Calli and the Narrowest Alley in Venice

Just Walking

I like to get lost and just walking between one street and the other. I sometimes just walk to find the emptiest piazzas (or Campo in Venetian) or to find the narrowest streets (or Calle).


The term Calle derives from the Latin callis, which means path, aisle, or walkway.

The names of the calli are often referred to the professions that were carried out along these streets, so there are calle del forno (the oven), calle del tagiapiera (stone-cutter), calle del pestrin (sellers of milk and cheese), calle dei fabbri (blacksmiths), calle dei botteri (manufacturers of barrels, and bottles), calle del spezier (spice merchant), calle delle rasse (this may one of the most interesting; rassa was an ordinary red woolen cloth with which the gondolas were covered. You can still see gondolas covered in red sometimes), perhaps the best one is calle del indorador (artisans skilled at coating furniture and frames with gold leaf); or refer to an altar or a capital calle del Cristo, calle della Madonna, Calle del Paradiso, or still take the name of the noble family who lived in that area, calle Dolfin, calle Benzoni, calle Da Ponte, calle Vallaresso, calle Bressana, calle Cremonese, calle Cavalli, Calle Priuli dei cavalletti, or for a very important event, Calle del Perdon (of the Pardon), or my favorite; Calle dei Assassini (the assassins!) takes this name as numerous crimes took place here, for the ease of hiding of those who were about to carry out a deadly ambush, because particularly dark and with many ravines, ideal place for ambushes. 

OK, nothing to worry anymore, there are no longer ambushes carried out here.

The Narrowest

Among the narrowest Calli in Venice, Calle Varisco, just 53 cm wide, is located in the Cannaregio district, roughly halfway between the Fondamenta Nuove and the Rialto Bridge. On one side the calle ends in a canal, overlooking the Rio dei SS. Apostles. It is therefore not a way of passage, fortunately, because the very small width barely allows the passage of a single person, but it is fun to travel and certainly constitutes an anecdote about the city to be told once back home.


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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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