When planning a trip to Venice, a certain romanticism inevitably takes over. Dreams of Gondola rides and magical seafood dinners fill your head as you prepare for visiting the only city that might be more romantic than Paris. This dream holds true, until you arrive at St. Mark’s Square...
Despite its labyrinth like design and lack of any motorized transport on land, there are few parts of Venice where you feel that you’ve stumbled into a city that exists for the locals. Where most of Venice has a tourist shop on every corner, the neighborhood of Castello feels worlds apart. Known as the tail of the fish, Castello is a neighborhood for locals and it is the Venice of your dreams.
The historic Castello district is the largest sestiere of Venice. Formerly a naval dockyard, the district now is one of the most residential of Venice, one where the locals might outnumber tourists. Once you pass the grand riviera, populated with the cruise ship passengers embarking on their day in the city, you discover what Castello has to offer. You feel there is space to breath, you don't need to fight the crowds and you can discover grand architecture & dilapidated buildings, the largest park in Venice and restaurants that won’t bankrupt you when ordering “seppie al nero” (for which I personally recommend Osteria Alla Staffa).
Castello offers enough to see and do as well that you could avoid the rest of Venice and not be bored (although that would feel a waste). Photographing in the Giardini della Biennale is a pleasure on its own as it is one of only a handful of parks in Venice and certainly the most beautiful. Wandering through the neighborhood further, you will find Saint Giovanni e Paolo hospital (awe-inspiring as it was built in an old church) and if you truly get lost you’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon Liberia Acqua Alta, literally overflowing with books.
Castello is the type of neighborhood that might intimidate at first. Much like its many local bars populated by old men drinking white wine at 10 in the morning, you can feel that the district is an impenetrable society. This would probably be right, but order a glass of wine, say “Boungiorno!” with a smile you will be greeted back with the same. It’s these discrete charms that draw me to Castello every time I return to Venice.
I am no local, but thankfully Anna from Aperture Tours was there to show me around and find the best places to photograph. I’ve only visited Venice for short bursts, so with Anna's assistance, my heart has been captured by the city’s charm (and cuttlefish polenta). There is no neighborhood where I feel my presence, large camera in hand, that stands out more than Castello, and that is why I love it!
Author : William Lounsbury
William is a photographer at Aperture Tours and leads tours in Paris. A professional photographer specialising in photojournalism, William enjoys to get off the beaten track and shoot spontaneous moments as they are presented to him.