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 highlighted 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 history comes together at the awe-inspiring St. Mark's Square.
This iconic Baroque bridge was designed in the early 17th Century by Italian architect Antonio Contino. It was built over the Rio di Palazzo to connect the Doge's Palace and the New Prisons, creating a route traveled by convicts between sentencing and imprisonment. Although many attribute the bridge's name to its popularity as a romantic spot, other accounts say that it got its name due to prisoners experiencing their last glimpses of freedom. As for its English moniker, Lord Byron is credited with translating Ponte dei Sospiri to Bridge of Sighs in the 19th Century. This must-see Venetian landmark is now loved by tourists and welcomes all to see it for themselves.
Spanning the girth of the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge was once the only way to get across on foot. The majestic bridge arches over the murky waters of the canal, allowing ample room for the gondolas and water buses to pass underneath. The bridge was built in between 1588 and 1591, replacing predecessors from 12th Century onward. Designed by Antonio da Ponte, the bridge has survived unscathed for over four centuries. Today, the Rialto is only one of the four bridges that serve 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.
Located in the old church and school of the Carità, Galleria dell'Accademia's building was partly built in the 12th Century and finished in the 14th Century. The Academy of Fine Arts was started here by the Napoleonic government. In its 24 rooms, it displays works of Italian art, by artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Piero Della Francesca, Cosmè Tura, and Giovanni Bellini. Other artists include Giorgione, Tintoretto, Paris Bordone and Moretto Da Brescia among others.
This basilica, the most important of the city, has been dedicated to main saint of Padua, San Antonio. It was built 8 centuries ago and from then on, it became one of the most important spiritual places of the Christian world. Antonio chose Padua as his permanent home in the period in which he was travelling all over Italy. The church is owned by the Vatican and it houses the tongue of the saint, an important holy relic.
Together, with the Basilica di Sant'Antonio, Palazzo della Ragione is a symbol of the city. Built in 1288, it is called the Salone, or lounge, because of its large room with its wooden vaulted ceiling (destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries), making it the largest undivided hall in the world. The piazza and the bustling daily market are dominated by its loggia. It was a real layman's center in the city. Justice was carried out in the upper rooms, adorned with frescoes of astrological depictions (perhaps even by Giotto). If the sentence was serious, the accused would be taken to one of the local prisons. The building also houses a large wooden horse that Annibale Capodilista had made for a merry-go-round and then donated to the city. On the ground floor, traditional commercial activities took place, as they still do today.
The foundation of Fondazione Querini Stampalia was laid in the year 1869. It was made to order by Venetian Querini Stampalia family's last successor Conte Giovanni. The exteriors and interiors were made by the well known architect Carlo Scarpa. It holds paintings of famous artists and also exhibits contemporary art. For schedule and information on group tour visit website.
Bugno Art Gallery was established in 1991 by Massimiliano Bugno and is among the esteemed contemporary art galleries in town. Its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooks the Teatro La Fenice and it is near the Piazza San Marco. Their collection is a compilation of modern, contemporary and photographic works of acclaimed and emerging domestic as well as international artists. These include the likes of Mario Deluigi, Emilio Vedova, Giancarlo Franco, Mauro Cappelletti, Fabio Bianco, Andrés David Carrara, Giovanni Chiaramonte and Andrea Morucchio. This bi-level gallery is a popular stopover for art collectors and enthusiasts alike.
The best way to travel across Venice is through its curious waterways. Consorzio Venice Water Taxi offers boat tours and rides across the Grand Canal and other smaller channels. The organization also offers guided tours where knowledgeable employees help you navigate your way to the historic places, popular restaurants and other Venetian attraction, starting right from your hotel! The service is fast, moderately priced and not to mention, convenient. Check the website for more details.
A unique aristocratic palace, Palazzo Grimani was the family house of Antonio Grimani. The charming, historic structure still stands out with its original architecture and gorgeous decorations and is now home to several splendid artworks. The permanent collection here comprises of masterpieces by Mannerists such as Francesco Salviati, Francesco Menzocchi, Camillo Mantovano and Federico Zuccari to name a few. Even without the unusual art that adorn its walls, each room inside this palace is comprises of opulent stuccowork and beautiful frescoes that any art enthusiast wouldn't want to miss. Unique in its architecture and the treasure trove it houses, Palazzo Grimani makes for a brilliant visit.