We had one full day left in Venice before flying home. I had booked tours ahead of time for the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and St. Mark’s Basilica. But first, we walked over to the Rialto Bridge for a look around. The Rialto Bridge was constructed in the late 16th century A.D. after several other bridges in the same spot had failed/collapsed. Until the 1850s, it was the only bridge spanning the Grand Canal. The Bridge has two rows of shops with pedestrian walkways through the middle and on both sides.
View from the north side of the Bridge looking up the Grand Canal.
View from the south side.
None of the shops were open yet, so we walked back to the hotel for some breakfast and then on to St. Mark’s Square to get some pictures while it was still somewhat empty.
The Square is lined with cafes and restaurants. The restaurants charge a premium for the food and a cover charge for sitting out on the Square. Throughout the day, bands will play to entertain the crowds. So, the restaurants will charge customers extra for the privilege of listening to the music, too.
Another view of the Square.
The Torre dell’ Orologio (Clock Tower). Two bronze statues of men with mallets stand at the top of the Tower and strike the bell at the start of each hour. Just before the top of the Tower is a winged lion, the symbol of St. Mark and the city. The clock dial shows 24 hours, the signs of the zodiac, and the phases of the moon. The Clock Tower was built in the late 15th century A.D.; but the clock mechanisms have been updated through the years.
Two large granite columns looted from Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 12th century A.D. stand at the entrance to St. Mark’s Square. One column is topped with a winged lion and one with a statue of St. Theodore, the patron saint of Venice before St. Mark’s relics were brought to Venice. (On a morbid side note, the city used to publicly execute criminals between the columns to serve as an example to others.)
The Campanile (bell tower) stands directly across from the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica. The current Campanile was built in 1902 after the last one collapsed. While we didn’t go inside, visitors can take an elevator to the top, where, supposedly, there are great views of the city and surrounding area.
The Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square are the two main attractions of St. Mark’s Square. The Palace started out as a fortress in the 9th century; but no traces of that building remain. Over the centuries, the Palace underwent reconstruction and additions to become the building we see today. During its heyday, the Palace was the seat of Venetian government and home to the Doges and their families. Doges were the rulers of Venice, elected for life by the aristocracy. The title and position was not hereditary, although several Doges were from the same family.
Outside of the Palace (facing the waterfront).
Courtyard of the Palace.
Bronze wellhead from the 16th century. The two in the courtyard are considered the finest in Venice.
The Giants’ Staircase is located at the far right hand side of the courtyard. It is named that for the statues of Mars and Neptune located at the top of the stairs. The statues were sculpted in 1567 to represent Venice’s power by land and sea. The ceremony to crown each new Doge was held at the top of the Staircase.
We signed up for the Secret Itineraries Tour. The Tour goes into areas of the Palace that are not normally open to the public, including the Torture Chamber and the cell where Casanova was held, until his escape in 1755. I would highly recommend the Tour. It’s not that expensive and you get a lot of information regarding how Venice and its territories were governed.
One of the better prison cells (it has a bed).
After a certain point, they do not allow any pictures. But, after the Tour, we walked around the other parts of the Palace. Among other things, we loved the intricate detail of the doors.
And, we walked across the Bridge of Sighs. The Bridge connects the Palace with a portion of the prisons. There are different versions regarding the origin of the Bridge’s name; but all of them pertain to prisoners being led across the Bridge. According to the stories, the prisoners would sigh after getting one last glimpse of Venice while being led to prison or because they were being led from prison to the Inquisitor’s/Judge’s office. Either way, it wasn’t under happy circumstances.
The stone window covering on the Bridge.
View from the bridge out to the lagoon.
View of the Bridge from the waterfront.
After we finished the Tour, we walked around and grabbed some lunch before our tour of St. Mark’s was scheduled to start.
Outside of St. Mark’s Basilica.
The Basilica houses the remains of St. Mark, smuggled out of Alexandria and brought to Venice in 828 A.D. The Basilica was the Ducal Chapel and the State Church for more than a thousand years. In 1807, it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice and the city cathedral. Pictures are not allowed inside. I know it’s against the rules, but I couldn’t help myself. I took a picture of the four bronze horses that were stolen in 1204 from the Hippodrome in Constantinople. The origin of the horses remains a mystery. But, they are beautiful, regardless of who created them. The originals are inside; but there are replicas displayed on the balcony outside of the Basilica.
After we finished our tour of the Basilica, we wandered around and did some final shopping before heading back to the hotel and out to dinner. We had an early evening since we were leaving the next day.
The next morning, we had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and walked to the Alilaguna (similar to the vaporetto) stop to get to the airport. As a little bit of advice, if you ever fly out of Venice, get there early. When we arrived at the airport, we had to (1) talk to someone before checking our bag; (2) check our bags; (3) go through security; and (4) go through another passport check; all before getting to the gate. I understand the need for security; but it was a bit much.
Venice was one of our favorite stops. It’s hard to explain. But, the city is easy to explore, the people are (mostly) friendly, and there are thousands of years of history to absorb. And, I would love to go back and have some more of that gluten free pizza!