North of Piazza San Marco
Just under the magic clock tower of Piazza San Marco, you leave the city’s centre stage to enter another world: the winding lower gut of golden consumption, the Mercerie (or Marzarie in Venetian dialect and on the street signs). It has five transformations, from the Merceria dell’Orologio to the Merceria 2 Aprile, strung together like brightly lit sausages to form the shortest route from Piazza San Marco to the Rialto Bridge.
For a long time the mercerie were the only streets in Venice paved with marble blocks; they have always been lined with shops, probably always offering the same sort of high-end goods – precious silks and spices then, designer clothes and perfume now.
But no one’s ever accused the Venetians of offering anything but the shrewdest of bargains for their wares. If the throngs aren’t too pressing (or depressing) you can pause to pick out one of the Mercerie’s landmarks: the relief of the Old Woman with a Mortar, over the arch of Sottoportego del Nero Cappello (first left after the clock tower).
vaporetto San Marco