Sestieri of Venice

Sestieri of Venice are the six city districts of the historic center of Venice, Italy.

The origins of sestieres go back to year 1171, when, with the taxation needs in Venice, the city was divided into six zones, evenly distributed on both sides of the Grand Canal.

The term “sestieri” comes from Latin word “sextarius”, which means “sixth part”.

In Italian language, the word is written in the singular as “sestiere” and “sestieri” in plural.

Of the Venice six sestieres, three are located on the left bank of the Grand Canal and three on the right bank:

On the left bank:

  • Cannaregio, the largest of the sestieres;
  • Castello, which also includes the island cemetery of San Michele;
  • San Marco, which also includes the island of San Giorgio Maggiore across the Giudecca Canal;

On the right bank:

  • Dorsoduro, which also includes the islands of Giudecca, Fisola Sacca, and Sacca San Biagio across the Giudecca Canal;
  • San Polo;
  • Santa Croce.

Sestieri of Venice Italy

PHOTO: Sestieri map of Venice, where, however, Giudecca is wrongly marked in yellow (the lower yellow section).

In Venice, the numbering of buildings has not been established for each canal, but instead, by sestiere.

For example, “Dorsoduro 1165”, as an example adress, only tells that there is only one number 1165 in all the Dorsoduro district, but no other location information.

The numbering system of buildings was established by the occupying Austrian forces during the nineteenth century, and follows a spiral path that allows local Venetians to locate an address rather intuitively, but for visitors, the system can be confusing, as two buildings close to each other can have completely different numbers.

The building numbering range for each of the sestieri is as follows:

  • Cannaregio: 1-6426
  • Castello: 1-6828
  • Dorsoduro: 1-3964
  • Giudecca 1-820
  • San Marco: 1-5562
  • San Polo: 1-3144
  • Santa Croce: 1-2359

The building number plates are painted with dark red letters on white backgrounds, typically within oval black framing on the architrave of the door.

You can also find a symbolical reference to the Venetian sestieres from the six horizontal bars extending parallel one above the other on the iron bow of gondolas, with the curvature of the decoration being allegorical to the Grand Canal. One last bar, rearward reverse of the other six, symbolizes Giudecca.

Gondola with sestieri symbols Venice Italy

PHOTO: Sestieres symbolized on the bow of a Venetian gondola.

In the lagoon of Venice, the islands of Burano and Pellestrina are also divided into sestieres.

However, Burano has five and Pellestrina only four districts.