Things to see and do - Venice
Saint Mark’s Square and its treasures :
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Saint Mark’s Square and its treasures
Saint Mark’s Square and its treasuresPedestrian, 1 km, 1 day
Famous the world over, the area in and around Piazza San Marco is a concentration of mythical and compelling Venetian monuments that are just impossible to ignore. Get there early, to avoid the crowds!Customise this route and add it to My travel book
If the facade of Saint Mark's Basilica is superb, the marble interior, mosaics and bronze horses will leave you in awe, as much by the luminosity of the mosaics as by its 12C animal and geometric patterns. The edifice, consecrated in 1094, features a mixture of Byzantine and Western influences and is home to a host of treasures such as alabaster columns and a gold altarpiece!
The noble arcades of the old Palace of the Magistrates line Piazza San Marco on the farther side from the lagoon. After the buildings were destroyed by fire in 1512, they were rebuilt by Bartolomeo Bon, Guglielmo Grigi and finished by Sansovino. Crowned by a crenellated design similar to that of the Doge's Palace, they consist of a portico with 50 arcades and two storeys of loggias in the Venetian Byzantine style.
This second seat of Venice's Procurators, or Magistrates, whose facade occupies the entire south side of Piazza San Marco (where Caffe Florian is) replaced the Orseolo Hospice. Built according to a project by Scamozzi, the Palace was built by Longhena during the first half of the 17th C. and took on the role of Royal Palace under Napoleon.
This extraordinary architectural ensemble is the very embodiment of Venice. Everything here is graceful and beautiful, albeit teeming with pigeons and tourists. This vast trapezoidal space is harmoniously framed by the Procuratie, under the arcades of which are cafés like Florian (1720) and Quadri (1775), and boutiques. The square opens onto the Grand Canal across the lovely Piazzetta.
The National Marciana Library is in particular home to the lavish Salone Sansoviniano (designed by Sansovino between 1537 and 1560), adorned with portraits of philosophers, some of which were by Tintoretto and Veronese, and a ceiling dotted with medallions, a magnificent "manifesto of Mannerism in Venice".
Enthralling and dense, this museum recounts the history of Venice, both at the time of the Doges and that of the Risorgimento: objects and works of art evoke its maritime commerce, Venetian arts and crafts, games and festivities, and the daily life of Venetians. The second floor showcases major art by artists of the likes of Peter Bruegel the Younger, Giovanni Bellini and Vittore Carpaccio. An Archaeological museum occupies the first floor.
Unmissable, this amazing palace reveals Venice's entire history, both the public history of its doges and the more secret, tragic one of an uncompromising Republic. On the brighter side are the sumptuous ducal apartments with a visit culminating with the extraordinary Hall of the Great Council. On the darker side are the sinister prisons accessible via the Bridge of Sighs and the secret itineraries tour that unveils the hidden face of the Venetian Republic.
Lying between the Doge's Palace and the Sansovino Library, this extension of Piazza San Marco opens out onto the lagoon. It is adorned by a sumptuous pair of granite columns (brought from the east in 1172 but of uncertain origin) atop which stand St Theodore and the lion of St Mark. In addition to the Doge's Palace and Sansovino Library, the Piazzetta is overlooked by the campanile.