Skip to content

Curiosities about the Cannaregio district of Venice: things you perhaps didn't know

Venice is a beautiful city divided into sestieri (or neighborhoods, but woe betide you to call them that in front of a Venetian ), here every place is rich in history and charm, so let's discover something more about the Cannaregio district of Venice. A neighborhood less invaded by tourists but still capable of offering hidden corners, evocative stories and legends.

The Jewish ghetto

One of the most significant places in Cannaregio is the Jewish Ghetto , the first ghetto in the world and the place from which the term itself derives . The first evidence of the Venetian Jewish community dates back to the 12th century. Before 1298, Jews lived mainly on the island of Spinalonga, later called Giudecca. In 1516, the Great Council of Venice allowed the Jews to settle in a specific area of ​​the city, known as the gèto due to the presence of a foundry.

The term transformed into “ghetto” due to the German pronunciation of many Jewish residents. This neighborhood, rich in history and culture, is an unmissable point to understand the importance of the Jewish community in Venice .

Calle Varisco and the mysterious statue from el Vecio Pien de Peo

Walking through the streets of Cannaregio, you can come across Calle Varisco , the narrowest "street" in Venice, only 53 centimeters wide. This narrow alley represents a curious and unusual stop to include in your itinerary, however, in the small square of Santa Maria Nova there is a singular statue, known as " el vecio pien de peo " (the old man full of hair). This statue, located on the facade of Ca' Bembo-Boldù, was commissioned by Gianmatteo Bembo and its meaning remains a mystery. Some believe it represents Saturn, others Time, while a more accredited interpretation links it to alchemy, with symbols of universal knowledge and the union of intellect and nature.

The Italia theater and the column of the Giant Rat

Also worth discovering is the historical transformation of the Teatro Italia , an elegant building completed in 1915, which has had a troubled history. After being closed to the public a few years after opening, it reopened as a university office building and has now become a supermarket. This building represents an interesting example of urban reuse and retains its architectural charm despite changes in use.

In Calle Traghetto Vecchio , however, you can see a particular engraving on an Istrian stone column: a large rat, sighted in 1643. This curious episode was so extraordinary that it was immortalized in stone, representing a record-breaking encounter for the time.

Other curiosities about the Cannareggio district

Another curiosity of Cannaregio is the Bread Stele , an ancient stone engraved with an eighteenth-century proclamation that prohibited the sale of contraband bread. This stele, visible from both sides, informed sellers, buyers and boatmen of the severe punishments foreseen for those who violated the decree, testifying to the importance of the regulation of trade in the Venetian era.

For those who still want to discover unusual Venice we also recommend:

  • The Ponte de Chiodo is one of two Venetian bridges left without a parapet, a rare feature today. It crosses the Rio San Felice and allows access to a private house, offering a unique experience and a dive into the past of the lagoon city.
  • The Venice Santa Lucia railway station , commissioned by the Habsburg government in the mid-nineteenth century, stands where a church dedicated to the saint once stood. The remains of Saint Lucia, who arrived in Venice from Constantinople in 1204, are today preserved in the nearby church of San Geremia, after having been transferred during the construction of the station.
  • Palazzo Lezze , a building full of symbolic bas-reliefs linked to philosophy and alchemy. These details, depicting mythological and alchemical figures, add a touch of mystery and charm to the structure, making it a point of interest for history and symbolism enthusiasts.

The church of Santa Maddalena

The Maddalena Church, located along one of Cannaregio's busiest streets, features unique circular architecture and Masonic details above the entrance . These symbols, such as the eye inside a triangle and the writing “ Sapienta aedificavit sibi dominum ” are really interesting to discover.

The ghosts of Cannareggio

This district also has its own ghost, Marco Polo's wife. Here, in fact, near the Milion court, stood Marco Polo's house . Marco Polo's Asian wife, deceived by the merchant's sisters who told her of her death, took her own life by throwing herself out of the window. It is said that her ghost appears at night, dressed in white, singing oriental songs and wandering around the courtyard, a sad story and a legend yet to be verified.

Another sad, unfortunately true, story of the city is that of the crime at the Loredan palace in Cannareggio: The Loredan Vendramin Calergi Palace , home of the Venice Casino, was the scene of a brutal crime in 1658. The three Grimani brothers tortured and killed the enemy heir Francesco Querini Stampalia, who were then exiled and the palace partially demolished. A "column of infamy" still commemorates the event today.

The story, however, also has another background, starring two other members of these families, it is said that Fosco Loredan, blinded by jealousy, killed his wife Elena Grimani and was condemned to take her body to Rome. Rejected by the Pope, he returned to Venice and committed suicide in the Grand Canal. It is said that his ghost still haunts Campiello Remèr , carrying his wife's head.

The Cannareggio district of Venice: let's take stock

Between the Jewish ghetto, the many evocative stories and the legends that animate this district, there are many things to see. We can say that seeing Venice completely in just one day is not possible ! In this case, the best choice is to opt for the flexibility of a short-term rental by choosing to book an apartment online .


Enter your email and stay updated on last minute offers & discounts for staying in Veneto