The city is divided into six areas or “sestiere”. These are Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro (including the Giudecca and Isola Sacca Fisola), Santa Croce, San Marco (including San Giorgio Maggiore) and Castello (including San Pietro di Castello and Sant’Elena). Each sestiere was administered by a procurator and his staff.
These districts consist of parishes – initially seventy in 1033, but reduced under Napoleon and now numbering just thirty-eight. These parishes predate the sestieri, which were created in about 1170.
Other islands of the Venetian Lagoon do not form part of any of the sestieri, having historically enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy.
Each sestiere has its own house numbering system. Each house has a unique number in the district, from one to several thousand, generally numbered from one corner of the area to another, but not usually in a readily understandable manner.
At the front of the Gondolas that work in the city there is a large piece of metal intended as a likeness of the Doge’s hat. On this sit six notches pointing forwards and one pointing backwards. Each of these represent one of the Sestieri (the one that points backward represents the Giudecca).