A sestiere is a subdivision of certain Italian towns and cities. The word is from sesto, or sixth; and is thus used only for towns divided into six districts. Sestiere Cannaregio is the northern most of the six historic districts of Venice.
I spent a sunny summer evening walking around Cannaregio on the failed quest to explore the Jewish Ghetto and Museum. We reached Piazzale Roma from Mestre where we were staying by bus and tram. Then we crossed the bridge over the Cannaregio Canal and did the most important thing, buy ourselves huge gelato cones. Gelato is really the cure for the intense Italian summer heat.
Canneregio used to be a largely working class area in the past. It is home to the Venetian Jewish Ghetto. Jews in Venice were restricted to a gated area, the ghetto from 1516. They could not leave the guarded premises from dusk to dawn. In day to day life Jewish people were accomplished business owners and held positions as merchants, physicians, money lenders and traders. They still faced discrimination and curtailment of basic freedoms such as right to movement. This continued till Napoleon conquered the Venetian Republic. He had the gates removed and the residents of the Ghetto were free to live wherever they wanted in the city.
The Sestiere now is a popular spot for both tourists and locals. The area near the canal has shops and roadside vendors selling souvenirs, masquerade paraphernalia and other typically Venetian things. There are also stores of big fashion brands that are well known internationally near the train station of Saint Lucia, a beautiful brick building.
It is a busy place buzzing with people all day long. It has streets and streets of cafes with outdoor seating where you can enjoy the summer. There are shopping carts and kiosks selling all sorts of things, clothes, knick knacks and even vegetables and fruits. It is an energetic, albeit very touristy area.
The buildings in Cannaregio, like most buildings in Venice are very vibrant. Every building has its own peculiar distinguishing feature, be it the bright colours or a different window design, or both. Even though the buildings are old and some not maintained very well, they are incredibly delightful. Like an antique piece of furniture tucked away in a dusty attic, the buildings too are pieces of vintage charm. The peeling paint and the distressed wood add so much character. It is like watching a historic setting unfold right in front of you.