There are two ways to visit Venice: follow the flow of hasty tourists who in a few hours follow a fixed route chosen by about 20 million people every year, or leave this path and try to discover a less postcard-like Venice.
We think that you can do both: get to Piazza San Marco, enjoy the joy of being there, in that place seen so many times in photography, or get on the Rialto Bridge to admire the Grand Canal and fight with the crowd to be able to take a souvenir photo.
But also to get out of the common place on Venice to discover that there are extraordinary places even in a city that in itself is out of every ordinary. And this can only be done by entering the buildings, not merely observing the facades.
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It thus happens to enter the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco or the Chiesa dei Frari and discover magnificent works and very fine architectures, which tell the true story of Venice, that too often obscured by postcard-like tourism.
If you stay for several days, get up in the morning before the horde of tourists arrives. Turn random, you will discover streets and squares that you can not find on any guide.
Do not be afraid to get lost in the maze of narrow streets. You will find cafés and restaurants with unforgettable perfumes, shops for locals, pizzerias with low prices and quality.
If you get lost, let yourself be explained by a local, the direction for the railway (Ferrovia) or Piazza San Marco. Ask where the water-bus (vaporetto) stop is located.
You can use your smartphone with GPS, but remember that the streets are often no larger than a meter and the houses are high. Weak signal.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the first place that comes to mind when talking about Venice. The large square on which stands the Basilica, with pigeons waiting for some crumbs, now forbidden to feed them, is the symbol of Venice.
Piazza San Marco is one of the most important Italian squares, named worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity, and is the only square in Venice.
It is the only urban space in Venice that takes the name of the square, since all the other spaces in the form of the square are properly defined “fields” (campi).
Its main body has a trapezoidal shape and is 170 meters long. It is also known as “the square” or “the living room of Europe”.
From the early days to the present
A decisive change in the topography of the square will take place in 1156 when, by decision of the Doge Viatale II Michiel, the rio Batario was buried.
Shortly after, even the space in front of the Palazzo followed the same fate and the Piazzetta was built. With the works of 1172 the expansion of the square was made to give the possibility of building new buildings.
The new Piazza San Marco was bounded by the ancient Church of San Geminiano and by the two monumental columns that make up the entrance to the Marciana area. To have the herringbone flooring of the square it will be necessary to wait until 1264, exactly sixty years after the arrival of the Horses of San Marco and the statue of the Tetrachis, realized following the great availability of marble deriving from the capture of Constantinople with the Fourth Crusade.
From 1495 to 1517 the “Procuratie Vecchie” were erected, so called because the Procurators of San Marco were staying here. The imposing 152 meters long structure consists of a portico with 50 arches and 100 windows. In these years the Clock Tower was built, which delimits one side of the building.
In the same period, the evacuation of the warehouses and orchards that still occupied the air of the square began. Subsequently, Jacopo Tatti, called the Sansovino, built the Loggia and the beautiful Library building. The renovation of the square proceeded until 1640, when the “Procuratie Nuove” were erected.
The completion of the Marcian area occurred in 1807, when under the Napoleonic domination, the Church of San Geminiano was demolished and the Procuratie Nuovissime were built, better known as the “Napoleonic Wing”, which delimits the other end of the ” Procuratie Vecchie “. Previously the two statues had been placed in the Piazzetta dei Leoncini and the white marble floor was laid.
In 1902 the bell tower collapsed destroying the Loggetta and a part of the Library. By pure chance, the ruins of the bell tower did not even affect the Basilica of San Marco. The reconstruction was started and completed in a very short time, using the same bricks, still in good condition.
Basilica of San Marco.
To describe this work of art and its history you can write a book.
The first church dedicated to San Marco, commissioned by Giustiniano Partecipazio, was built next to the Palazzo Ducale in 828 to house the relics of San Marco stolen, according to tradition, in Alexandria by two Venetian merchants: Good from Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello.
This church replaced the former palatine chapel dedicated to the Byzantine Byzantine saint, built in correspondence of the current Piazzetta dei Leoncini, to the north of the Basilica of San Marco. The first bell tower of San Marco dates back to the ninth century.
The original church of San Marco was soon replaced by a new one, located in the current place and built in 832; however, this went on fire during a revolt in 976 and was then rebuilt in 978 by Pietro I Orseolo.
The current basilica dates back to another reconstruction (begun by the doge Domenico Contarini in 1063 and continued by Domenico Selvo and Vitale Falier), which faithfully reproduced the dimensions and layout of the previous building.
In particular, the architectural form as a whole is very close to that of the ancient Basilica of the Holy Apostles of Constantinople (destroyed a few years after the Ottoman conquest), the second most important church in the city and imperial mausoleum.
The new consecration took place in 1094; in the same year the legend places the miraculous discovery in a pillar of the Basilica of the body of San Marco, which had been hidden during the works in a place then forgotten. In 1231 a fire devastated the Basilica of San Marco which was immediately restored.
The first basilica was built in 832, the construction of the current one began in 1063 and ended in 1617.
For fans of architecture and history, more accurate information can be found on the official website of the Basilica of San Marco
Other places to visit:
Campanile (Bell tower)
Ponte di Rialto
Le Gallerie dell’Accademia
Peggy Guggenheim Museum
La Basilica dei Frari
La Scuola Grande di San Rocco
The islands of Burano, Murano, Torcello