 19 o'clock. The price range for the masks is from 20 EU and up to 2000 EU. You will also find wonderful hand-made venetian costumes there. And if you have enough time, you can even learn there how to make these wonderful masks by yourself!
Antica Birraria La Corte

5) Antica Birraria La Corte

Locals, students, and tourists flock here daily. The dazzling list of pizzas (including one topped with porcini mushrooms and wild-boar salami) is very impressive. But a salad of arugula and pecorino with a drizzle of chestnut honey is a really good start. They also serve several excellent meat and fish entrées.
Ponte delle Tette

6) Ponte delle Tette

Ponte delle Tette, Bridge of Female Breasts, is located in the heart of the former red-light district of San Cassiano. Prostitutes used to parade topless here in an attempt to attract clients and convert suspected homosexuals. The procedure was encouraged by Venetian officers in order to eliminate this new social problem. The red-light district in Venice was legalized at the beginning of the 16th century. Casanova was a frequent visitor of this district, hunting his next victim.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Canal Grande (Grand Canal)

7) Canal Grande (Grand Canal) (must see)

The Grand Canal forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city. It is S-shaped, over two miles long, and is sailed by boats and water taxis.

The banks of the Grand Canal are lined with more than 170 buildings, most of which date from the 13th to the 18th century, and demonstrate the welfare and art created by the Republic of Venice. The noble Venetian families faced huge expenses to show off their richness in suitable palazzos; this contest reveals the citizens’ pride and the deep bond with the lagoon. Most of the palaces emerge from water without pavement. Consequently, one can only tour past the fronts of the buildings on the grand canal by boat.

Why You Should Visit:
If you're going to throw your money at a tourist attraction, this would be the one. You get a lovely view of old buildings, bridges and just regular life in the city.
While crammed to the brim full of tourists in high season, there's a charm to the city and the canal that doesn't exist anywhere else...

Make sure that you are in a 'vaporetto' where you can easily see... or just pick up a gondola for added romance!
Unlimited passes for 1-3 days on vaporettos are some of the best investment during a stay in Venice.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Riva del Vin

8) Riva del Vin

If Venice had more cars Riva del Vin would need a huge parking space. The gondolas parked next to this high quality and respected restaurant outnumber cars in a parking place. Of course, Riva serves wonderful Italian cuisine. But the most precious gift they have on offer is - the opportunity to buy a legendary bottle of wine at a reasonable price.

Walking Tours in Venice, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Venice

Create Your Own Walk in Venice

Creating your own self-guided walk in Venice is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Religious Edifices Walking Tour

Religious Edifices Walking Tour

As a tourist, you definitely are aware that a country like Italy, especially a city like Venice, has a lot of sacred sites. It would be a pity not to take a look at some of the wonderful buildings built by humans in the name of the Lord. Glorious artists, architects and their disciples have given their lives and talent for our pleasure for centuries.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Murano Island Walking Tour

Murano Island Walking Tour

Murano is often called the Glass Island, since it is home to the most impressive and renowned Venetian glass factories. The glass makers here have preserved their centuries-old techniques. The island is full of shops were you can admire and purchase these adorable glass items. Some factories have special showrooms where you can see the full process of glass making.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 km
Best Sights of San Marco Walking Tour

Best Sights of San Marco Walking Tour

San Marco is one of the six sestieri (neighborhoods) of Venice, set in the very heart of the city. It is known primarily as the home of the eponymous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) and other notable locations, such as Saint Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace, Harry's Bar, the Palazzo Dandolo, San Moisè, the La Fenice theatre, the Palazzo Grassi and several churches. Once...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 km
Wine Tour

Wine Tour

Italy - the land of the three seas, the land of mountains, of Casanova and cheese, the land of pizza and lasagna. And one of the most famous products - Italian wine. This guide lays down an itinerary that would lead you to the best wine shops in Venice. Take the tour in order to discover quality Italian wine.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 km
Dorsoduro Walking Tour

Dorsoduro Walking Tour

Dorsoduro is one of the six districts of Venice, whose name translates as “hard bridge” from Italian, due to the area's relatively high terrain. The city's highest spots, along with Giudecca Island and Isola Sacca Fisola, are found here. Dorsoduro is home to some of Venice's most picturesque canals, historic locations and cultural venues, including Basilica di Santa Maria della...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 km
Lido Island Walking Tour

Lido Island Walking Tour

Lido is the largest island of Venice city. It is long, but not wide at all, very different from the circular form of the main city. Lido is known for its very popular places, a movie was made here and there are some other secrets that this particular guide offers you. Ready for adventure? Ride on!

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Distinctively Italian Things to Buy in Venice

15 Distinctively Italian Things to Buy in Venice

Venice has been a tourist mecca for over a century now, with millions of visitors flocking in every year to see this unique place on the face of the Earth. Many, if not all, of these people seek to obtain something memorable as a token of their stay in this city. By far, not all of them know which...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Venice for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Venice has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Venice's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Official All Venice City Pass, Venezia Unica Tourist City Pass, 72-Hour Venice Transportation Pass, or Venice Museum Pass.

A city pass combines all of or multiple Venice's top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Venice hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Hotel Concordia, Hotel Al Ponte Dei Sospiri, Baglioni Hotel Luna.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Venice, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Venice typically costs from around US$20 up to more than US$200 per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat to view all of Venice's top attractions while listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get on and off at any of the stops along the route as often as you like.

- Experience Venice from dry land and water on the combo of 2-hour walk and half-hour gondola ride around the historic center, marveling at the Byzantine monuments and gliding down the canals of this marvelous city.

- Have a double pleasure for your eyes and ears combining a 30-minute gondola ride with a serenade, wafting by the fascinating sights of Venice in the company of a traditionally-dressed gondolier and a singer aboard.

- Having quenched your appetite for sightseeing, don't forget to treat yourself to some delicious specialties of Venice as well. Take a 2.5-hour tour led by a local guide to see the city's highlights on waters, plus check out several notable eateries to savor authentic Venetian delights.

- Discover the Jewish side of Venice from a culinary standpoint on a food tour of the historic Jewish ghetto. Guided by a food-connoisseur, you will visit a number of joints offering authentic local dishes thus acquainting yourself with the rich culture and food traditions of the Venetian Jews.

- Architecture-wise there's so much more to Venice than just St. Mark's Square. Be welcome to prove it to yourself on the guided walk exploring the artistic richness of Venice away from the trodden tourist paths.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Venice, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Verona, Valpolicella, Florence, or the Dolomite Mountains. For as little as US$140+ to US$180+ per person you will get a chance to visit one of the most romantic cities in Italy (hometown of Romeo and Juliet), learn about Veneto’s winemaking heritage and sample the local wines, visit the Tuscan capital of Florence, soak up the bracing mountain scenery, and more. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight at your hotel or a designated place in Venice, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minibus or train to the destination of your choice and back again.