Venice Neighborhood Guide: San Marco

Steve Stankiewicz

Departures’ Travel Guide to Venice

Santa Croce
San Polo

For New York interior designer Matthew White, this neighborhood is much more than its namesake piazza and iconic landmarks (Basilica, Campanile, Doge’s Palace). “Every corner of Venice holds fabulous treasures, but San Marco reigns supreme as the city’s heart,” he says. In his capacity as president of Save Venice (, the U.S. nonprofit dedicated to restoring local art and architecture, White visits Venice often, working from the group’s San Marco office and checking in on projects like the current restoration of Paolo Veronese’s 16th-century paintings and frescoes at the Church of San Sebastiano. “The sestiere inspires me because of its illustrious history and perfect setting,” White says, “but most of all because it has the ultimate entrance: To arrive at the piazza from the Grand Canal is to truly arrive.

Cavalier la Bottega dell’Inorador

Father and son Gianni and Alberto Cavalier use old Venetian methods to gild frames, mirrors, sconces and other objects (from $70) at this 50-year-old shop. The pieces are crafted by applying a layer of bolo d’Armenia (red clay mixed with egg whites) onto a plaster-covered object, followed by thin sheets of gold leaf. At 2863/A San Marco, Campo San Stefano;

Il Prato

For more than two decades, this tiny store has been selling fine paper products—stationery, boxes, folders—printed with the 16th-century technique of soaking carved wood blocks in vegetable dye. There are also quirky hand-painted papier-mâché figures by Sardinia-born Giulio Piredda (from $90). At 2456/9 San Marco, Calle delle Ostreghe;


The famed 150-year-old, Venice-based textile company has showrooms in 73 countries, but this one, located on the piano nobile of a beautiful 15th-century palazzo, is the only outpost open to the public. In addition to the four current lines of sumptuous fabrics on display, there is an extensive collection of historic textiles dating back to the 15th century, which can be viewed by appointment only. At 3877 San Marco, Campo del Teatro; 39-041/523-6110;

Church of San Salvador

Save Venice has restored nearly 20 works at this 16th-century church, including two paintings by Titian. An attendant can grant access to the sacristy, where the frescoes (difficult to maintain in Venice due to its salty lagoon climate) create the illusion of a celestial garden within the monastic walls. At 4835 San Marco, Campo San Salvador;


Appollonio Colussi opened this bakery in 1840, and six generations later the family-run business is still one of the city’s best for baked goods. There are 40-plus types of bread, including Colussi’s signature focaccia: light, fluffy and topped with crunchy sugar and whole almonds. During Carnevale the bakery serves traditional frittelle, a sort of fried donut. At 4579 San Marco, Calle San Luca;

Ottica Carraro

The in-house artisans at this sleek brass-and-marble eyewear shop have been designing and crafting frames in bright colors and creative materials since 1967. There’s even an entire stylish line finished in rubber ($125 each). At 3706 San Marco, Calle della Mandola;


Ai Mercanti

The seasonal menu at this contempo-rary Venetian restaurant changes every two months, with standouts like cod with saffron, asparagus and zucchini flowers and homemade ravioli stuffed with hen, all served in the 50-seat terracotta-colored dining room or, during warmer months, outside in a small adjoining square. Dinner, $120. At 4346/A San Marco, Calle dei Fuseri; 39-041/523-8269;

Fortuny Museum

Mariano Fortuny—the Spanish expat artist and designer whose rich textiles became synonymous with the city—bought this 15th-century palazzo in the early 1900s, turning it into his atelier. Today the building displays Fortuny’s paintings, fabrics, gowns and lamps alongside rotating art exhibitions. The piano nobile is filled with his personal treasures, like a 19th-century plaster cast of Capitoline Antinous. At 3958 San Marco, Campo San Beneto;

La Fenice

This storied theater—nearly destroyed by a 1996 fire and reopened in 2003—has the Save Venice foundation to thank for the re-creation of its painted ceiling, designed in 1854 by Giambattista Meduna. A highlight of the year will be Donizetti’s opera L’Elisir d’Amore, conducted by Matteo Beltrami and performed from October 29 through November 10 (tickets start at $15). At 1965 San Marco, Campo San Fantin;