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The San Paolo district has been the site of Venice’s main market since 1097
Venice, Paris, and London are made up of historic and evocative neighborhoods that linger in the imagination, whether or not you have ever set foot in them. Each of these capitals of great empires exerted immense influence on world taste, culture, the arts, and economics. In return, they gathered within their city walls (and waterways) countless extraordinary artistic and culinary treasures, many of which are now forgotten.
Even in districts as familiar as the the Piazza San Marco, Left Bank, or Trafalgar Square, there are special places and hidden gems that are beloved to locals but often overlooked by visitors.
Fred Plotkin, a popular Smithsonian speaker on culture, history, and music, has lived in and visited Venice, Paris, and London for more than 40 years. Join him for a richly illustrated series in which he looks at these places though the eyes of a flâneur, a French term for person whose casual strolls through city streets produce delight in their chance discoveries. He shares what he’s found on his strolls: churches, theaters, specialty shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, and unusual museums just a stone’s throw from world-famous landmarks.
Perhaps no city has as many treasures in such a small area as Venice, made up of just six neighborhoods called sestieri. Many of Venice’s labyrinthine calli (lanes) lead to discoveries made only when wandering. In Dorsoduro, steps from the Accademia museum full of Titians and Bellinis, you might come upon a squero (a repair shop for gondolas) or a store that still engages in traditional crafts such as the making of masks or Murano glass. Even in the tourist-filled sestiere of San Marco, you can walk within earshot of the main square to discover churches where Vivaldi played, bakeries that have made biscotti the same way since the Renaissance, and the birthplaces of popes.
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S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)