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Arriving to the Palazzo delle Prigioni by the Bridge of Sighs, you will reach the famous prison where Casanova (1725-1798) was held captive in the middle of the 18th-century. The building was erected in the mid-16th Century to improve prisoner's comfort from the Institutional Chambers's housed prisons. In 1755, famous writer, traveler, adventurer, lover and seducer Casanova was arrested and thrown to that terrible prison, from which he escaped the following year, becoming in that act the legend of 18th-century Venice. Check website for more details.
Horses of Saint Mark, which grace the front facade of the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, are majestic statues of horses which are four in number. The original sculptures, which date back to antiquity, have been removed from the facade and taken to a museum so as to conserve them. They are attributed to Lysippos, who was an ancient Greek sculptor of the Fourth Century BCE. The statues which are now in their place in the loggia are exact replicas of the originals.
Piazza San Marco is arguably Venice's most famous piazza. What appears to be a rectangle is actually a trapezium, and when you look up at the basilica, the piazza seems enormous, although it is only 175 meters (574 feet) long. On both sides of the piazza are the Procuratie Vecchie, which housed the procurators of San Marco. The centerpiece of the piazza comprises of the iconic Basilica di San Marco. The oldest of these buildings (probably built by Codussi) lies on your left when you face the basilica; Baldassare Longhena built the ones on the right later in the 1640s. The most recent buildings, commissioned by Napoleon in 1810, are situated behind. Truly a marvel, Piazza San Marco makes for a brilliant visit.
Started in the 9th Century, Basilica di San Marco's architecture shows an eastern and Byzantine influence: note the golden altarpiece and the 13th and 14th-century mosaics that illustrate the cycles of the Bible. The magnificent domes date from the 12th century. The Basilica houses the Marciano Museum, which contains the original bronze horses, copies of which are now on the terrace. Other great artworks are located in the Pala d'Oro, along with masterpieces of Gothic gold-smiting, located just behind the altar. Basilica di San Marco-Campanile, the historical bell tower is also worth a visit.
It is not known for certain who made the mid-14th-century Golden Altar Piece. It is a masterpiece of engraving that uses Byzantine ancient enamels, which originate from the pillage of Byzantium in 1204. The Treasure of San Marco should not be missed. A large part was melted down to mint money, but what remains can satisfy the curiosity of even the most demanding visitor, from an artistic and historic point of view. It can be accessed directly from the Basilica di San Marco.
Historic landmarks come a dime a dozen in Venice, but Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower) is a bit more legendary than most. Centrally located at the entrance to one of the city's oldest marketplaces, the looming structure has stood watch over generations and generations of busy Venetians. By appointment only, visitors can enter the hulking monolith, ascend its stairways, climbing through the complex inner workings of the ancient clock, and taking in some astounding views of the neighborhood below. Check website for exact timings of the tours.
Built in 1076, Ateneo di San Basso is one of the oldest churches in Venice. Restored after the fires of 1105 and 1661, the church has been privately owned, used as a marble and sculpture camp by the Fabbriceria di San Marco and finally reconstructed and furnished as a conference hall during the 1950s. Today this historic landmark is used as a venue where visitors can listen to soulful music of Vivaldi and Mozart. Accomplished musical groups and maestro musicians and orchestras grace this venue, paying tribute to the legendary Baroque composers. The performances held here are worthy of a visit; especially after a tiring day in the city this can be a great place to unwind.
Some legends say that the Ponte dei Sospiri was called the Bridge of Sighs because it was a rendezvous for lovers; however, the truth tells a much sadder tale. It was the last glimpse of freedom for convicts as they headed to their prisons. This enclosed link built in 1600 is made of white limestone. However, this Baroque bridge, designed by Antonio Contino, still has a very romantic air to it, and remains an important historical landmark in Venice today.