Castello is the largest of the six sestieri of Venice. Start at Campo Santa Maria Formosa, which takes its name from the Church of Santa Maria Formosa, with two facades (one Renaissance, the other Baroque in style), a Baroque bell tower and several artworks inside, including the St. Barbara polyptych by Palma the Elder, one of the most celebrated work by this Venetian painter of the High Renaissance.
Not far is Palazzo Grimani, originally the residence of the Venetian doge Antonio Grimani, a rare example of Renaissance palace. A collection of ancient statues that belonged to the patriarch of Aquileia Giovanni Grimani will return to the palace in May after 430 years, enhancing the classical atmosphere of the place.
Then head to the Basilica of Saints Giovanni and Paolo, on the campo by the same name, built by the Dominicans between 1246 and 1430; it is one of the largest churches in Venice, and houses artworks by Lotto, Pietro Lombardo, and Bellini. The funerals of Venice's doges were held here after the 15th century, and 25 doges are buried in the church.
Next to the basilica is the monumental marble façade of the Scuola Grande di San Marco, originally the home of one of the Scuole Grandi of Venice, six major confraternities, and now the city's hospital.
One of the highlights of a walk through Castello is a visit to Fondazione Querini Stampalia, a 16th century palace turned into a cultural institution in 1869 by Conte Giovanni, the last descendant of the Venetian Querini Stampalia family. Architects Carlo Scarpa, Botta and De Lucchi redesigned the interior, exterior, and garden elements and spaces on the ground floor of the building, which houses a rich collection of works of art by Venetian artists such as Giovanni Bellini, Palma il Vecchio, Pietro Longhi and Ippolito Caffi, and a historic library.
Those who love shopping for specialty things may want to stop at two historic bookshops, Editrice Filippi and Acqua Alta, or at the artisans’ workshops of Giovanna Zanella, which makes custom shoes, and VizioVirtù for the best chocolate in town.
End your walk with an aperitivo and cicheti at Osteria al Portego.