Venice is divided into six sestieri (districts), as well as Giudecca and other islands.
For centuries, tournaments, spectacles and other important events were held in Piazza San Marco. Now, on a summer's evening you can sit outside the Caffe Quadri and enjoy the strains of the wonderful orchestra music, or on a dark winter's evening, huddle into a corner of the Caffe Florian and, through 18th Century speckled mirrors, admire the candlelit elegance of the original frescoes, with coffee served on huge antique silver platters. Turning away from the Piazza, within seconds, you are in quiet side streets and calli, on your way home ... "a casa".
San Polo is a lesser known but still delightful part of Venice, stretching from Dorsoduro to Rialto.
It has at its heart the famous and beautiful Frari church, as well as being a great area for antique and specialist shops, and with some excellent restaurants.
One of my favourite areas of Venice, Cannaregio is the "local" sestiere - not many tourists, but the place where ordinary Venetians live - lots of good food shops, market area, even the clothes shops are reasonable!
The Cannaregio canal is the second widest in Venice, and joins the Grand Canal to the lagoon. A lively, interesting area, only 15 minutes on foot to Rialto and San Marco. Pick up the No. 1 vaporetto on the Grand Canal at San Marcuola, or take one of the Gira Città routes (41, 42, 51 or 52) from the canal itself.
One of the oldest sestieri of Venice, Castello is huddled behind San Marco in a maze of tiny streets and calli.
Spend an hour in the wonderfully tranquil Campo Santa Maria Formosa, or wander over to the Arsenale to picnic with the lions.
Stretching from the Salute church to the Frari, sleepy Dorsoduro is very much in demand for connoisseurs of Venice for its tranquil charm, yet it's convenient for every part of Venice.
By crossing the Accademia bridge you are within three minutes of San Marco.
Santa Croce is the oldest sestiere of Venice where most of the oldest faculties of the University are to be found, as well as the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista. Only a few minutes from the beautiful Ca' d'Oro and two minutes from the Rio Marin Canal where you can have a drink and pose in one of the nicest bars in Venice - Ai Postali - a canalside cafe with a great selection of drinks, nice music and a local clientele. Santa Croce is an area waiting to be discovered - very local in feel and away from the crowds at San Marco.
The Giudecca is a heavenly retreat, with a special atmosphere all of its own - inhabited almost entirely by locals, with very few hotels except the Cipriani, the Giudecca is Venice's best kept secret. I can't think of anything nicer than lunching on the sunny Zattere in a wonderful fish restaurant then jumping a boat home to the peaceful Giudecca.