Hotel Indigo Venice - Sant'Elena
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Neighborhood Story

Welcome to Sant'Elena, the neighborhood of true tranquillity

To say Venice gets busy would be an understatement. It’s a city of 55,000 residents which draws almost 30 million annual visitors. But its immense popularity doesn’t mean there aren’t still parts of the city yet to be discovered. Take our neighborhood of Sant’Elena, which has the feel of a small, sleepy Italian town. Here you’re more likely to see locals walking their dogs than tour groups pouring off buses.

A spiritual retreat from the bustle of San Marco, Sant’Elena may be quiet but there’s plenty to enjoy here. It’s a global hub for modern art and culture, and it introduces visitors to an unexpected side to Venice that few tourists see. Of course, to holiday in Venice and not see St Mark’s Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s Palace in San Marco would be preposterous, and those world-famous sights are within easy reach of Sant’Elena. The distance between Sant’Elena and San Marco may be modest – but the neighborhoods feel worlds apart. Until the first world war, Sant’Elena was an island, cut off from the rest of the city at the eastern tip of Castello, the largest of the six sestieri (neighborhoods) of Venice. It still has an island vibe.

A green, leafy and peaceful oasis, meet
The Island of Sant'Elena

At the heart of the neighbourhood is our hotel, a converted 1930s monastery where a peaceful inner sanctuary offers further respite from the bustle. Our neighbours include the elegant red-brick Gothic church of Sant’Elena, built by Augustinian monks in the 11th century and known for its lofty landmark belltower. Maybe it’s the church, or maybe it’s our former monastery, but this neighbourhood exudes an almost spiritual calm.

It’s a feeling of serenity that engulfs you the moment you step off the vaporetto (water taxi) at the Sant’Elena stop, which connects the neighbourhood to the rest of the Venetian Lagoon. The station is located in the marvellously tranquil Parco delle Rimembranze. Large and leafy public parks are a rarity in Venice, so this is a rare opportunity to relax in the sunshine with a good book, plenty of room to yourself, and perhaps a glass of prosecco. You’re still in Venice, after all.

find authenticity away from tourists crowds on
The Island of Sant'Elena
of Sant’Elena and the nearby Lido, just one stop away by vaporetto, show a side to Venice not seen by many visitors. It’s true that some of the city’s best secrets can be found amongst the outlying islands: on beautiful Murano, for example, you can visit factories where glass is still made with a blowing-pipe, while exquisite Burano is justly famed for its colorful houses and fantastic fish restaurants. Venice is a fairy-tale of a city with palaces, cathedrals, and museums to take your breath away. In our neighborhood, you can get your breath back again. It’s a place where you can escape the noise and bustle, experience genuine local life, and feel refreshed.
Biennale Gardens: home to art and architecture
A short walk to the north is the Giardini della Biennale, a park commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte when Venice was under French rule at the start of the nineteenth century. These gardens are home to almost 30 national pavilions, permanent cultural embassies which showcase their country’s art and architecture – the British Pavilion is a 19th-century neo-classical building, the American Pavilion is a grand marble Palladian structure, while the Australian offering is a decidedly 21st-century black box. The park is a year-round hub for modern art and culture, although it really comes alive during the Venice Biennale, which, as its name suggests, takes place every other year. An architecture biennale takes place in the years the artists take off.
The Giardini della Biennale is the focal point for the Biennale festivities, but many events also take place at Arsenale, a shipyard dating back to the centuries-long period in which the powerful Venetian city-state dominated trade in the Mediterranean Sea. In the 16th century the Arsenale was a city within a city, where a workforce of 16,000 people could build sail-ready ships from scratch in a day. This vast complex, just a short walk from our hotel, is worth visiting outside of the art or architecture festivals, not least because its porta magna (main gate) is the earliest example of Renaissance architecture in the city.

Sant'Elena is just a few minutes vaporetto ride from the golden beaches of

Venice Lido

There’s another major reason why this area plays a significant role in modern art and culture. Just across the river from Sant’Elena is the Lido, home to the Venice International Film Festival, the oldest such event in the world and one of the ‘Big Three’ along with Cannes and Berlin. A long, narrow sandbar, the Lido is Venice’s beach resort – and it’s surprisingly untouristy considering its 12 kilometres of golden sands and beautiful views of the lagoon. Venture to the southern tip of the Lido, meanwhile, and you might be surprised by what you find: farms, sand dunes, a nature reserve, and that rarest of Venetian experiences – solitude.