The city’s most northern sestiere, Cannaregio, stretches in a large arc from the 20th century railway station in the west, to one of the oldest quarters of Venice in the east. The northern quays look out towards the islands in the lagoon. While to the south, the sestiere is bordered by the upper sweep of the Grand Canal.
The sestiere’s name probably derives from the canes, which, until a few decades ago, grew wild on its Northern coast. It might also have originated from “Canal Regio” or Royal Canal, the former name of the canale di Cannaregio. This waterway was the main entry from the Mainland to Venice before the rail link.
Over a third of Venice’s Population lives in Cannaregio. For the most part, it is an unspoilt area divided by long, wide canals, criss-crossed by alleys, and characterized by small stores bars and artisans’ workshops. It is one of the prettiest and most remote areas in the North, near the church of Madonna dell’Orto, with its treasure-trove of paintings, and around Campo dei Mori.
Tourism is concentrated along two main thoroughfares, the Lista di Spagna and the wide Strada Nova, both on the well-worn route from the railway station to Rialto. Just off this route lies the world’s oldest Jewish Ghetto. Though the Jewish community is now spread throughout the city, this is historically the most fascinating quarter of Cannaregio. (It is from Jewish money traders, sitting on their benches (banca), under the arches beside the Grand Canal that we get our word “Bank.” )