Venice Neighborhood Guide: Santa Croce

Steve Stankiewicz

Departures’ Travel Guide to Venice

San Marco
San Polo

Event planner and interior designer Matteo Corvino draws endless inspiration from his hometown. (Among his grand, globe-spanning projects are the splendid Cavalchina Ball at La Fenice, which has become a can’t-miss Carnevale appointment, and his legendary party for the film festival launch of Al Pacino’s Merchant of Venice.) None of the city’s districts escape his idea-seeking scrutiny, not even the much-neglected Santa Croce, where beyond the noisy Piazzale Roma bus terminal lies a tranquil residential corner of Venice. “Trendy businesses close down or move swiftly away to areas where there’s more through traffic,” says Corvino, but for slower-paced shopping, and bars and restaurants with a genuine neighborhood feel, this is the place.

Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio

This pretty square epitomizes the “untouristed” Venice: Children play beneath trees; mothers chat on benches, plus there’s a fine pizzeria (Il Refolo), the marvelous eponymous church and a building that once housed a leading medical school, Teatro Anatomico, famed for its well-attended dissections.

Pasticceria Rio Marin

Of all the local confections at this family-owned bakery, the dry cornmeal cookies called zaleti are particularly tasty. (Venetians love dipping them in dessert wine.) There are custom cakes, too, and irresistible tiramisu. At 784 Santa Croce, Rio Marin; 39-041/718-523.

Colore Veneziano

From his 19-year-old atelier, gifted craftsman Giovanni Gardin restores antique stained-glass windows, using pieces from damaged panels to create stunning works of his own design. At 112 Santa Croce, Corte de Ca’Zio; 39-042/297-025.

Bacareto da Lele

Venetians tend to consume on the go, and the sidewalk outside this tiny bar always seems full. Excellent sandwiches and little bites—bovoleti (miniature snails) and merluzzo mantecato (creamed cod)—are served throughout the day. Quintessentially Venetian. At 183 Santa Croce, Campo dei Tolentini.

Enoteca Buso Durello

Crowded with locals, this simple wine bar in chaotic Piazzale Roma was the first and remains the best place to sip Durello, quickly replacing Prosecco as the preferred drink in Venice. There are freshly prepared small plates, too, like sarde in saor (sardines with onion and wine). At 466 Santa Croce, Piazzale Roma; 39-041/520-2219.

San Simeon Piccolo

Father Konrad zu Loewenstein makes this 18th-century church a draw for those who like their masses in Latin and of the decidedly preconciliar variety—a surprising choice considering his father was business manager for the Rolling Stones. At 698 Santa Croce, Fondamenta San Simeon Piccolo.

L’Opera al Bianco

The brightly colored and patterned glass trade beads sold here once served as currency for the Venetian Republic. Some of the necklaces, bags and hats decorated with them are kitsch, but the loose antique and modern ones are wonderful. At 1239A Santa Croce, Lista Vecchia dei Bari;

Palazzo Mocenigo

There’s magnificence at this museum of mostly 18th-century Venetian costumes and textiles. The lofty rooms also house sumptuous period furniture to suggest how noble families lived in the 1700s. At 1992 Santa Croce, Salizada San Stae;

Ca’ Pesaro

This two-in-one museum (modern, predominantly Italian art on one side; Oriental pieces on the other) is a source of great artistic inspiration. Favorite paintings include Ippolito Caffi’s late-19th-century night views of fireworks over Venice: early evidence of the city’s love of a good party. At 2070 Santa Croce, Fondamenta Ca’ Pesaro;

Vecio Fritolin

In this deceptively old-fashioned-looking restaurant, owner Irina Freguia and her chef, Daniele Zennaro, give smart new contemporary twists to fish (turbot with mushrooms and ginger, for example). But walk-bys can also buy a paper cone filled with just-fried seafood—squid, shrimp, maybe a bit of fish. The past few years have seen a lot of gimmicky places close down and some Venetian traditions successfully revived; this sort of streetside carryout, known as a fritoin, is primed for a comeback. At 2262 Santa Croce, Calle della Regina; 39-041/522-2881;


The voluptuous customized papers by Fernando Masone are elegant, perfect for menus and invitations. Their slightly rough surface gives a handwritten feel to anything printed on them, and the gorgeous textures make them perfect for embossing. At 125 Santa Croce, Calle Logna; 39-041/524-1283.