Dorsoduro, meaning “hard backbone”, is named after the solid subsoil upon which this area was built. The western end, the island of Mendigola, was colonized by the Romans centuries before the Rialto was established as the permanent seat of Venice, in 828 AD.
East of the Accademia, Dorsoduro is a quaint neighbourhood of quiet canals, and picturesque residences belonging to wealthy Venetians and foreigners. In the early 1900s, the area was favoured by British expatriates, who attended the Anglican church of St. George in Campo San Vio.
Among the area’s attractions are the lagoon views, both from the eastern tip near the Salute and the Zattere across to the island of Giudecca.
The Zattere are so called, because of the rafts that were once moored in the docks, carrying barge-loads of timber to Venice from the mountains along the Piave river. There they waited for the wood to season.
West of the Accademia, the sestiere is more vibrant with busy Campo Santa Margherita its attractive focal point.
Further west, the area around the beautiful church of San Nicolo dei Mendicoli, was originally the home of fishermen and sailors. There they moored their large boats , arriving via the River Brenta from the Western Mainland, with their cargos of drinkable water and other merchandise.
The Dorsoduro hosts several major art collections, notably the Accademia Gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection of 20th century art.
The churches here are filled with paintings and sculpture. Veronese,Bellini, Tintoretto, Titian and Tiepolo are but a few of the immortal artists. Dorsoduro also hosts some magnificent and uniquely Venetian municipal institutions called Scuola, (lay fraternities created for the welfare of the poor of the city), like Scuola Grande dei Carmini.