The largest sestiere of the city, Castello, stretches from San Marco and Cannaregio in the west to the modern blocks of Sant’Elena in the east. The area, first named Olivolo inthe 8th century, later acquired the popular name “Castello”, presumably because of the castle-shaped walls of the wide Arsenale. Enormous shipyards were, in fact, established all around the isle of Olivolo and its Cathedral of San Pietro. For centuries, the island was the religious center of the city.
The old church of San Pietro di Castello was founded in the 9th century, and was the cathedral of Venice from 1451 to 1807. The industrial hub of Castello was the Arsenale, the great shipyards which produced Venice’s fleet of warships. This area remained the largest shipyard in the World until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Castello’s most popular and solidly commercial area is the Riva degli Schiavoni Promenade. Behind the waterfront Castello is comparatively quiet, characterized by narrow alleys, elegantly faded palazzi and fine churches, including the great Santi Giovanni e Paolo and San Zaccaria with its distinctive Gothic and Classical façade.
Castello is also home to the larger public parks such as the Biennale Gardens and the Pinewood of Sant’Elena.