Basilica di San Marco

Palazzo Ducale

Canal Grande

Accademia delle Arti  


Church of San Zanibolo

Curch of Santa Maria Gloriosa de' Frari

San Lazzaro

Corte del Milione

Libreria Vecchia 


Piazza San Marco






This church was founded in 830 on the site of an earlier chapel to preserve the precious relics, carried here from Alexandria, of Saint Mark the Evangelist, who became Venice's defender and patron saint and whose icon is the winged lion. The basilica sub­sequently became the state church of the Venetian Republic, where newly elected doges were presented to the community. From 1065 to 1094 the basilica was renovated and enlarged in the Byzantine style with a cruciform plan, a domed roof, and profuse and lavish Oriental adornment. Many works of art enriching the church were brought back by Venetian expeditions to the Levant; the central doorway is surmounted by four bronze horses dating from archeological find, which were carried to Venice in 1204 by Doge Enrico Dandolo, who had ransacked Constantinople while on a Crusade; Napoleon re­moved the horses to Paris in 1797, but they were returned upon the fall of the French Empire. Features of the interior include more than 40,000 square feet of mosaics, the renowned Pala d'Oro, or golden altarpiece, created in Constantinople in 976, the pulpit where the Venetian people were addressed in times of national crisis, and Tombs of the Doges in the atrium and baptistery. The Zeno Chapel was where Saint Mark's remains first rested upon ar­riving in Venice. In front of the basilica is the 324-foot-tall Cam­panile, initially raised in the 14th century and rebuilt after its col­lapse in 1902. At its base, the little marble building known as the Loggetta, built in 1540, was formerly a meeting place of nobles and the seat of military procurators during sessions of the senate. On the corner of the basilica's southern facade is the Pietra del Bando, where laws were promulgated to the people.


       PALAZZO DUCALE        

Reflecting the influence and splendor of the Venetian Republic, this wonderful palace, begun in 820 for the first doge of Venice and re­constructed and enlarged in the 12th and later centuries, was the official residence of the doges and the place of government where all councils of state were held. The main entry, known as the Porta della Carta, built in 1443, was where public decrees were posted. The inner courtyard, with its luxuriously sculpted well beds, was the scene of the 1355 beheading of Doge Marino Falieri, who had con­spired against the republic. The landing on top of the Scala dei Giganti (giants' staircase), leading into the palace, was where every Doge, surrounded by electors, was crowned. Features of the interior include the Scala d'Oro (golden stairway), created by Sansovino in 1556, whose use was allotted only to nobles named in the elite Golden Book; the Doges' Apartments, now containing the Archaeo­logical Museum; the Collegio (college hall), where the doge and privy council granted audiences to foreign ambassadors; the Senate Chamber; and the Grand Council Chamber—the best room of the palace, decorated with masterworks by Tintoretto and Veronese— where the ruling body of nobles made decisions for war and peace. Joining the Criminal Courts in the palace to the Carceri, or prisons (from which Giovanni Jacopo Casanova escaped in 1756), on the other side of the canal is the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), so called because criminals were led across its covered passageway to hear their sentences and afterward be executed.




This piazza, which Napoleon termed "the most beautiful salon in Europe," is the historic heart of Venice, where the inhabitants of the republic assembled for government ceremonies as well as for other festivities and enjoyment. Three flagpoles in front of the Ba­silica of San Marco on the east side of the square initially car­ried the banners of Cyprus, Candia (Crete), and Morea (Pelopon­nesus), kingdoms which Venice dominated at the zenith of her supremacy in the 15th century. The square is bounded on its other three sides by a homogenous group of buildings that include the Procuratie Vecchio (old law courts), with its adjoining Torre dell' Orologio (clock tower) of the late 1400s, the Procuratie Nuove (new law courts), which Napoleon later converted into his royal palace, and the Nuovo Fabbrica (new factory), built by order of Napoleon in 1810 and containing the Correr Museum, with its historic and artistic collec­tions. The square opens on to the Piazzetta, providing entrance to the Grand Canal and serving as Venice's main acc

ess to the sea, where expeditions to the east embarked and where fleets re­turned laden with booty. Flanked by the Libreria Vecchia and the Palazzo Ducale, the piazzetta was also known as Il Broglio (intrigue) because from 10:00 A.M. to noon nobles had the exclusive privilege of congregating here to hatch their plots. The ubiquitous pigeons on the Piazza di San Marco recall the time when the birds were officially protected by the republic; as legend has it, a flock of pigeons carrying little crosses guided the early Venetians, who were fleeing the Franks, to this site on the island of Rivo Alto, or Rialto, which thenceforth (a.d. 811) became the seat of the Venetian Republic.




This nearly 2-mile Long canal is the main of Venice's 150 inter­secting waterways and its principal thoroughfare. Here took place the yearly ceremony, instituted in 1173, known as the Sposalizio del Mare (Nuptials of the Sea), in which the doge would announce Venice's authority on the Adriatic; from a bucentaur, or state barge, the doge would cast a wedding ring into the sea with the words "We espouse thee, Sea, in sign of true and lasting dominion." At the canal's entry is the Church of Santa Maria della Salute, raised from 1632 to 1656 by order of the republic as a votive offering for being spared from the plague that ravaged the city in 1630. The Dogana di Mare (customhouse) stands nearby. Situated in the orig­inal nucleus of town is the magnificent Rialto Bridge—the main of the city's 400 bridges—consisting of a solo marble arch 90 feet in span and designed between 1580 and 1592 with a pronounced hump in order to allow an armed galley to pass beneath. The Grand Canal is lined with approximately 200 magnificent marble palaces, started from the 12th to the 18th centuries, which was of patrician families whose names were inscribed in the Golden Book of the Republic. Celebrated edifices on the east bank include the Gothic Ca' d'Oro (golden house), Venice's most stylish palace, built in 1440 with a gilded facade and now housing the Franchetti Gallery of tapestries, sculptures, and paintings; and the Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi, where the composer Richard Wagner died in 1883. On the west bank are the imposing baroque Palazzo Rezzonico, built in 1680, where the poet Robert Browning died in 1889, which now houses the Settecento (17th-century) Museum of furniture and paintings, and the 15th century Palazzo Foscari, the home of Doge Francesco Foscari, who reigned from 1423 until 1457, when he was deposed after falling under the suspicion of the ruling Coun­cil of Ten; later King Henry III of France stayed here upon his re­turn from Poland in 1574





Established on the ruins of the former convent, school, and church of Santa Maria della Carita’ by order of Napoleon in 1807, this gallery displays an significant collection of paintings by Venetian masters created between the 14th and 18th centuries. The collec­tions, representing such artists as II Giorgione, Giovanni Bellini, Tintoretto, Titian, and Paolo Veronese, are composed chiefly of works coming from churches, convents, and monasteries that had been suppressed by Napoleon in 1798, as well as of donations from noble families.











Established in 1104 and remodeled in the 15th and 16th centuries, this arsenal was celebrated throughout Europe; at its peak of activ­ity it could construct and furnish a small galley in a single day. Two towers guarding the entrance to the basin were erected in 1574. Housing a Naval Museum today, the arsenal contains a model of one of the doges' famous bucentaurs, or state barges.









Begun by Dominicans in 1234 and consecrated in 1430, this Gothic church is the second most significant church in Venice after the basilica of San Marco. Many of the city's doges, patricians, admirals, artists, and other notables are buried and glorified in luxurious tombs adorning the walls of the inside. The spacious square on which the church faces is dominated by the famous eques­trian Statue of Bartolommeo Colleoni, the condottiere (mercenary military leader) who was a native of Bergamo and served the Venetian Republic; upon his death in 1475, Colleoni bequeathed his huge fortune to the republic on the condition that his statue be built on the Piazza di San Marco; since a law forbade the erec­tion of monuments there, the senate ingeniously evaded the condi­tion by having Colleoni's statue raised on the piazza of the Scuola di San Marco, a charitable guild adjoining the church, which now houses the city hospital; designed by the Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio and completed by Alessandro Leopardi, the lifelike statue was revealed to the public in 1496.






Built between 1330 and 1417, this enormous Franciscan Gothic church houses the splendid sepulchral monuments of such well-known Venetians as the unfortunate Doge Francesco Foscari, who died in 1457, the painter Titian, who perished from the plague in 1576, and the sculptor Antonio Canova, who died in 1822. The "Frari" also contains magnificent altarpieces painted by Gio­vanni Bellini and Titian and donated by wealthy patrician families.










SAN LAZZARO         


Between 1816 and 1819 the English poet Lord Byron lived at the 18th century Armenian Monastery here, where he studied Ar­menian and wrote. Today the monastery houses a library with 30,000 volumes in Armenian, 40,000 books in European languages, 3,000 manuscripts, a picture gallery and a printing shop.











This was the family residence of the celebrated explorer Marco Polo. In 1271 Marco, his father, and his uncle departed for the East; they crossed Asia and arrived at the court of the Great Khan, the Tartar emperor of China, where they were cordially received. The men returned to Venice in 1295 laden with the fabulous wealth of the Orient. Marco Polo's account of his travels fired the European imagination with tales of the magnificent cities and millions of treasures of the East and thus earned him the nickname Marco Milione.







Built from 1536 to 1553 by Andrea Sansovino to house the Marciana Library, this striking edifice is considered to be the most mag­nificent civic structure of 16th century Italy. The library itself was established by the poet Petrarca (1304-74), who 12 years before his death bequeathed his valuable collection of ancient manuscripts to the Venetian senate. The collection was added to and enriched over the centuries, and the Marciana Library now contains 750,000 volumes and pamphlets. Exhibited in the Golden Room are the codices, incunabula, and Flemish miniatures. Adjacent to the li­brary along the Grand Canal is the 16th-century Zecco Mint.









Occupying a cluster of five islets intersected by canals, this town has been the place of the famous Venetian glassmaking industry since 1292. Chief sights include the Byzantine-Romanesque Church of Santissimi Maria e Donate, erected in the 11th century and boasting a slim campanile and superior mosaics, and the 16th-century Renais­sance Palazzo Giustiniani, which houses a Glasswork Museum, with inimitable examples of glass from antique to modern times.



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