St Mark’s Square Guide

St Mark’s Square Guide.  This unique all-in-one post, will give you everything you need to know about the most famous square in Venice. Three suggested walk’s, starting from St Mark’s Square are included; together with links direct to the main attractions, tourist board offices and other ticketing agencies, discount cards and much more. 

The Guide will transform your appreciation and enjoyment of both the historic Piazza and the wider San Marco district; saving you valuable time; particularly if it your first visit and and your time (and budget) is limited. It is also valuable, because the districts of San Marco, together with the Dorsoduro nearby; contain a large proportion of the city’s main attractions, in the historic centre of Venice. 

I have also included price structures and in each of the main attractions; links to my posts, related to it.  Read this guide; whether researching for your trip, on the way there, or at quieter moments back in your accommodation.

The guide is divided into two main sections:

  • 1. Introduction – Where to start –  Getting there and around –  Discount passes for main attractions and waterbus transport – Gondola rides. 
  • 2. A comprehensive list of all the top attractions of St Mark’s Square, including three detailed walks.

 


Please note. I have endeavoured to give you up to date information, as of December 2023. However, the worst aspect of writing about Venice, is keeping up with the changing cost of transport and attraction prices, particularly with the inflationary pressures resulting from Covid-19 and sanctions placed on Russia at the onset of the Ukrainian war. The are numerous online sites serving tourists, but some appear to be rather slow in updating information. If booking in advance, it may be wise to book direct with the attractions themselves, or with the major tourist/ticketing agencies or local tourist board offices.  Another thing, is that you have to cancel online bookings in advance, you need to be reasonably certain that you can get refunded, without undue hassle. Good advice is to read customer reviews. There are blog-sites, that offer independent information, recommendations on booking and publish customer feed-back. Once in Venice, you can contact the local tourist offices, spread throughout the city (two in St Mark’s Sq listed below or search other locations online), or your hotel reception can probably help. When entering Venice by air road or rail: the airports, main St Lucia railway station and the Piazzale Roma Bus Terminal; all have a tourist office and other travel agencies. AI-assisted search engines, seem to work reasonably well – just pump in for example “List recommended websites in Venice, Italy, for booking “——-” . It will come up with many options with site links. Remember though, that AI-searches are only as good as the websites and information it trawls through!


 

Where to Start?

The following posts make essential reading and will give both useful general information on the six districts of Venice and specifically the attractions throughout San Marco. In no time at all, you can become a “Venice expert” too!

Introduction to Venice.  A fantastic starting point to develop your understanding and enjoyment of this historic city and its lagoon environment. This post will maximise your appreciation and enjoyment of this unique aquatic city and includes:

Brief History
The Veneto (“Venezia Euganea”)
The Metropolitan City of Venice
The Historic Island City (“Centro Storico”)
Districts and Parishes
House numbering system
Origin of the Name.
The Language of Venice
The Climate of Venice
Venetian Wells – The Source of Drinking Water
Traditional food and drink of Venice and the Veneto
Flooding and Subsidence, Pollution and Algal Growth.
Acqua Alta and the MOSE Project.
Architecture, Art and Music
Places named after Venice
World-wide Venetian style Campaniles
Links Section to all my 200+ posts 

The Venetian Lagoon and its Ecosystem  is the most important survivor of a system of estuarine lagoons, that in Roman times extended from Ravenna north to Trieste. During the 5th to 6th century, the lagoon gave security to people under Roman rule; fleeing Hun and Lombard invaders.

1. Location

2. Development

3. Historical perspectives

4. Metropolitan City of Venice

5. The Islands

6. The Lagoon system.

These two posts will tell you, how Venice is divided into six districts or “sestiers” and more specifically on the main attraction of the San Marco district; in which the fabulous St Mark’s Square resides.

“Introduction – Districts and Attractions”     “San Marco – District and Attractions”

You also need to be aware of the city’s awareness campaign and about present and future taxes imposed on visitors coming into Venice.

“EnjoyRespectVenezia”  is the City of Venice’s awareness campaign, with the aim of creating a sustainable coexistence between tourists and residents. The campaign was launched during the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development” in 2017. It was designed to encourage visitors into adopting more responsible and respectful behaviour; towards the environment, landscape, artistic treasures and the identity of Venice and its inhabitants. A key objective was to raise awareness of tourist impact, with the belief that responsible tourism; can contribute to sustainable development. You also need to be aware of prohibited practices in Venice, enforced by the Municipal Police; as the potential fines are significant (Euro 25-500). Please read this, in conjunction with my other post below. 

 

“Venice Visitor Taxes”.You need to be aware of both current and proposed taxes on both overnight and day-trip visitors to Venice. The “overnight tax”, was first introduced in 2011, was created for overnight visitors and is paid in proportion to the number of nights spent in Venice and on the “level”/star rating of the accommodation and location. It is a charge that is paid by all guests staying overnight in Hotels, B&B’s and apartments in Venice; normally taken when settling your final account/bill with the establishment.

The “day-tripper tax” first proposed in February 2019, is intended for visitors who don’t spend any nights in Venice and varies depending on expected visitor numbers to the city on any particular day.   As of July 2023, it has been reported, that the entry tax to Venice for day-tripper tourists; will not become effective until 2025. The tax payment system will be tested in 2024, at key traditionally busy points; but the precise dates of the 2024 test are not yet known (or announced). This future tax will, therefore, only really come into force in 2025, after analysis of this test data. Don’t panic though – for most people, their travel agents and all transport systems into Venice will take care these taxes, within their charging structures. The Venetian authorities are slowly getting to grips with refining and simplifying this tax collection system, to make it workable – the city relies on tourism to exist! You will also be able to purchase tickets online from a dedicated website or at ticket points at all access areas to or in Venice. 

 

Getting there and getting around – St Mark’s Square Guide

The following comprehensive and illustrated posts will probably provide you with “everything you need to know”.

Getting Around – Basic Terminology.  This post is about helping you arrive and get around Venice and about getting to grips with some basic architectural and artistic terminology; to enrich your experience of this wonderful city. Also, many Venetian street names, reflect the nature of the  original business or trade that was carried out there; especially so in commercial areas such as the Rialto.

“Santa Lucia Train Station”   Santa Lucia Train Station, in the historic centre of Venice, is one of the city’s two railway stations. The other, “Venice Mestre” is a mainline junction station on the Metropolitan city’s, mainland district of Mestre. The two stations form one of Italy’s main transport hubs, providing suburban, regional, national and international rail services. Also known as “Venezia Santa Lucia”, the rail terminus is located in the northern district of Cannaregio; overlooking the Grand Canal, close to its western end. Construction began under the Austrian Empire, with demolition of the church and associated convent of Santa Lucia in 1861. The current low “modernist” building, completed in 1954; was subject to a substantial modernisation programme in 2012. Until 1933, with construction of the Liberty road bridge and the Piazzale Roma terminus; Venice’s historic centre, could only be accessed by boat or rail.

“Piazzale Roma Bus Terminal”   Piazzale Roma Bus Terminal, links the historic city of Venice to the mainland via the “Ponte della Libertà” road bridge. It is located on the south bank of the Grand Canal, close to its western end; in the district of Santa Croce. Piazzale Roma, allows access to motor vehicles (buses, cars, taxis) and also local trams from Mestre. Within the square is also the “Venice People Mover”: an overhead  public transit system, operating since 2010 and connecting Piazzale Roma to the Marittima cruise ship port and Tronchetto island. The latter allows more extensive car parking facilities, than found in Piazzale Roma; which can get very congested in high season and during major festivals and events. The square is very close to the main Santa Lucia Train Station, on the north bank of the Grand Canal and linked by the “Ponte della Costituzione” (or “Calatrava Bridge”); a modern footbridge, installed in 2008. The six Vaporetto waterbus landing stages at Piazzale Roma, are located along the Fondamenta S. Chiara running westward; from the foot of the Constitution Bridge.

“Useful Apps for Venice”   This post gives an overview of the most useful free apps for your trip to Venice. They can make planning and packing for your trip easier, more relaxed and ensure that you can maximise the time you have available in the city and the other lagoon islands. They are especially useful for frequent travellers or residents. They will help you get around and make the most of your stay: vaporetto routes and time-tables; museum, exhibition, gallery and church opening times and entrance fees; useful discounts and which streets are flooded by the “acqua alta” and much much more! It’s best to download and install the apps before you set off to Venice and if possible, create a separate window on the phone; with your new collection of Venice related apps.

“The Language of Venice”   The Language of Venice is unique, despite modern worldwide cultural influences, as it remains original and is used by all classes of society. It should not be considered a mere local dialect, since during the Republican era, it was used in official documents and in a considerable body of literature. Venetians do not think of their language as a means of preserving their identity, as it still remains a natural way of communication by some inhabitants of the city, particularly amongst the older generation and some island communities. Nowadays, amongst the younger generations Venetian is spoken, but more informally with often the odd word or phrase thrown in amongst the Italian. Perhaps many will say that they understand it, but often don’t use it themselves. However, the indigenous population is only just above 50,000 people, the vast majority of workers commute in daily from the mainland. Much of their economy, depends on mass tourism. Venice is an expensive and rather inconvenient place to live for most Italians. The city’s educational and art facilities have a large international student population. So, today’s Venice is a “melting pot” of people. You will find much of the directional signage in Venice, is in both and Venetian and Italian.

 

1. To and from the Marco Polo Airport.

ACTV and Alilaguna are two different transportation services in Venice. ACTV is the city-owned company that runs land and water buses in Venice and the surrounding areas. Alilaguna is a private ferry company that runs water bus shuttles from Venice Marco Polo Airport to the historic centre and islands of Venice.

The cost of getting from the airport to Venice depends on which service you choose. Here are some options and prices:

Bus. You can take the ACTV line 35 bus, or the ATVO express shuttle from the airport to Piazzale Roma, the main bus terminal in Venice. The journey takes about 20-30 minutes and costs €10 for a one-way ticket.

Ferry. You can take the Alilaguna waterbus from the airport to various stops in Venice, such as San Marco, Rialto, or Fondamente Nove. Allow the journey to San Marco to take up to 80-90 minutes, at a costs of 15 euros for a one-way ticket or 27 euros return. It does go via Murano and the Lido, which lengthens the journey. It’s potentially a more romantic way to enjoy the views of the lagoon, the islands and the navigation channels along the way.  You can check the map and timetable of the Alilaguna lines at this website  You can also buy the tickets online or at the airport terminal.

Land Taxi. You can take a taxi, from the airport to Piazzale Roma (Bus Terminal). The journey takes about 15-20 minutes and costs €60-€75.

Shared Water taxi: This is a cheaper option, that allows you to share the boat with other passengers, who are going to the same area. You can book a one-way, or a round-trip service online or at the airport. The price is €35 per person for a one-way ticket or €65 per person for a round-trip ticket. The journey takes about 30 minutes and the water taxi will drop you off at the nearest accessible point to your hotel.

Private water taxi: This is a more expensive but more comfortable option that gives you a private boat for yourself and your group. You can book a one-way or a round-trip service online, or at the municipal taxi stations. The price varies depending on the number of passengers and the destination, but it is usually between €100 and €150 for a one-way ticket or between €180 and €250 for a round-trip ticket. The journey takes about 30 minutes and the water taxi will drop you off directly at your hotel dock or the closest public dock.

You can see the map of the municipal taxi stations and the details of how to book a water taxi on these websites:  https://www.bookwatertaxivenice.com/services/marco-polo-airport-to-venice    https://www.venicetraveltips.com/venice-water-taxi/

If you prefer faster or cheaper option, you can also take a bus, a taxi, or a water taxi from the airport to Piazzale Roma; the main bus station in Venice. From there, you can walk or take a vaporetto (water bus) to Piazza San Marco.

 

2. Discount Passes for Attractions and Waterbus travel in Venice.

VAPORETTO PASSES. You can buy them both online and in Venice. There are different options and costs for various time periods, depending on your needs and preferences. Always double check your validation date requirements, when booking online. Here are some of the main choices. I have tried to be fair to tourist businesses and given a variety of different websites:

You can buy vaporetto passes from a ticket outlet at larger stations, such as Piazzale Roma, Ferrovia, Rialto, San Marco Vallaresso, and Zaccaria. You can also buy them from touch-screen machines in many ACTV stations, or from tobacco shops and news-stands. Alternatively, you can buy them online from this website or this website, or use the Chat & Go service via WhatsApp or the AVM Venezia app on your smartphone.

Here are some options for attractions, museums, galleries and churches in Venice.
  • Venice City Pass: This is an all-inclusive pass that gives you free entry to the most famous sights, museums and galleries; as well as free boat rides and exclusive guided tours. You can choose between Starter, Classic and Complete City Pass options and pick the one that best suits your trip. The pass is valid for 7 days and offers a great way to experience Venice. You can also add public transportation tickets to your pass. You can find more details and book your pass online at this website.
  • Venezia Unica City Pass: This is a customizable pass that allows you to choose the attractions and services you want to visit and use in Venice. You can select from a range of museums, churches, public transport, parking, toilets, and other facilities. You can also enjoy discounts for various exhibitions, cultural events, and excursions. You can create your own pass online at this website.
  • Museum Tickets and Passes: If you are interested in visiting specific museums or galleries in Venice, you can also book individual tickets or passes online. Some of the popular options are the Doge’s Palace, the Museo Correr, the Archaeological Museum, the Biblioteca Marciana, and the Leonardo da Vinci Museum. You can skip the long lines and explore the museums at your own pace. You can browse and book your tickets and passes at this website.
  • The Chorus Church Pass. It is a discount card that allows you to visit 18 churches in Venice that are part of the Chorus Association. The pass costs only €10 and is valid for one year. You can buy the pass online or at any of the participating churches. You can find more information about the Chorus Pass and the churches you can visit at this website.

 

3. Gondola Rides

The price of a gondola ride in Venice is 80 euros during the day (from 9am to 7pm) and 100 euros at night time (from 7pm to 3am). The price is for up to 5 people and the gondola ride usually lasts 30 minutes, but it’s possible to extend it by paying a surcharge calculated by reference to the time. The price for a gondola ride is not per person but per boat. If you are traveling with your family or with a group of people, you could decide to share the costs among the participants, so that this experience will be a perfect private gondola ride. Each gondola takes up to 5 people plus the gondolier. Children up to 1 year are not counted, since they can travel in parent’s lap. Rarely, gondoliers might ask to take just 4 people just to better balance the weight on the gondola. Safety comes first than the magic of the experience.

You can book directly, with a gondolier at one of the many gondola stations around the city, but you may have to negotiate the price and the route.

You may like to book your gondola ride online. There are numerous sites offering gondola ride information and booking. Websites may offer different price structures, availability, and service. Here are a small selection, along with a brief description of what they offer: shared and private, day or night, serenaded, or with a guide! Some blog sites offer advice and recommendations of where to book A small warning – the Grand Canal and Basin and the Rialto, can often be exceptionally busy; so the wake of passing motor boats and vaporetti, can make things rather less relaxing and romantic, than you might have imagined. You may like to choose a gondola ride away from the main busy tourist areas. From what I read, you need to be careful – apparently; some gondoliers have a propensity to cut corners; especially in the busiest periods. Do discuss exactly what is being offered, before you start the ride.

Book Venice Gondola: This website allows you to book online your gondola ride in Venice, either shared or private, with or without extras such as a serenade or a bottle of prosecco. You can also book other tours and services, such as walking guided tours, water taxi transfers, and museum tickets. The website claims to offer easy online booking, instant confirmation, flexible bookings, and local assistance.
Venice Gondola Ride Tickets: This website offers online tickets for private gondola rides in Venice, starting from 24€ per person. You can choose the duration, the departure time, and the location of your gondola ride. The website also provides a map of the gondola routes and some tips for your gondola ride. The website promises instant confirmation, flexible booking guarantee, skip the line, and easy access.
Taking a Gondola Ride in Venice: This website is that gives you some useful information and advice on how to take a gondola ride in Venice, such as the best time, the best location, the best price, and the best way to book. The website also provides links to a wide range of its  referred websites; for booking a shared or private gondola ride, with or without a guide.


 

List of Top Attractions – St Mark’s Square Guide

To get the the most complete picture of the main attractions St Mark’s Square and the entire district of San Marco; please read the following highly informative and illustrated posts. You can also find posts on all the other districts, at the end of this post.

“San Marco – District and Attractions”        “Introduction – Districts and Attractions”     “Bridges of the Grand Canal”

 “Venetian Palace Architectural Styles: Byzantine – Venetian Gothic – Renaissance – Baroque – Neoclassical.”

Useful note. The main tourist board information office in Venice is located at Giardini ex Reali (exRoyal gardens). It is located between Piazza San Marco and its western Vallaresso ferry stop. The address of the office is: Giardini ex Reali, San Marco. The phone number of the office is +39-041-52987111. The office is open daily from 10am to 6pm.

There is also another tourist information office located in St. Mark’s Square, which is on the north side of the square, near the Torre dell’Orologio (the clock tower).  The address of the office is: San Marco 711. The phone number of the office is +39-041-5226356 / 52987301. The office is open daily from 9am to 3.30pm.

Google Map of St Mark's square Venice

Courtesy of Google Earth

1. St Mark’s Square – Piazza di San Marco – St Mark’s Square Guide

It is the largest and most important public square in Venice, surrounded by magnificent buildings. The Piazza is a showcase of the city’s rich historical, artistic and architectural heritage; as well as one of the world’s most popular tourist attraction. It is the religious and administrative centre of the historic city. Called “the drawing room of Europe” by Napoleon,witnessing many events and ceremonies throughout the history of Venice. St Mark’s Square measures 175 meters in length, and 80 meters in width at the widest part; because it’s not rectangular but actually trapezoidal.

The buildings and smaller squares around the Piazza, in an anti-clockwise direction starting from the Doges’ palace, overlooking the Bacino di San Marco (St Mark’s Basin) are:

The Palazzo Ducale  (Doge’s Palace) linked to the Palazzo della Prigione Nove (New Prison) by the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), the Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica), the Piazzetta dei Leoncini (Square of Lions), the Torre dell’Orologico (Clocktower), the Procuratie Vecchie, the Ala Napoleonica wing of the Procuraties, with the entrance to the Museo Correr, the Procuratie Nuove, the Campanile (Belltower) with its Loggetta.  Facing the Doge’s palace in the Piazzetta San Marco, is the Biblioteca Marciana (Library), next to which is La Zecca (the Mint), overlooking the entrance to the Grand Canal.  Finally, the relaxing greenery of the Giardini Ex Reali (Royal Gardens) and Harry’s Bar (of Bellini cocktail fame), offer some light relief. For relaxing and people-watching, there are four renowned cafes in the Square: the Caffè Florian, the Gran Caffè Quadri, the Caffè Lavena and the modern and recently opened, Caffè dell’anniversario. 

 


 

2. The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s palace) – St Mark’s Square Guide

The Doge’s Palace in Venice, is a stunning example of Venetian Gothic architecture, that served as the residence and seat of government of the Doge, the ruler of the former Republic of Venice. The  Palace is located on the east side of the Piazzatta di San Marco, directly opposite  the Biblioteca Marciana (Library). Looking towards the Bacino di San Barco (Basin), you can see the iconic twin columns of the two patron saints of Venice – St Theodoro (the first) and St Marco.

The wide promenade bounding the water’s edge, is known as the “Molo”. basically extending from the Mint to the Ponte della Paglia and views to the Bridge of Sighs. The Molo is a term that refers to the stone quay. that marks the water entrance to the Piazzetta and was once the ceremonial landing spot for great officials and distinguished visitors, who arrived in Venice by sea.

The wide promenade then becomes the iconic Riva degli Schiavoni with its three Vaporetto stations, serving San Marco called “San Zaccaria” Looking out across the basin gives you the classic “Grand Views”, of Santa Maria della Salute (or just the Salute) and San Giorgio Maggiori, both depicted by many great artists over the centuries. Canaletto, painted a series of views of  the Molo from the San Marco basin, in the 1730s.

The palace was built in the 14th century and expanded and modified over the centuries, reflecting the artistic and political changes of Venice. The palace contains many artistic and historical treasures, such as the paintings by Carpaccio, Giorgione, Vivarini and Bellini, the secret itineraries of the Venetian administration and the Bridge of Sighs; that connects the palace to the prison. The palace is now a museum that attracts millions of visitors every year, who want to admire its beauty and learn about its history. The arcades along the western and southern aspects of the palace, have carved capitals at the top of the many columns; that feature wonderful human and animal figures and tell significant historical stories.

The cost of visiting the Doge’s Palace in Venice depends on the type of ticket you choose. Currently, there are different options available such as:

  • A single ticket valid for the Doge’s Palace and the combined itinerary of Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. This ticket costs 25,00 euro if you book online at least 30 days prior to the visit date, or 30,00 euro otherwise1. There are reduced prices for children, students, seniors, and other categories.
  • A ticket for the Secret Itineraries Tour, which includes a visit to the Doge’s Palace and a guided tour of some hidden areas of the palace, such as the prisons, the torture chamber, and the secret archives. This ticket costs 32,00 euro for full price, or 20,00 euro for reduced price
  • A ticket for the Hidden Doge’s Treasure Tour, which includes a visit to the Doge’s Palace and a guided tour of some of the most precious artworks and objects in the palace, such as the Golden Staircase, the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, and the Sala dello Scrutinio. This ticket costs 32,00 euro for full price, or 20,00 euro for reduced price.
  • A skip-the-line ticket, which allows you to enter the Doge’s Palace without waiting in the queue. This ticket costs 30,00 euro and can be booked online2. You can also add an info book or an audio guide for an extra fee.
  • A guided tour with skip-the-line, which includes a professional guide who will explain the history and significance of the Doge’s Palace and its rooms. This ticket costs 64,00 euro and can be booked online.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated posts The Doge’s Palace”    and    “Doge’s Palace – Column Capitals”

 

Walk – No 1 Riva degli Schiavoni to the Arsenale

The walk starts from the New Prison; linked to the Doge’s palace and ends at the Arsenal. The Riva degli Sciavoni, named after the Slavic merchants from Dalmatia; is a beautiful waterfront promenade that offers stunning views of the Venetian lagoon and some of the most iconic landmarks of the city. One of the first things to notice is the famous Danielli Hotel located in what was the Palazzo Dandoli, with its beautiful foyer and bar. It was featured in 3 different James Bond films: Casino Royale (2006), From Russia with Love (1963) and Moonraker (1979). 

To the right on the Basin’s edge, are the three stops of the San Zaccaria waterbus stations.  Two alleyway’s down to the left and about a 150 metres later, you enter the southern gate of the Campo San Zaccaria, with its wonderful church frontage of the same name and many more delights inside. Returning to the Riva, next comes the Pieta Santa Maria di Visitazione, also known as La Piate or Vivaldi’s church and concert hall. Proceed along two hundred metres and take a left turn at the Calle d Dose. This quickly, brings you into the Campo Bandera E Moro, with the church of San Giovanni Bragora. Return to the Riva by the small Calle d Forno.

The Riva degli Schiavoni ends as you cross the bridge over the Rio Ca di Dio and changes into the Riva Ca di Dio with its Arsenale vaporetto stop. About two hundred metres later, you cross the bridge over the wider Canal dell’ Arsenale and into the Campo di Bagio. The large building is the Museo Storico Navale (naval museum). Walk along the wide Fondamenta dell’Arsenale, for a few hundred metres until you come to the impressive Torri dell’ Arsenale, the impressive twin towers, guarding the entrance to the Arsenale. pass over the bridge and you are in the Campo dell’ Arsenale. Make you way south along the canal side from the campo and after entering a few short and narrow streets; you are back on the Riva directly in front of the Arsenale Vaporetto stop. 

The Arsenal is a complex of shipyards and armories that was the source of the naval and military power of the Venetian Republic. The Arsenal was founded in the 12th century and expanded over the years to cover more than 40 hectares. The Arsenal was the largest and most advanced industrial complex in Europe until the Industrial Revolution. You can see the entrance of the Arsenal from the Riva degli Sciavoni, which is marked by a large gate with a lion statue and a tower with a clock.

A further recommended suggestion as a detour to the walk, is to hop on a Vaporetto and visit St Giorgio Maggiore and the Georgio Cini Foundation, if time permits. You can visit this outstanding monumental complex with a guided tour, that can be highly recommended. It’s only one stop away and a peaceful island, away from the stressful crowds

Please read my related comprehensive and illustrated posts:   “San Giorgio di Maggiore”    “Antonio Vivaldi – Life and Legacy”     

  18-Museo Storico Navale         “The Arsenal of Venice”


 

3. Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica).

The Basilica, located at the eastern end of the Piazza, is a magnificent cathedral in Venice, that showcases the wealth and power of the former Venetian Republic. It is dedicated to St Mark the Evangelist, whose relics are housed inside the church. The basilica was built in the 11th century, replacing an earlier church that was destroyed by fire. It was inspired by the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire; which Venice had close ties with. The basilica has a Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic style, with five domes, eight turrets, and a richly decorated façade. The interior is covered with gold mosaics, depicting scenes from the Bible and the lives of the saints. It also contains many treasures and artworks, that were looted from Constantinople and other places during the Crusades and the wars of Venice. Among them are the four bronze horses that stand above the main entrance, which date back to ancient Rome. The basilica was the private chapel of the doges, the rulers of Venice, until 1807, when it became the cathedral of the Patriarch of Venice. It is one of the most famous and visited churches in the world and a symbol of Venice’s glorious past.read all about the Basilica, its famous original quadriga of horses and its major role in the development of the Venetian School of Music and its many associated composers.

Other main attractions are:

The Pala d’Oro is the golden altarpiece that stands behind the main altar of the basilica. It is made of gold, silver, enamel, and gems, and depicts scenes from the life of Christ and the saints. It was created in Byzantium in the 10th and 11th centuries, and was enriched by Venetian goldsmiths in the 14th century. It is considered one of the most refined and accomplished works of Byzantine enamel art. The Pala d’Oro can be admired from a close distance by paying an entrance fee of 2 euros.

The Treasury is a collection of 283 pieces of art and relics in gold, silver, glass, and other precious materials. It is what remains of the ancient treasure of the Venetian Republic, which was plundered and sold after the fall of Venice in 1797. The Treasury includes objects brought from Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade in 1204, such as liturgical vessels, icons, and reliquaries. It also includes objects of late-antique, Islamic, and western origin, some of them gifts from popes, princes, and doges. The Treasury is located on the upper floor of the basilica, and can be accessed by paying an entrance fee of 3 euros.

The Museum accessed by a staircase in the entrance Atrium, is a place where you can closely admire the original bronze horses, the mosaics, the tapestries, and the Pala d’Oro, a golden altarpiece with precious stones. The museum also offers a “must-see” panoramic view of St. Mark’s Square and the Basin, from the Loggia dei Cavalli, where the replica horses are displayed.  Fantastic for photography. The entrance fee to the museum is 7 euros.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated posts:

 “St Mark’s Basilica”

21 – Museo di San Marco

“The Four Horses of St Marks”

“Introduction – “The Venetian School of Music”  

“Sacred Geometry”


 

4. Piazzetta dei Leoncini (Square of Lions)

The Piazzetta dei Leoncini is the small square in the north-east corner of St Mark’s Square. It is named after the two marble lions that stand close to a side entrance to the Basilica. The lions were donated by Doge Alvise Mocenigo in 1722, and are considered symbols of Venice’s power and pride.  The square also has a niche with the tomb of Daniele Manin, the leader of the short-lived Republic of San Marco; that rebelled against the Austrian rule in 1848.

On the eastern side of the square, is the Palazzo Patriarcale, (Patriarchal Palace), the seat of the Patriarchate of Venice; the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Venice. It is where the Patriarch of Venice, the archbishop and chief pastor of the diocese, resides and works. The current Patriarch of Venice is Francesco Moraglia, who was appointed in 2012. It was built in the 19th century, in Napoleonic times, after the fall of the Venetian Republic; when St Mark’s Basilica became the cathedral of the Patriarchate of Venice. The palace was designed by architect Lorenzo Santi, and has a Venetian Classical style. The palace also houses the Historical Archive of the Patriarchate of Venice, and the Diocesan Museum; which displays artworks and relics from the history of the church in Venice. It is not open to the public, except for special occasions or guided tours. However, you can admire its exterior.

The small street out of the Piazza is the Calle Canonica, which quickly leads to the Palazzo Trevisan and the Museo Diocesano d’Arte Sacra; both on the Rio di Palazzio, with a great rear view of the Bridge of Sighs. Cross over the bridge and you are now in the  Campo SS Filipo e Giacomo; an area with good value restaurants and bars. Keep going east a around two hundred metres and you enter the marvellous Campo San Zaccaria and Church, with its a beautiful exterior. The interior has wonderful decoration and some famous artworks, and was much favoured by some doges.


 

5. The Torre dell’Orologico (Clocktower)

The Torre dell’Orologio, or the Clock Tower, is a remarkable Renaissance building that stands on the north side of St Mark’s Square in Venice. It was commissioned by Doge Agostino Barbarigo in 1493 and built by architect Maurizio Codussi between 1496 and 1499. The tower contains a complex clock mechanism that shows the time, the phases of the moon, and the zodiac signs. The clock face is decorated with gold and blue enamel, and features a winged lion, the symbol of Venice, holding an open book.

Above the clock, two bronze figures, known as the Moors, strike a bell every hour. On special occasions, such as Ascension Day and Epiphany, a procession of wooden statues of the Magi and an angel emerges from the clock and bows to the Virgin Mary on the lower level. The tower also houses the living quarters of the clock’s keepers, who have been maintaining the clock for centuries. The tower is open to the public by guided tours, which allow visitors to see the clock mechanism, the statues, and the panoramic view from the rooftop. The Torre dell’Orologio is a masterpiece of engineering and art, and a testimony of Venice’s glorious past

Accessed by the archway under the Clock Tower is a chain of five narrow streets, collectively known as the Mercerie; linking the Piazza with the Rialto. These link the religious and administrative centre with the financial and commercial centre of Venice. It’s a bizarre mix of named designer shops and kitsch; progress can by slow when it’s busy! Passing under the clock-tower arcade and immediately look back and upward, to admire another 24-hour clock-face.

Prices.The visit to the Clock Tower is available only upon prior booking, with a specialised guide. The tour lasts about an hour. Children under 6 are not allowed
The full price ticket is 14 euros.The reduced price ticket is 11 euros for children aged from 6 to 14, students aged from 15 to 25, visitors over 65, and other eligible categories.
The ticket for the Clock Tower also includes free admission to the Museo Correr, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana.

In addition, please read my very comprehensive and illustrated post:   “The Clock Tower in St Mark’s Square”

 

Walk – No 2 The Clock-Tower to the Rialto bridge, via the “Mercerie”

Without stopping you could manage this walk in around 20 minutes. Accessed by the archway under the Clock Tower is a chain of narrow streets, collectively known as the Mercerie; linking the Piazza with the Rialto.  These link the religious and administrative centre with the financial and commercial centre of Venice.  It’s a bizarre mix of named designer shops and kitsch; progress can by slow when it’s busy. The route may seem a bit tortuous at first, but just follow the crowd!

Entering the Merceria dell’Orologia, a few metres down on the left, look up and see another curiosity –  an inscribed plaque of an old women named Giustina, who apparently foiled a plot to overthrow the Venetian government in 1310, by throwing boiling oil and stones from her window, at the rebels led by Bajamonte Tiepolo! For this, the most serene republic decreed that she and her heirs, forever should receive the bread of the poor and free rent.

In a few minutes you enter the side of the Campo San Julian and its church. Across the campo and slightly to the right, pick up the Merceria San Julian, cross over a small canal bridge and into the Merceria San Salvador. This brings you to the right of the San Salvador Church.  Directly behind it to the left, is the wonderful Scuola Grande di San Teodoro. Turn to the right and enter the Via 2 Aprile, which leads directly to the Church of San Bartolomeo. look to the left and you can see the small access streets to the Ponte di Rialto bridge, over the Grand Canal. Rialto translates into “high river bank”, which at around 3 metres originally was the highest point in the city.

Obviously you will want to spend some time on the bridge with its two wings and central arcade. Looking south is the most popular and gets very crowded at times. Selfie sticks abound. Sunset, as all the lights come on is especially atmospheric.

Its a miracle how all these vaporetto’s, launches and gondolas manoeuvring around, avoid each other and you may think that you probably would not want take a gondola ride here.You realise how most things for everyday life Venice, has to be brought in and the waste taken away.  

“Scuole Grandi of Venice – Introduction”      “Scuola Grand di San Teodoro”  The “Scuole Grandi” of Venice (Great Schools) (singular: Scuola Grande), were confraternity or sodality institutions. They were founded as early as the 13th century, as charitable and religious organisations for the laity. The Scuola Grande di San Teodoro, was dedicated to the first patron saint of Venice (before St Mark) and the confraternity of San Teodoro was founded in 1258. it was originally within the Church of San Salvador, but closed before moving to its own grand premises. close by on the Campo di San Salvatore. In 1960, the Scuola was further remodelled, and is now used as a venue for cultural events such as exhibitions, meetings and concerts.

Underneath the Great Schools, were the numerous “Scuole Piccole” (Minor Schools) and “Guilds”; that included specific trades and craftsmen, merchants and those catering for foreign nationals, resident in Venice. 

Since 1999, I Musici Veneziani, perform their concerts in the beautiful setting of the Scuola Grande di San Teodoro. Again, a wonderful orchestra in a wonderful setting and recommended. There are many good restaurants around the Rialto area, so why not combine the two for a wonderful evening.   I Musici Veneziana Website  


 

6. The Procuratie Vecchie, the Ala Napoleonica wing and the Procuratie Nuove

The Procuraties: the Procuratie Vecchie, the Ala Napoleonica wing of the Procuraties, and the Procuratie Nuove are three inter-connected buildings that line three sides of the Piazza; thus framing the famous St Mark’s Square. They were built by the Procurators of St Mark, the second-highest officials in the Venetian Republic, who managed the treasury of the church and the state.

The Procuratie Vecchie (Old Procuracies) is the longest building in Venice, stretching along the north side of the square. It was built in the early 16th century in a classical style, and it contained apartments that were rented or sold by the Procurators. Some of the apartments were later turned into clubhouses, such as the Caffè Quadri, the oldest café in Venice.

The Ala Napoleonica (Napoleonic Wing) is the newest addition to the Procuraties, built on the west side of the square during the French occupation of Venice in the early 19th century. It replaced a church and a monastery that were demolished by Napoleon, who wanted to create a large public space in the style of Paris. The wing has a neoclassical style, with a portico and a triangular pediment. It was used as the residence of the viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, and later as the seat of the Austrian governor. It is now the entrance to the Museo Correr, a museum that displays the art and history of Venice. The museum also occupies part of the Procuratie Nuove and the Marciana Library. Prices. The entrance fee to the museum is 14 euros for the full price ticket, and 11 euros for the reduced price ticket. Note, the ticket also includes free admission to the Clock Tower, the National Archaeological Museum, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana.

The Procuratie Nuove (New Procuracies) is the building on the south side of the square, opposite the Procuratie Vecchie. It was built between the late 16th and mid 17th centuries in a high Renaissance style, and it housed the official residences of the Procurators. It also had arcades on the ground floor that were rented out for shops and coffeehouses, such as the Caffee Florian. The Procuratie Nuove was later converted into the palace of the viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, and then the seat of the Austrian governor. It is now part of the Museo Correr, and it contains the rooms where It also has a hidden passageway that leads to the Royal Gardens on the Grand Canal. The building is now open to the public for the first time in its history, after a five-year renovation by architect David Chipperfield. It houses a public reading room, an exhibition space, a café, and a rooftop pavilion with a panoramic view of the city. the Procurators lived and worked, as well as paintings, sculptures, and furniture from the Venetian Republic.

The arcade under the western Napoleonic Wing, has an interesting bronze plaque on the floor. It marks the spot where the first Italian parliament met in 1861. This was after Venice became part of the Kingdom of Italy, following the Third Italian War of Independence and the Treaty of Vienna. Through the arcade, on the wall of the street are some bronze plaques of interesting historical figures. Turning to the left and then to the first right, leads you  into a series of streets that form the main thoroughfare to the Academy bridge, for crossing over to the Dorsoduro district. It will take you about 20 minutes walk. Along the route, you will pass several beautifully decorated church facades – San Moise and Santa Maria del Giglio (lily), private galleries and a wide street, the Calle Larga XX11 Marzo,  with many high-end boutiques. Next, comes the Campo di San Maurizio, where you can find the Museo di Music, housed in the San Maurizio church – a veritable jewel, that can take the visitor on a journey into the history of music. It recalls the eighteenth century, which represents the golden age of violin making and the pristine craftsmanship is clearly evident through the violins, violas, and cellos that are on display. Free entry.

You end up in the large atmospheric Campo Santo Stefano, which leads you onto the Academy bridge, crossing the Grand canal. It’s a very popular square with restaurants, bars, and two churches, one of which is the “ex Chiesa di San Vidal”; now a beautiful concert hall with the renowned baroque assembly; the Interpreti Veneziani playing there regularly.

Particularly in the evening this is a wonderful walk, when all the boutiques and galleries are lit up. I thoroughly recommend dinner somewhere along this route, combined with an evening concert. The ensemble who specialises in Baroque music and perform works by composers such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, and Rossini. They have been playing concerts at the San Vidal Church since 1987 and have gained international recognition for their virtuosity and expressiveness. The San Vidal Church is a former church that was built in the 11th century and later renovated in the 17th and 18th centuries. It has a rich artistic heritage, including paintings by Carpaccio, Pellegrini, and Piazzetta, and sculptures by Sansovino and others. The church is now a concert hall and a museum that hosts their concerts and other cultural events. You can find more information about the Interpreti Veneziani’s concert season, discography, and tours on their official website or on other web sources and through your hotel. For their concert season, discography, and tours:  Interpreti Venezian-official website.

A small arcade under the northern Procuratie Vecchie, to the left of the Caffe Quadri, brings you to the Bacino Orseoli; effectively a busy gondola park and worth a few photos.

Famous Coffee Houses. These coffee houses are part of the history and identity of Venice, and they offer a unique experience to their guests with tables spilling out into the piazza. They are open every day, from morning to evening, and they have different prices and menus. Whilst they are expensive, view them as a special treat. If their associated orchestras are playing in the Piazza, you will be subject to an additional charge for sitting in the Piazza.

Caffè Florian: This is the oldest cafè in St. Mark’s Square, and possibly in Europe, founded in 1720 by Floriano Francesconi. It has a rich history, with each room decorated in a different style and themes; with paintings, frescoes, and sculptures by famous artists from the 18th and 19th centuries. It was frequented by celebrities such as Lord Byron, Casanova, Wagner, and Proust. It offers a variety of coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, and cocktails. You can enjoy live music by an orchestra in the square or sit in one of the elegant rooms inside. The Caffè Florian also introduced the European cafe-concert, with a live orchestra that plays on its terrace.

Gran Caffe Quadri .This is another historic cafè, half way along the Procuratie Vecchie, established in 1775 by Giorgio Quadri, who arrived in Venice from Corfu with his wife Naxina. It was also frequented by famous personalities, such as Stendhal, Dumas, Balzac, and Proust. It was originally called Il Rimedio (The Remedy) and was known for serving Turkish style coffee and became popular with the Austrian army during the occupation of Venice. It has a splendid façade and a refined interior, designed by Philippe Starck. It also hosts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Ristorante Quadri on the first floor. You can savour coffee, pastries, snacks, and drinks, while listening to classical music by a quartet.

Caffè Lavena:  Located on the north side of St Mark’s Square, not far from the Clock Tower and in front of the Basilica; it is the third oldest cafè in St. Mark’s Square, opened in 1750. It was a favorite of Richard Wagner, who composed part of his opera Parsifal here. It has a charming atmosphere and a panoramic view of the square and the basilica. It serves coffee, tea, cakes, ice cream, and light meals. You can also enjoy live music by a trio of violin, piano, and cello.

A new addition, is the Caffè dell’anniversario; a new coffee house, opened in 2020 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Caffè Florian. It is located in the new Procuratie, next to the Caffè Florian, and it is designed by the architect David Chipperfield. It has a modern and minimalist style, with a public reading room, an exhibition space, a café, and a rooftop pavilion. It aims to be a place of culture and innovation, where visitors can enjoy books, art, and coffee.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated posts:

Caffe Florian”.   All about the Caffe Florian, which also covers the history of coffee.  

“19 – Museo della Musica”.  It is housed in the San Maurizio church in the San Marco district – a veritable jewel, that can take the visitor on a journey into the history of music. It recalls the eighteenth century, which represents the golden age of violin making and the pristine craftsmanship is clearly evident through the violins, violas, and cellos that are on display. Free entry.

 “Cuisine of the Veneto”.   Here’s the place to suggest another great post, covering the cuisine of Venice and the whole Veneto region; including the major wine producing areas.  

Walk – No 3. To the Academy bridge

Without stopping,you could  manage this in approximately 25- 30 minutes.Passing under the large arcade of the Napoleonic wing, you may notice a plaque of on the floor. It marks the spot where the first Italian parliament met in 1861. This was after Venice became part of the Kingdom of Italy, following the Third Italian War of Independence and the Treaty of Vienna. Through the arcade, on the wall of the street opposite, are some bronze plaques of interesting historical figures. Turning to the left and then quickly to the first right, leads you into a series of streets that form the main thoroughfare to the Academy bridge, for crossing over to the Dorsoduro district. It will take you about 25-30 minutes walk without stopping. Along the route, you will pass several beautifully decorated church facades – San Moise and Santa Maria del Giglio (lily), private galleries and a wide street, the Calle Larga XX11 Marzo, with many high-end boutiques. Next, comes the Campo di San Maurizio, where you can find the Museo di Music, housed in the San Maurizio church – a veritable jewel, that can take the visitor on a journey into the history of music. It recalls the eighteenth century, which represents the golden age of violin making and the pristine craftsmanship is clearly evident through the violins, violas, and cellos that are on display. Free entry.

You end up in the large atmospheric Campo Santo Stefano, which leads you onto the Academy bridge, crossing the Grand canal. It’s a very popular square with restaurants, bars, and two churches, one of which is the “ex Chiesa di San Vidal”; now a beautiful concert hall with the renowned baroque assembly; the Interpreti Veneziani playing there regularly.

Particularly in the evening this is a wonderful walk, when all the boutiques and galleries are lit up. I thoroughly recommend dinner somewhere along this route, combined with an evening concert. The ensemble who specialises in Baroque music and perform works by composers such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, and Rossini. They have been playing concerts at the San Vidal Church since 1987 and have gained international recognition for their virtuosity and expressiveness. The San Vidal Church is a former church that was built in the 11th century and later renovated in the 17th and 18th centuries. It has a rich artistic heritage, including paintings by Carpaccio, Pellegrini, and Piazzetta, and sculptures by Sansovino and others. The church is now a concert hall and a museum that hosts their concerts and other cultural events. You can find more information about the Interpreti Veneziani’s concert season, discography, and tours on their official website or on other web sources and through your hotel. For their concert season, discography, and tours:  Interpreti Venezian-official website.

From the Academy bridge, you have the classic view of the southern entrance of the Grand Canal from the St Mark’s Basin; towered over by the impressive “Salute” basilica on the right. Sunrise and particularly sunset, are the best times for photography. 


 

7. The Campanile (Belltower) with its Loggetta.

The Campanile and Loggetta are two remarkable buildings in St Mark’s Square, close to the Procuratie Nuove and opposite the Basilica and Doge’s Palace, that reflect the history and art of the Venetian Republic.

The Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica, and the tallest structure in Venic end one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.. It was built in the 10th century as a watchtower and a landmark for Venetian ships, and it was gradually raised and embellished over time. It collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt in 1912, using the original materials and design. The Campanile has five bells, each with a different sound and function, and a golden weather vane in the shape of the archangel Gabriel. The Campanile is open to the public by elevator, and offers a panoramic view of the city and the lagoon

The Loggetta is a small, richly decorated building at the base of the Campanile, designed by Jacopo Sansovino in the 16th century. It served as a gathering place for nobles and procurators, the officials who managed the treasury and the public buildings of Venice. The Loggetta was also destroyed and rebuilt after the collapse of the tower, using about half of the original material. The Loggetta has a classical style, with a portico and sculptures of mythological figures, doges, and scenes from Venetian history. The Loggetta is now the entrance to the Campanile elevator.

From the belfry loggia, there is a spectacular 360-degree bird’s eye view of the city and the lagoon. The view north to the plain of Venetia and its mountain backdrop; is particularly fine. In busy periods get there early or much later in the afternoon. A great place for photography.

Entrance fee. The visit to the bell tower is available only upon prior booking, with a specialised guide. The tour lasts about an hour. Children under 6 are not allowed.
The full price ticket is 14 euros. The reduced price ticket is 11 euros for children aged from 6 to 14, students aged from 15 to 25, visitors over 65, and other eligible categories.
The ticket for the bell tower also includes free admission to the Museo Correr, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Marciana.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated post:    “St Mark’s Campanile”


 

8. The Biblioteca Marciana (Library)

Facing the Piazzetta San Marco, the Biblioteca Marciana Library is a public library in Venice, Italy, that holds one of the world’s most significant collections of classical texts. It is named after St Mark, the patron saint of the city.

The library was founded in 1468, when Cardinal Bessarion donated his collection of Greek and Latin manuscripts to the Republic of Venice, with the condition that a public library be established. The library building, located in Saint Mark’s Square, is considered a masterpiece of Venetian Renaissance architecture and the most important work of Jacopo Sansovino; who designed and built it between 1537 and 1588. The library’s façade is richly decorated with sculptures, reliefs, and paintings by renowned artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and others. The interior contains a magnificent reading room with a coffered ceiling and walls covered with frescoes. Its collection includes over 13,000 manuscripts, 2,800 incunabula, 24,000 cinquecentine, and more than one million books from the post-sixteenth century. The library’s specialisations are classics and Venetian history.

Underneath the columned Atrium, there is another great cafe. Apart from the wonderful views to the Basilica and Doge’s Palace and over the St Mark’s Basin; you can also admire all the wonderful carved column capitals and other statuary. Close-by in the Piazzetta, near to the waterfront, overlooking the Bacino di San Marco, are the iconic two granite columns of St Mark and St Theodore.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated posts below:

4 – The Correr Museum.  Remember that with the entrance fee to the Correr Museum, you also have access to the Biblioteca Marciana National Library and the Archeological Museum.

The Lion of St Mark”   Near to the waterfront, overlooking the Bacino in the Piazzetta di San Marco, are the iconic two granite columns of St Mark and St Theodore; bearing ancient symbols of the two patron saints of Venice.


 

9. La Zecca (the Mint)

La Zecca, is a 16th century Venetian building in High Renaissance style, that once housed the mint of the Republic of Venice. It played a vital part in the city’s development and success; by developing innovative financial instruments including coinage, such as the grosso and the ducat. Overlooking the Bacino, it is located adjacent to the Marciana Library; across from the Doge’s Palace on the Piazzetta.

Designed by Jacopo Sansovino and built between 1536 and 1548, the heavily rusticated* stone structure, was originally on two floors. It replaced an earlier mint, specifically to ensure safety from fire and to provide adequate security for the silver and gold deposits. Giorgio Vasari considered it the finest, richest, and strongest of Sansovino’s buildings.

After the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797, coin production continued, but significantly slowed in 1852; during the second period of Austrian domination (1814–1866). La Zecca was subsequently adapted and served as the seat for the Chamber of Commerce; from 1872 until 1900. Since 1904, it has housed the main part of the Marciana Library; whose historical building next door, is now largely a museum.

La Zecca is a historic building in Venice that was once the mint of the Republic of Venice. It was built in the 16th century by the architect Jacopo Sansovino in a high Renaissance style, with rusticated stone and two floors. The building was located near the Doge’s Palace and the Marciana Library, and was responsible for producing the silver and gold coins of the Venetian Republic, such as the grosso and the ducat. The mint continued to operate until the 19th century, when Venice was under Austrian rule. Later, the building was used as the seat of the Chamber of Commerce and then as an extension of the Marciana Library, which it still houses today

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated post:     “La Zecca” (The Mint)


 

10.The Giardini Ex Reali (Royal Gardens)

Surrounded by the Correr Museum, the Royal Palace, the Archaeological Museum and the Marciana Library; these gardens were conceived when it was under Napoleonic government, and were much loved by Empress Sissi. The gardens have recently been restored to their former glory: a wondrous combination of leafy plants growing in the gentle shade.

The gardens were closed for five years due to major maintenance and restoration work, and reopened in 2019 with a new splendour. The mayor Luigi Brugnaro, inaugurated the gardens as a symbol of Venice’s greenery. They feature a central Coffee House, a domed garden pavilion designed by the architect Lorenzo Santi and paths covered with pergolas of climbing plants, fountains, ponds and benches. The gardens are a place to rest from the bustle of the city, find some shade in the warmer months, or wait for a vaporetto.
Entrance is free and are open all day, every day.

In front of the gardens is the “Alilaguna” vaporetto stop, which services the Marco Polo airport. Continuing westwards, you quickly come to the “San Marco Valleresso” vaporetto stop. Admire the iconic view to the “Salute” basilica, dominating the southern entrance of the Grand Canal. Behind the vaporetto stop is another famous Venetian icon – Harry’s Bar Cipriani.


 

11. Harry’s Bar Cipriani.

Harry’s Bar is a famous bar-restaurant, opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani; who named it after an American friend who helped him financially. It was declared a national landmark by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs in 2012. The bar was the haunt of many celebrities, writers, artists, and royalty, such as Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Peggy Guggenheim.

It is known as the birthplace of the Bellini cocktail, a blend of peach juice and prosecco, the carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef with a sauce and its dry Martini,
The restaurant upstairs, serves classic Italian dishes, at relatively high prices. It is part of the Cipriani brand, which has expanded to other locations around the world, such as New York, Buenos Aires, and Hong Kong.

Please read my very comprehensive and illustrated post:  “Harry’s Bar in Venice”


 

Acqua Alta and St Mark’s Square

Acqua alta occurs regularly during the winter months. It particularly affects St Mark’s Square and environs, as it is only about one metre above sea-level. When high tides strike, you can see the water bubbling up through the drains in he Piazza.

For non-Venetians, it is amazing to see how residents in the city show great adaptability; taking the phenomenon of high tides and exceptional water levels in their stride. However, exceptional high tides (140 cm above sea level), which correspond with a flooding of approximately 50% of the city; have occurred around 8 times since 2000. In 1966, disastrous floods affected Venice,which was covered by up to 2 metres of water; as well as Chioggia and other islands and villages in the lagoon. A UNESCO international appeal was launched to save the city and several international committees set up; galvanising the authorities to act to secure the city’s future.

The city has had a series of flexible measures in place that limit the extent of the problem. Sirens sound a warning throughout the city when a high tide is forecast; information is provided in real time via the web and mobile telephones. Elevated temporary platforms are set up in the parts of the city with heavier pedestrian traffic, while some public water transport lines are diverted to all-weather routes. An average high tide lasts about two and a half hours and citizens, commerce and transport are warned in time to plan alternative routes, to put all goods away safely and to wear boots or waders.

Against this background there was a need to keep the city alive and functioning and for the city to adapt to face the future with confidence.  Outwardly, Venice is a magical historic city; however, it is also a rather difficult, inconvenient and expensive place to live. This led to the development of the MOSE Barrier Project, a series of mobile hydraulic barriers, across the three narrow openings of the lagoon into the Mediterranean Sea. However the project was plagued by rising costs and many delays, but it has undergone it’s testing phase and is functional. let’s hope it works, under the conditions of significant high tides and strong winds!

Less well known and publicised is the opposite phenomenon, “acqua bassa”. When this happens, the water in some canals is so low (down 50-70 cm); that boats get stuck and the waterways cannot be used. The destructive impact from the water on the houses below the waterline, is also visible at that time. Acqua bassa happens less often than acqua alta, but it has been occurring more frequently in the last years; due to the fact that many canals have not been dredged and cleaned for a long time. Due to changes in the law, financing went primarily to the Mose Project. As with acqua alta, it’s a matter of patience and a couple of hours; until the water flows again normally.

Please read two of my most popular comprehensive and illustrated posts: 

 “Acqua Alta and the Mose Project”      “The Great Venetian Flood of 1966”


 

Finally, here’s just one photo looking down the Riva degli Schiavoni, from the Doge’s palace. The first bridge is the main viewing-point for the Bridge of Sighs. Do some research, read my posts, and get organised; especially if your time in Venice is limited or you cannot avoid visiting during peak periods! During busy times, consider visiting popular attractions earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

 


 

Introduction to and five other District & Attractions:

Venice Vaporetto Guide – The ultimate “one-stop” guide to all you need to know about Venice’s Waterbus system


 

St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide

St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide

St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide

St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide    St Mark’s Square Guide

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