Venice is divided in sestieri, the common districts: Castello, San Marco, San Polo, Giudecca, Cannaregio and Dorsoduro. The streets are called calli, calette, rughe or salizade and they all come out to the foundation of the canals (the streets which run parallel to a canal) or to wide squares called campi or campielli. There is only one real square, St. Mark’s, and there are also two little squares: the one that gives onto St. Mark’s lagoon, closed by Palazzo Ducale and the Old Library, and the one called of the Leonini, on the left side of the Cathedral. There are no car noises, or carts, or bikes; you can only hear the whistle of the Vaporetti’s sirens and of the little boats, the rumble of the motorboat, the thud of the gondole’s oar (all of them are painted of black, due to a law of the XV century and already mentioned on a paper of the year 1094), and obviously the song of the gondoliere.
To cross the Canal Grande there are three bridges: the Bridge of the Accademia, the Bridge of Rialto and the Bridge of Scalzi (nerby S. Lucia trainstation), plus many ferryboat stations with gondola and vaporetti. The 160 canals are crossed by about 400 bridges. The islands that are not included in the main nucleus of the city are: Giudecca, made of 8 little islands, where it is located the Church of the Redentore; San Giorgio Maggiore; Murano, famous for the mosaics, the glass industry and the museum of the glass art; the group of Burano, colorful center of fishermen, worldwide famous for the laces; Torcello, a village nowadays, with a monument to remember his lost greatness; San Lazzaro; San Servolo; and eventually the Lido di Venezia, elegant and cosmopolitan beach that separates the lagoon from the free sea.
The center of the city is the wide St. Mark’s Squadre, which seems a huge marmoreal hall, closed between the façade of the Cathedral, the Clock Tower, the Procuratie Vecchie with a colonnade of 50 arches, once headquarter of the Procuratori of St. Mark, the Fabbrica Nuova built in the 1810 in the same style of the Procuratie Nuove.
Under the middle arcade there is the entrance of the Correr Museum, where there is a remarkable collection of memories of the venetian life and the Procuratie Nuove of 1584-1640, which became royal palace during the Napoleonic age, and now are headquartier of the Museo Correr. St. Mark’s Cathedral was built in 829-832 and rebuilt by doge Contarini after the fire in 976 and consecrated in 1094, then decorated with precious marbles and mosaics, with a façade which beauty is incomparable with anything else because of its marbles and golds. In the south-east corner of the square, there is the tower bell, 99 mt. high, rebuilt in 1912, and at its base the marble St. Mark’s Loggetta, with statues of Pallas, Apollo, Mercury and Peace.
The Clock Tower of 1496, sided by two wings, shows a great golden clock face and has two bronze statues upon it. The Old Library of 1536 is built in two orders: the arcade is doric, the upper floor is ionic and the middle door has two enormous caryatids and a monumental staircase that contains precious codex, incunabula, miniatures and the famous world globe of Fra Mauro of 1549. At the porch of the Old Library there is the entrance of the archeological museum and, at the side that turns to the dock, from 1468 there is the national library Marciana.
Palazzo Ducale, headquarter of the Doge and of the most significant magistracies, which monumental entrance is the Porta della Carta, which opens to the Cathedral, was built around 814 and rebuilt two times, between 1309 and 1404 and between 1424 and 1442, devastated by fires and restored in 1483 is a particular building that shows the strength and splendor of the Republic.
From the bridge Ponte della Paglia, on the Dock, it is possible to see the side of Palazzo Ducale and the bridge Ponte dei Sospiri of 1600, across which the prisoners passed to reach the prisons of Pozzi or Piombi, which was built in 1589 and was run by the Inquisitori di Stato.
Numerous palaces are placed on the Canal Grande, together with significant monumental buildings. To mention only some of them: Punta della Salute and the sea Dogana, with a giant statue of Fortuna; S. Maria della Salute church (1631), placed at the right of the patriarchal seminary which includes the Manfrediana picture gallery; Rezzonico palaces (1680), headquarters of the XVIII century museum; Corner della Ca’ Grande (1522), now headquarters of the prefecture; Ca’ Foscari, headquarters of the University of Venice; Mocenigo palace; Grimani palace (1550), headquarters of the appeal court; Camerlenghi’s palace (1526-28) which shows a rich decoration; Ca’ Pesaro (1710), which hosts the modern art gallery and the oriental art museum; Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, headquarters of the most ancient casino of the world, where Richard Wagner died in 1883. Other significant palaces are Contarini-Sceriman palace, in gothic style (1450), Giovannelli palace (1400), Lezze palace (1654), Labia palace with famous frescoes by Tiepolo, Trevisan palace, Zaguri palace, Ca’ Pisani (1600), Ca d’Oro, built in 1440-2 in gothic-venetian style, nowadays headquarters of Franchetti gallery; the Fondaco dei Turchi (XIII century), now headquarters of the Natural History Museum; the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, now central post office.