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San Marco, the heart of Venice

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Saint Mark's Square is Venice's only square. It consists of an artistic complex of buildings in different sty-les that over time have created a harmonious setting to the square.

 

The Doge's Palace
The monumental entrance was the Porta della Carta, enchanting example of floral Gothic style that contains two bronze well-curbs. The courtyard is surrounded by porticoes with a top loggia. On the eastern side there is the Scala dei Giganti (Giants' Staircase). It is thus called because of the two enormous statues by Sansovino at the sides. The stairway goes up to the loggia but to reach the top floors we go up the Scala d'Oro ('Golden staircase). It owes the name to the lavish frescoes and gilded stuccowork. It was from the Doge's Palace that the Venetian Republic was ruled and it is still the highest expression of Venetian art. It was the residence og the Doge and the seat of the main government departments. As one walks through the its rooms the history and glory of the Venetian Republic is revealed in its paintings and sculptures.

Saint Mark's Basilica
The Basilica is a wonderful example of Byzantine Venetian architecture. It was at one time the Doge's chapel but it was also the mausoleum for Saint Mark, the patron saint, whose life is narrated in the golden mosaics on the walls

 

Saint Mark's Square
It is trapezoidal, and the Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove run along the two extensive sides. They are known as old ('vecchie') and new ('nuove') on the basis of the age of the buildings over the arcades of the ground-level porticoes.

 

The Clocktower
The Procuratie Vecchie runs along the north side of the square from the Clocktower and have kept their Renaissance features. They are followed by the Ala Napoleonica. This was built in 1810 by the architect Giuseppe Soli on the site of the demolished San Geminiano church, which was built Jacopo Sansovino. The Procuratie Nuove runs along the west side of the square and includes the Libreria di San Marco which was designed by Jacopo Sansovino at the request of the Venetian Republic to house the codicils donated to it by Cardinal Bessarione. The clocktower is at the start of the Merceria, the road that leads from Saint Mark's Square to the Campo di San Bartolomeo. The name Merceria refers to the many shops on both sides of it.

 

Archaeological Museum
This houses amongst other things the famous collections by Domenico Grimani and by his nephew Giovanni. They are a priceless collection from the church of Santa Maria Formosa. Upon leaving the Ala Napoleonica, just after the 'Bocca di Piazza', we come to the church of San Moisè. This originally eight-century building was rebuilt in the tenth century by Mosè Venier, who wanted to dedicate it to the saint after which he was named. We then come to Calle (Street) Larga XXII Marzo. This was built in 1880 by widening Calle San Moisè and contrasted with the lower surrounding buildings. Today, this road is lined with shops as far as Bocca di Piazza. These shops were chosen by the most famous names in gold jewellery, leather goods and international and Italian fashion and offer for sale their latest and finest products.

 

La Fenice Opera House
Halfway down Calle Larga XXII we turn right into Campo San Fantin where the church of San Fantin stands. This dates back to the ninth century but was rebuilt in the sixteenth century by Scarpagnino. Opposite, there is the La Fenice Opera House. This was originally built in 1790 to a design by Selva. It burnt down in 1836 but like the phoenix ('fenice' in Italian) it was rebuilt in the same style by Meduna in just over a year. The opera house reflected the spirit of Venice of the town. It was destroyed by a fire in 1996 but the determination of the Venetians brought it back 'the way it was' in December 2003. Now if it possicle to visit the theatre. Info>>

We come back into Calle Larga XXII Marzo and go on until we reach Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio or Zobenigo with the church dedicated dedicated to this saint. 'Zobenigo' is a reference to the Jubenigo family, who had the church built in the tenth century. The inside is a single room decorated with the works of many painters from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.