Nestled on the outskirts of Venice, Santa Croce is a hidden gem awaiting your discovery. This historic sestiere, or neighborhood, offers an intriguing blend of history, culture, and tranquility. Its quiet location, rich architectural heritage, and easy access to the city’s major transportation hubs make the Santa Croce district an unmissable destination when exploring Venice.
Venice Neighborhood Series:
Santa Croce: A Captivating Sestiere of Venice
One of the six historic districts in Venice, Italy, Santa Croce often goes unnoticed next to its more renowned neighbors. However, the district’s charm lies in its quiet canals, enchanting streets, and magnificent architecture. This article delves into everything Santa Croce has to offer – its rich history, vibrant culture, top accommodations, and must-see attractions.
Why Santa Croce is Your Next Travel Destination
Santa Croce is the perfect destination for travelers seeking a genuine Venetian experience without breaking the bank.
Its central location, proximity to some of the most famous bridges in Venice, and major transportation hubs like Santa Lucia train station and Piazzale Roma bus station make it an accessible base for exploring Venice.
The district also boasts hidden gems, with lesser-known landmarks, delightful local shops, and outstanding restaurants that are waiting to be discovered.
Journey through Santa Croce’s History
Origins and Development
Santa Croce’s history intertwines with the early years of Venice’s evolution. The district’s name originates from the Church of Santa Croce, a structure that was unfortunately demolished in the 19th century. Over time, the district expanded, with its unique blend of residential, commercial, and industrial areas reflecting the city’s progress.
Santa Croce: An Essential Chapter in Venice’s History
Throughout its existence, Santa Croce has played a pivotal role in Venice’s economic, political, and cultural life. Its strategic position along the Grand Canal boosted trade and transport, while its numerous churches, palazzos, and public spaces hosted significant events and gatherings.
Santa Croce’s rich historical tapestry is evident in its diverse architecture, art, and traditions, which continue to influence the district’s distinct identity today.
Navigating Santa Croce: Geography and Transportation
District Boundaries and Transportation
Santa Croce is located in the northwestern part of Venice and is bordered by Cannaregio to the east, Dorsoduro to the south, and San Polo to the southeast. The majestic Grand Canal interweaves through the district and marks Santa Croce as a primary point of contact for the vaporetto system.
Getting to and Around Santa Croce
Marco Polo Airport to Santa Croce
If you are flying into Venice via the Marco Polo Airport, you have a few options to get into the city center:
- You can take the Alilaguna Water Bus Service to a ferry terminal near your hotel
- You can hire a private water taxi to bring you directly to whatever terminal you’d like
- You can use the train station at the airport to take you to Venezia Mestre Train Station and take a connecting train to Santa Lucia Station
- Lastly, you can use my preferred method: a land bus that drops you off at Piazzale Roma bus terminal in Santa Croce
The most common way to reach Santa Croce is by vaporetto (water bus). Several lines serve the district, including the No. 1, 2, and N (night) lines, with key stops like San Stae, Riva de Biasio, and Piazzale Roma.
Walkways and Bridges
Exploring Santa Croce on foot allows you to discover its narrow streets, picturesque squares, and numerous bridges that provide easy access to nearby districts and attractions – including the famous Ponte degli Scalzi and Ponte della Costituzione.
While Santa Croce’s layout can be confusing for first-time visitors, getting lost in its charming streets and canals is a pleasure in itself. For those that would prefer not to get lost, Google Maps is a great aid in navigating the district.
Piazzale Roma Bus Terminal
If you are entering or leaving Venice, I recommend taking one of the buses from Piazzale Roma. Not only are they the most affordable option, but they run every 15 minutes.
While you won’t get the sights of taking a water bus, if you’re trying to get to the airport in a hurry, there’s no better option than an ACTV or ATVO airport shuttle.
Cultural Highlights of Santa Croce
Churches and Religious Buildings
Church of San Stae
This beautiful Baroque church, dedicated to Saint Eustace, boasts a stunning façade and a collection of impressive artworks. It’s a must-see for those interested in religious architecture and art.
Church of San Giacomo dell’Orio
Situated in a picturesque square, this historic church dates back to the 9th century. Its architecture is a fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, making it a fascinating stop for history and architecture buffs.
Church of San Zan Degolà
This lesser-known church, with its unique brick exterior and simple yet striking interior, is a hidden gem worth exploring.
Palazzos and Notable Structures
Ca’ Pesaro, a stunning Baroque palace, is now home to the International Gallery of Modern Art. Here, you can admire breathtaking views of the Grand Canal while immersing yourself in the world of modern art.
This elegant palace is now home to the Mocenigo Palace Museum, a tribute to Venetian history, art, and fashion through the centuries.
Fondaco dei Turchi
This remarkable Byzantine-style building, which was once a trading center for Ottoman merchants, now hosts the Natural History Museum. Its ornate façade and unique history make it an intriguing stop.
Museums and Galleries in Santa Croce
Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art
This prestigious gallery features works by both Italian and international artists. It offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of modern art, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts.
Mocenigo Palace Museum
This museum, dedicated to the history of textiles, costumes, and perfumes, is housed in a beautifully restored palace. It offers a unique look at Venetian culture and craftsmanship.
Natural History Museum
Located in the historic Fondaco dei Turchi, this museum showcases a vast collection of specimens and exhibits. It highlights the rich biodiversity of the Veneto region and beyond.
Discover the Hidden Gems of Santa Croce
Lesser-known Landmarks and Picturesque Corners
Santa Croce is brimming with hidden treasures, from serene canals and picturesque corners to lesser-known churches and historic buildings. Venture off the beaten path to discover the district’s unique charm.
Local Shops and Boutiques
Santa Croce houses a wealth of artisan shops and boutiques, offering everything from handmade masks and glassware to exquisite textiles and gourmet treats. These shops provide a perfect opportunity to purchase unique souvenirs.
Food and Dining in Santa Croce: A Taste of Venice
Traditional Venetian Cuisine
Savor the flavors of Venice in Santa Croce’s local restaurants and trattorias, where you can sample traditional dishes like risotto al nero di seppia (squid ink risotto) and sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines).
Cicchetti and Local Wines
Experience Venice’s famed cicchetti (small plates) culture at a local bacaro (wine bar). Here, you can enjoy delicious bites paired with regional wines for a unique gastronomical experience.
Best Restaurants in Santa Croce
Some of the best restaurants in Venice are located in Santa Croce. From fine dining experiences to vegetarian dishes and traditional Venetian seafood, you can’t go wrong in Santa Croce.
La Zucca (Santa Croce)
La Zucca, or “the pumpkin,” is a jewel tucked away in the city of canals. It’s a cozy spot that exudes romance, with the quiet murmur of water as the backdrop to your dining experience.
Contrary to Venice’s meat-loving reputation, La Zucca embraces the vibrancy of vegetables, making them the star of the show. The place is a veggie lover’s dream in a city of seafood and cured meats.
Their menu is ever-evolving a culinary kaleidoscope. Yet, amidst this symphony of flavors, certain classics hold their ground. Their ice cream, bursting with fresh blueberries, the sinfully indulgent strawberry cream drenched in chocolate sauce, and, of course, their signature pumpkin soup.
The place is compact, as charming places often are. So make sure you book ahead.
Best Dishes: Pumpkin and ricotta flan
Ristorante Glam (Santa Croce)
At the helm of Ristorante Glam stands the culinary virtuoso, Chef Enrico Bartolini. Under his stewardship, this prestigious establishment has raked in not one but two Michelin stars – the first in 2017 and another in 2019. A testament to Bartolini’s culinary prowess and relentless innovation.
A cursory look at Glam’s menu might suggest traditional Venetian fare. But take it from me; there’s more than meets the eye. Bartolini and his stellar team are culinary alchemists, taking classic dishes and reimagining them with a contemporary flair.
Nestled within the opulent Palazzo Venart, Glam serves up a feast for both the palate and the eyes. As you dine alfresco under the ethereal magnolia trees, you’re transported into a Venetian dream.
Our choice? The tasting menu – an eight-course symphony of flavors from the lagoon. We spent hours luxuriating in the culinary journey, each dish a testament to the chef’s artistry. And I assure you, it was time very well spent.
Now, Glam isn’t exactly a bargain. It doesn’t top the list of the priciest tasting menus in town (that crown goes to Oro), but it’s no steal, either. However, it’s worth every penny if you’re seeking an unforgettable dining experience.
Bear in mind, Glam is a boutique affair, with only 40 coveted seats up for grabs. So, book ahead, way ahead. We reserved our table a whopping 10 months prior to our Venice trip in 2021. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Best Dish: Grilled lamb with artichokes and mint
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is Santa Croce, Venice Worth It?
Absolutely! Santa Croce offers a unique blend of history, culture, and charm that’s hard to find elsewhere in Venice. With its convenient location, hidden gems, and authentic Venetian cuisine, it’s a destination that should not be missed.
How Long Do You Need in Santa Croce, Venice?
To fully appreciate the rich history, architecture, and culture of Santa Croce, we recommend spending at least a day or two exploring the district. However, the length of your visit might vary based on your interests and the pace at which you prefer to travel.
What Is Santa Croce Known For?
Santa Croce is known for its unique blend of history and charm. This includes its quiet canals, picturesque streets, historic churches, and palazzos. Additionally, it is home to several notable museums and offers a plethora of local dining options that serve traditional Venetian cuisine.
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Santa Croce, with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and cuisine, offers travelers an authentic Venetian experience. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a history buff, a food lover, or simply someone looking for a less-touristy side of Venice, Santa Croce has something for you. Embark on your journey to this charming district and uncover the treasures hidden within its streets and canals.
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