SANTA CROCE SESTRIERE: WELCOME TO VENICE
If you arrive by car, by train or by boat the Sestriere of Santa Croce is often the first part of the city you reach.
It includes Piazzale Roma (which is the bus station and a public parking), the only area in Venice in which you can drive in, the Port (commercial and cruises/ferryboat terminal) and it is few steps away from Saint Lucia train station, located in Cannaregio district and linked to Santa Croce through the new Calatrava bridge, the fourth bridge on the Gran Canal. It will be also the terminal of “People mover”, an futuristic cable car which will connect Tronchetto with Piazzale Roma.
During the years the Sestriere changed a lot, both for development needs and to permit an easier access to the city center. Nontherless the area still has his historical charm: just to make an example the name comes from the church, destroyed during XIV century, which used to stand close where nowadays Cross Bridge is (we can still see a Greek capital and a marble column).
Not far from here used to be a nunnery, Santa Chiara, today renovated and main building of the homonymous Hotel. For believers the nunnery could be very important, just because a story tells that during the year 1262 a pilgrim left here a box, telling the nuns that they had to keep it until another person will ask for that. After 300 years nobody asked for and the nuns opened it: inside they found a nail, probably of Jesus Christ cross, took by the French king who died during a crusade. Nowadays it is conserved in San Pantalon Church.
Going up to the Canal, opposite from the train station, is San Simeon Piccolo church, with its big dome, of which Napoleon was impressed once arrived in Venice. Close to here there is Riva di Biasio (few steps from the Fondaco dei Turchi, Venice’s Natural History Museum): during the XVI century stories tell that the host Biasio, who used to own a little restaurant, used to prepare his special dish using children meat. Busted, he was executed in Saint Mark’s Square and his body was divided in 4 parts, then scattered around the city.
The core of the Sestriere is Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio, where the tourists seem to disappear, leaving Venice to its local inhabitants. Curious to see is Pemma Palace, long time ago owned by a Jewish family: they wanted to built croocked doors and windows just because a Christian church was built in front of the Palace!!
Finally we can not forget about Tolentini Church, behind Papadopoli Gardens, in which one of the most famous Doge, Francesco Morosini, was buried. It has a strange story: it was bombed by the Austrian army in 1849, its dome was completely destroyed, but the inside was quite good; to remember this the cannon ball, found right in front of the high altar, was set in the façade of the church.