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The only Venetian square to be granted the title of 'piazza', St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, is the city's political, religious and social center. The square lies at one end of the Grand Canal, surrounded by some of the city's most iconic historic edifices. The Basilica di San Marco is the focal point of the square - a 12th-century, Venetian-Byzantine church that is resplendently trimmed with gold mosaics and lavish carvings. On either side lie the Procuratie Vecchie, stately buildings that once harbored the offices and apartments of the procurators. Two columns erected in honor of the city's patron saints, St. Mark and St. Theodore of Amasea, stand nearby, while the splendid Doge's Palace, the towering Campanile, the Procuratie Nuove, the National Library, and a couple of museums take up the rest of the space around Venice's largest square. The city's storied history comes together at the awe-inspiring St. Mark's Square.
Layer upon layer of differing architectural styles come together to form the magnificent Doge's Palace. A symbol of the Venetian government and political heritage, the historic palace was once the seat of the Doge - the chief magistrate of the former Republic of Venice. The foundations of the complex, as it stands today, were laid during the 14th Century. Through the years, the Palace was repeatedly reconstructed, extended and restored, creating a startling melange of artistic and architectural styles ranging from the Medieval to the Renaissance. A masterpiece of Gothic design, the Palace is replete with exquisite details like sculptures, frescoes, elegant arches and graceful columns. The original Doge's Apartments, the Armory, the Prisons, the Courtyard and Loggias have all been beautifully restored, with numerous hidden treasures lurking around every corner of the Doge's grand palace. This historic icon also houses the Museo dell'Opera and its extensive art collection.
Decorated in 17th-century Venetian style, The Westin Europa & Regina, which is located near the Piazza San Marco, has a view over the Canal Grande. Fully equipped with a range of services, including transportation facilities, it is perfect for tourists who want to pamper themselves. A spa in the room and childcare facilities make it a prime spot for travellers.
The Teatro Goldoni has gone through several changes over the years and is a spot frequented by locals as well as visitors. Named after the 18th Century dramatist Carlo Goldoni, it actually began as Teatro San Luca, way back in 1622. With a seating capacity of 800, Teatro Goldini is known for the diverse range of performances it hosts throughout the year. Apart from some of the most scintillating concerts in the city, the theater offers ballets, operas and various other live acts. Check the website for a complete schedule of events.
Close to Via XXII Marzo, the main shopping street, Hotel Floral has a peaceful garden. Every room is decorated in a different way, but all offer the same level of comfort. Some have access to the garden and almost all look out onto it. You can also pre-book a baby-sitter or fill in their Little Needs Form to get anything from baby wipes to bibs and nappies. This family-friendly accommodation is a nice haven when exploring the city.
Punta della Dogana is a stunning art gallery located on the triangular piece of land that separates the Grand Canal from the Giudecca Canal. Set in the former customs house, a beautiful 17th-century building, this gallery houses the permanent collection of world's numero uno art collector, Francois Pinault. Here, you will find his famous personal collection, besides several other exhibits pertaining to contemporary art.
Just around the corner from the Galleria dell'Accademia, on the Grand Canal is one of Venice's premier museums. This world-famous museum is run by the same institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, that manages the renowned Guggenheim Museum in New York. Peggy Guggenheim, a wealthy American, was interested in contemporary art and came into contact with various artists who guided and educated her, including Alexander Calder and Marcel Duchamp. This museum houses her collection of contemporary art such as works by Bacon, Balla, Brancusi and Chagall. You'll also find masterpieces by the likes of De Chirico, Kandinsky, Klee, El Lissitskj, Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso and Pollock.
Palazzo Grassi is situated in an imposing palace designed by Massari, right opposite Cà Rezzonico. This 18th-century building has changed many hands and was used as a center for arts by the Fiat group who had it restored. It is now owned by François Pinault and hosts regular temporary exhibits from his personal collection. Those interested in art and architecture will find their ground floor bookshop fascinating with their impressive selection. Make a pit stop at their on-site cafe to replenish yourself before heading out for your Venetian exploration.
Hotel Cipriani is world famous for its excellent service. Every corner of this ultra-luxurious hotel oozes sophistication and panache. The location is their unique proposition giving the hotel an edge above most of the boutique hotels in the city. On one side it overlooks Piazza San Marco, and the view is truly magnificent. On the other side it faces its own private, lush green garden which is graced with exotic flowers and the turquoise ocean greets the entrance of the hotel. Every room of Hotel Cipriani is made to look like a king's bedroom with utmost attention paid to the smallest of aspects like; quality and texture of linens used on the beds to fabrics used in the curtains. Unique offerings such as a heated seawater swimming pool, a wellness center and a glamorous restaurant, work towards providing guests with a multi-sensory experience.
Everyone gets souvenirs like T-shirts, key chains or fridge magnets. But if you are interested in selecting unique souvenir and gift items, visit the SignorBlum shop. The store-cum-workshop is the brainchild of four creative minds that have come together for this venture. Taking inspiration from Venice, they create hand-crafted wooden art pieces. You can give inputs, suggestions and your unique gift item is ready. Since each piece is hand made and made-to-order, every purchase is different sans any similarities or copies. For more details, check website.
Housed in the stately Fontego dei Turchi that was built in the 13th Century, Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia is a truly enlightening museum and was established in 1923. You'll find fossils, minerals, botanical collections, entomological collections, protozoa, mollusks and all kinds of vertebrates on display spanning 700 million years. This natural history museum also features an archaeology, anatomy and other repositories. Check out the scientific library, Cetaceans Gallery and other interesting exhibitions that are educational. Also noteworthy is their extensive bibliotheca that is a reference point for those interested in natural sciences. This Grand Canal museum is a great alternative to other historic museums in town.
When you enter Venice through the Piazzale Roma, look to your left and you will see the expansive greens of the Giardini Papadopoli. Spread across 0.87 hectares (2.17 acres), this garden was established in 1834. Decked with flowering plants and fruit trees, Giardini Papadopoli was beautifully designed by Francesco Bagnara, who was a professor at l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de Venise and who also designed the Fenice theater. The garden is adorned with sculptures, ornate benches and magnificent fountain. It is also home to a separate playground for children.