For a city that’s like no other, one can expect the same of Venice street names! Whether you’ve been in the city for a few days now or just exploring holiday possibilities here, you probably will have noticed that, quite significantly, there are no streets or squares. They exist of course, but in this city of canals, they’re known as calli and campi.
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A calle (written exactly as in Spanish, but pronounced quite differently) is a street while a campo is what’s called a piazza in other Italian cities. Campo means field and quite obviously explains its choice. Calle on the other hand is again called by other names depending on where it is. One can find a fondamenta along a canal, a salizada that’s “cobbled” or paved with stone slabs, rio terà where canals have been covered or filled in, a few rugas perfect for shopping, and one will find themselves facing a dead-end on a ramo.
Most names of the calli and campi are in Venetian, the local Italian dialect. A scrutiny of the city’s street names will take you back in time with archaic words and forgotten places. You will see words like pestrin, piovan, frutariol, and luganegher, which come from either the stores or workshops operating in the area. Otherwise, they’re dedicated to the saints of the eponymous church in the vicinity. Few are dedicated to historical figures, such as Via Garibaldi in the neighborhood of Castello for Giuseppe Garibaldi, and to local celebrities, such as Campielo Riccardo Selvatico for one of the city’s mayors, and Campo Bandiera e Moro dedicated to three Italian patriots, the brothers Emilio and Attilio Bandiera, and Domenica Moro, all of whom were Venetians and executed during the Risorgimento.
There is only one piazza (Piazza San Marco), not including the 85 years “young” Piazzale Roma, and one via (Via Garibaldi) in Venice. The largest campo is Campo San Polo while the narrowest street is Calle Varisco. Do not attempt to enter it if you measure wider than 53cm!
Asking for directions might not always be a good idea, as most residents do not necessarily know the names of the many streets, only remembering the important ones, and identifying the rest through landmarks, shops, churches or bridges!
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To make things more confusing, an address is identified by the name of the neighbourhood and the house number that can run up to as high as 6,000 or more. Having the official address therefore, does not guarantee that you can find the location, and often map apps are not too helpful. Your best bet would be the either the postmen or street cleaners, but only if you’re in the area where they work.
A valuable resource is the mapping tool Venice Explorer. It gives the precise location once you select the neighbourhood or the island and key in the number you’re looking for. And remember, you can always rely on a Prontopia local assistant to help you navigate and demystify Venetian addresses!
Prontopia is an online service that provides friendly, in-person help from pre-vetted local assistants in city centers in Italy, Spain and the U.S.