The name of this small district refers to the 15th-century church at its heart, Chiesa di San Polo, surrounded by a square of the same name. Made famous by the assassination of the Florentine Lorenzo de’ Medici that took place here in the 16th century, Campo San Polo was a lively public gathering place for many years and the site of bullfights, races and masquerade balls. Today, the square is a quiet spot where locals meet on park benches to share the day’s gossip and small children entertain one another.
Northeast of the square in the more populated Rialto zone of the district, the majestic Ponte Rialto spans the Grand Canal. Venice’s oldest bridge was initially constructed out of wood in the 12th century, but the present version is a 16th-century design by Antonio da Ponte.
If you’re able to navigate your way through hordes of tourists crawling over the bridge, you’ll enjoy superb views of the canal in both directions. Beyond the souvenir market stalls are the centuries-old pescheria (fish) and erberia (fruit and vegetable) markets that traditionally served as a commercial hub where goods were unloaded from barges and traded.
Sightseeing in San Polo
Scuola di San Rocco
Founded in 1478 as a charitable institution and named in honor of San Rocco, the 16th-century building houses a much-celebrated fresco cycle by Jacopo Tintoretto that is likely his largest. Frescoes adorning the scuola’s walls and ceilings were painted by Tintoretto in the 1580s and gloriously depict scenes from the Old and the New Testaments.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Known among locals as I Frari, the 14th-century Gothic church is one of Venice’s largest and its brick bell tower is one of the city’s tallest. The church’s main altarpiece, Assumption of the Virgin by Tiziano along with Giovanni Bellini’s Triptych of the Madonna and Saints, are among the church’s finest works of art. Canova’s monumental tomb is here and Tiziano and a few doges are buried here. Don’t miss Donatello’s wooden statue of St. John the Baptist, the rood screen and the frescoes above the main doorway. The church is frequently the site of concerts.
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