Updated: Apr 17
Everyone know about St. Marks Square, the Basilica, the Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge. But there is much more to Venice that I call the "unseen side of Venice". There are 6 districts in Venice, one of which is the San Marco, or historical district. This is the area where most visitors spend all their time when in Venice. But there are 5 other districts to explore.
The Districts are divided into thirty-eight parishes. These parishes predate the Districts, which were created in about 1170. Each parish exhibited unique characteristics but also belonged to an integrated network. Remember, Venice is constructed on all these islands and they have not been very connected with all the bridges throughout most of history.
So each community (or parish) chose its own patron saint, staged its own festivals, congregated around its own market center, constructed its own bell towers, and developed its own customs.
Now what's interesting is each parish has it's own house numbering system and the "streets" are anything but straight since they follow the twists and turns of the canals. Each house has a unique number in the district, from one to several thousand, generally numbered from one corner of the area to another, but not usually in a readily understandable manner. So these districts and parishes are interesting to visit.
The district west of the historical district is now where most of the locals live. It's also where both the harbor and the university are located. Much of this area had many, many small canals that have now been filled in and have become narrow little streets.
This district also has the two remaining Gondola builders. There are about 350 gondolas and 400 gondolier in Venice. On average, gondolas are about thirty feet long and weigh around thirteen hundred pounds. Each gondolier has to pass a number of tests and then buy one of the licenses that are in very high demand from another gondolier willing to sell. The price can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.