The beauty of Venice is immeasurable, but only if you set foot at least once you can touch the centuries-old charm of this city that is rooted in water and that has its lifeblood in the water. Spectacular monuments overflowing with art and bridges that cross canals cut through by the inevitable gondolas.
But the charm of the city is above all in its calli and campielli: you need to know that in the lagoon there are no streets and squares (apart from the iconic San Marco) but only calli, i.e. alleys and small streets, and campi or campielli, i.e. squares.
Discovering the calli and campielli of Venice
“Le Mercerie” is the main calle of Venice: walking along it you’ll get in a few minutes from Piazza San Marco to the spectacular Rialto Bridge. This artery is full of shops and boutiques, just like in the past when it was crowded with shops selling canvases, fabrics and all kinds of merchandise. Here you can buy one of the beautiful Venetian masks, protagonists of the historic Carnival. There are 4 haberdasheries depending on the area: among them the one called ‘dell’Orologio’, which pops out right in Piazza San Marco, at the foot of the 15th century Clock Tower with its gold dial and blue enamel.
Venice boasts more than 3,000 calli, all to be discovered even if only to admire a blind window like Calle dell’Olioor to immerse yourself in the picturesque disorder of the “Libreria acqua alta” in Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa.
In the heart of the Sestiere of Cannaregio, between the Rialto Bridge and the Fondamenta Nuove, you will find the narrowest calle of Venice: it’s Calle Varisco, a blind alley only 53 cm wide, which emerges on the Rio dei SS. Apostles.
In the Sestiere San Marco, don’t miss the Calle Contarini del Bovolo; walking along it, you will end up in front of the façade of the homonymous Gothic-Venetian palace, but its treasure is kept in the inner courtyard, on the wonderful staircase of the Bovolo. It’s a spiral staircase that rises between arches and loggias in Istrian stone and bricks, up to the top from whose belvedere you can admire all the splendor of Venice.
Absolutely unmissable is the Calle Morosina, which will lead you to a typical Venetian court whose beauty lies in its sad history, witnessed by the helmet and the shield. It tells the story of a knight who, returning from the Holy Land with a precious relic, was lured and robbed and wandered desperately around the city until he disappeared: the only traces left of him are his shield and helmet impressed on the access arch.
The most picturesque calli and campielli of Venice
Walking along the calli, you’ll find yourself in squares, the campielli, with well curbs in the center and elegant buildings all around. Go visit Campo San Polo, where bull hunts and carnival parties were once held, Campo S.Giacomo, where you can relax in the shade of the plane trees overlooking the ancient church from the 9th century, and the wide Campo Santa Margherita.
The latter is located in the Sestiere Dorso Duro, where you can eat sitting at the table of one of the many bars in front of the deconsecrated church of S.Margherita, which preserves works by Tiepolo and Tintoretto.
The Campo Madonna dell’Orto is also very picturesque, thanks to its terracotta paving with bricks placed in a herringbone pattern that frames the Scuola di S.Cristoforo dei Mercanti, whose first floor is said to be the work of Palladio.
Once you have enjoyed the beauties of the Rialto Bridge, set out towards the campiello del Remer: I find it very characteristic for its little central well, the 14th-century palace and the stairway.
But this little corner of Venice hides a dramatic story: in 1598 the doge Marino Grimani, alarmed by the screams of a woman, reached the square where his nephew Elena was at the mercy of her jealous husband, so angry to be beheaded her. He was imprisoned but managed to escape and, taking possession of his wife’s head, filled with remorse, threw himself into the waters of the Grand Canal. It is said that when Venice is lashed by the wind from the north, the body of the man with the head reappears in the water right in front of the campiello.