Understanding the meaning of common street names in Venice

Reading a map of Venice, you may wonder what all the different Venetian street names are all about. In the English language, things are relatively simple: “street, avenue, boulevard, lane, etc”. But in Venice, the street naming convention is rather elaborate and enriched by the fact that you travel both on land and water. Both exotic and mysterious, Venetian street names have their own unique meaning that stems from a combination of Venetian dialect and historical context.

Here is a quick guide to the nomenclature of Venetian street types you find in the unique city. Some are used nowhere else on earth!

Venetian Street Name Categories

Via – a street, so far so good right?

Vicolo – an alley. Many narrow streets in Venice bear this appellation.

Vicolino – a narrow alley. Narrower and narrower, you can sometimes touch both wall with outstretched arms.

Corso – an avenue or main street. In Venice, these are open and wide. Buildings on either side rarely exceed 4 stories.

Calle – a very narrow street. Wider than a vicolino, but narrower than a Via.

Campo – a square. Venice has many, often complete with terrace restaurants.

Largo – a wide street. The name says it all.

Fondamenta – means foundation. A main street bordering a Canal (like the Grand Canal)

Sotoportego – Like Sotoportego del Tragetto. A low and narrow alley that passes under a building. Often dark and poorly lit.

Campiello – a small square. The are many of those as well.

Corte – a small court

Piazza – reserved for Piazza San Marco, the main town square of the city. No other space bear this designation in Venice, though it is common in many Italian cities.

Ruga – a street, derived from the French “rue”

Canal – reserved for the Grand, Cannaregio and Guidecca canals only. All others are named “rio”

Rio – a small or secondary canal. Nothing to do with the Brazilian city.

Rio Terrà – for example, Rio Terrà Foscarini. A rio or small canal that has been filled with earth and converted to a street.

Sestiere – a neighborhood or district of Venice. Venice has six of them: Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro, San Marco and Castello.