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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.
You get a splendid view of Venice and the Basilica di San Marco from the tallest bell tower in Venice. It can be seen from the laguna and once you have reached the top, the whole laguna can be seen from above. Even though the Basilica di San Marco-Campanile was erected at the beginning of the 20th Century, it is an exact replica of the 15th-century bell tower. In 1609, Galileo Galilei exhibited his telescope here, and during the Carnevale, it was used to serve as a stage for the tight rope-walkers who entertained the doge with their acrobatics.
Spanning the girth of the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge was once the only way to get across on foot. The majestic bridge arches dramatically over the murky waters of the canal, allowing ample room for the gondolas and water buses to glide underneath. The bridge was built in record time, between 1588 and 1591, replacing predecessors from the 12th Century onward. Designed by Antonio da Ponte, the bridge is a triumph, having survived unscathed for over four centuries. Today, the Rialto is only one of the four bridges that serves the canal, but remains the most prominent. Small shops selling all kinds of souvenirs and curiosities run the length of the bridge while the Mercato di Rialto is a popular local market nearby.
The Grand Canal carves a serpentine path through the heart of Venice and serves as the city's main thoroughfare. Plied by water taxis and water buses, the canal winds its way through the center of the city, terminating at the lagoon at one end and the basin, at San Marco square, at the other. Along the way, the jade waters idle past historic facades and sprawling squares, alive with the call of the gondoliers. From the Medieval, Byzantine and Gothic to the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical, the structures that line the Grand Canal form a chronicle of sorts of the city's tryst with the arts across the ages. Romanticized by numerous movies and novels, a gondola ride down the Grand Canal is a quintessentially Venetian experience.
Venice is the land of canals and a trip to this breathtaking city is never complete without a visit to its myriad waterfronts. While in this island city, head to its southern tip in the Dorsoduro neighborhood where you will come across the Zattere Promenade. This seafront once served as a quay and was active in the trade of timber. Sauntering along this walkway, visitors are flanked by the deep blue waters on one side and magnificent Venetian buildings, exhibiting 15th and 16th century architecture, on the other. Whether you are ambling in solitude and soaking in the tranquility of the spot, strolling with family or friends, or walking hand in hand with a loved one, this promenade will ensure a magical experience for all.