Sunday 5 July 2015

Venice Giardini/Arsenale Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.26 km (3.3 miles), terrain: flat

Venice running routes:
Giardini Park route
Burano route
For more running routes, see Route List.   

Venice, with its little alleys packed with tourist masses and little lanes dead-ending into canals, doesn't conjure up the image of a good running venue. But if you know where to go, you can find a few great spots to run along empty streets and through shady parks. Here's a route right in the center of town, but often seeming a world away from the teeming crowds of the Piazza San Marco.
In Giardini Pubblici
If you just walk 15 minutes east of the San Marco tourist crush, you'll find totally quiet streets, green parks and working-class neighborhoods in the Arsenale neighborhood that will immerse you in a totally different side of Venice.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time!
This route will start at the old Venetian naval headquarters, run through Venice's only real park (Giardini Pubblici) and then continue along the waterfront in Santa Elena and then in working-class San Pietro.
The Venetian Arsenale
So if you want to find some quiet, green, empty lanes, let's head off to the navy headquarters in Arsenale. The twin towers flanking the water entrance into the Arsenale fort compose the Torri dell' Arsenale, and to their left is the impressively decorated headquarters, with its white-marble lions.

Standing there at the lions, turn to the little footbridge that crosses the entry into the naval harbor, in front of the towers. Now cross the bridge and turn right to run south past the maritime museum the couple of blocks to the water of the lagoon.
Along the Riva
Now turn left and run westwards along the various "Riva" sections of the waterfront promenade. The number of pedestrians is already much less than in the center of town.

You'll go by a couple of little parks, but the real green area starts when you reach Giardini. When you see the main entrance, you have a choice of either running through the park or of continuing running along the water, with its wide vistas of the lagoon.
The promenade along Giardini
The Giardini Pubblici is the home of the Biennale art festival every two years. I was lucky enough to be there at that time, and there were little art installations in lots of other gardens and buildings throughout the neighborhood.

The park is definitely the place to hang out and enjoy some nature while in Venice, and the Paradiso café is the place to order that drink that seemingly everyone in Venice drinks: an Aperol Spritz.
Entering Santa Elena
Now continue to the next island, Santa Elena. It also has a park lining the water, but this one is simpler: full of playgrounds and park benches rather than exotic plants and statues. The Santa Elena neighborhood seems to have been put into a deep sleep, and you won't find many people wandering its empty streets.

Here, you also have a choice of running directly along the water, or take the main sidewalk through the park, where it's shadier.

When you reach the end east of the park, a canal will block your way to the naval academy straight ahead. So turn left here and run along the narrow path next to the canal, past the academy, the football stadium and a marina.
The path along the east side of Santa Elena
At the end of the path, turn left and run along the little sidewalks (Via XXIV Maggio) between the simple apartment blocks.

After a few hundred meters, you'll leave the neighborhood by running diagonally to the right through a bit more of the park. You'll now cross a bridge into an older neighborhood, onto Paludo San Antonio street. The left side of the street has some old factory buildings and the right side is working-class housing, with wash hanging out to dry above. The old factories are actually the back side of the Biennale gallery buildings.
In Paludo San Antonio
At the end of the street, before it dead-ends, you have to take the little side-street to the right, then turn left to leave the neighborhood through the arched gateway into Giardini park again.

Back in the park, turn right to exit at the main entrance again, but this time immediately turn right to enter the next little park, Viale Garibaldi, running northwest.
Music in Viale Garibaldi
At the far end of Viale Garibaldi, you come to a wide street, Via Garibaldi. Here, you have a choice:
1. You can shorten the run here by turning left and run along Bia Garibaldi, which will end back at the waterfront near the maritime museum.
2. Or you can turn right to add a loop through the San Pietro neighborhood, with more down-to-earth street-life.
The way to San Pietro
If you decide for the longer version (it is only 5.26-km, after all), turn right to run east along Fondamente Sant' Anna, along a narrow canal-side sidewalk. It ends by crossing a little bridge to the island of San Pietro.

Turn left at the first chance, and in a couple of blocks you'll find yourself in the square in front of the big marble church and its quite-leaning tower. The marble tower looks as if it could fall dangerously in the direction of the church at any time.
Festival preparations at San Pietro
When I was there, they were just starting the week-long Festa de San Pietro neighborhood festival, with booths, a puppet theater and a stage in front of the old church. The church was actually the Venice cathedral for hundreds of years, and it has great acoustics for their choir (who were performing for the fest).

Take the bridge away from San Pietro at the tower and run the one block until this street ends.

Now turn left onto Salizada Streta and run back to Fondamente Sant' Anna.
Along Via Garibaldi
Here, you turn right and run back west on Via Garibaldi until you reach the Riva waterfront promenade and cross the bridge to put you back at the maritime museum, and you're back in central Venice.

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