Touring Venice Italy - Sant'Elena and Islands

What should we visit in Venice's Sant'Elena District?...

We hope that you are enjoying our series of articles and guest articles on Italian tourist attractions, covering the entire country except for its major cities. In a sense we have left the best for last. We will describe what to see in Italy’s great cities neighborhood by neighborhood. You may not realize it, but Venice is divided into 8 districts. And each and every one of these districts boasts its own sightseeing attractions. If you have time, visit them all. In any case, read these articles to help plan your trip to this unique city. You may be in for some real surprises.

Sant’Elena is a small district, the locals say sestiere, at the eastern tip of Venice. It was formerly an island but the lagoon has been filled in. A major feature of this distinctive, tranquil area is the Sant’Elena Church built in the late Twelfth Century. This church is also a monastery, home first to Augustinian clergy and then to Olivetan monks. During the French Revolution it was transformed into a barracks, a bakery, and an iron foundry, and many valuable paintings were destroyed. The church was restored in 1915 but its bell tower was restored only in 1958, making it Venice’s newest campanale.

Sant’Elena, Venice, Italy

Sant’Elena, Venice, Italy

This district is proud of its beautiful Public Gardens and the Biennale Pavillons, which hosts an International Art Exhibition every second year from June to November featuring Contemporary Art and Architecture from some 40 nations. The large Parco delle Rimembranze is home to Stadio Pierluigi Penzo, the city's football (soccer) stadium. The park also includes children’s play areas and a skating rink. Close to Sant’Elena sits the little island of San Pietro, home to the Sixteenth Century Basilica di San Pietro di Castello, which served as Venice’s Cathedral until 1807. The magnificent architect Andrea Palladio, considered by many to be the greatest ever, received his first commission in the city of Venice to rebuild this church’s facade and interior. After St. Marks Basilica became the city’s cathedral (hence no longer the Doge’s private church) San Pietro declined. It was firebombed during World War I. But the building and its environs are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Giudecca, Venice, Italy

Giudecca, Venice, Italy

Despite its name the island of Giudecca south of Venice was never the city’s Jewish quarter; the ghetto was in the northern sestiere of Cannaregio. Giudecca was once home to the wealthy but later became working class. Its skyline is dominated by the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore (Church of the Most Holy Redeemer), a Sixteenth Century church designed by Palladio to thank God for deliverance from the plague. Every year the Doge (Venice’s head honcho) and senators crossed a specially designed pontoon bridge to attend mass here. You might want to cross this bridge on the third Saturday and Sunday of July for the Festa del Redentore, a major Venetian festival with great fireworks.

And wherever you go and whatever you do, check out the fine Veneto or other Italian wines.

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About the Author

Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.

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