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.
Chiesa di San Vidal is a historic former church in Venice with the magnificence of an ancient palace. A major landmark, this site is home to a year-round series of classical music concerts. Chamber music aficionados flock to the church to hear music performed in the grandest of settings. San Vidal is not open otherwise to the public.
Richly adorned with gold mosaics, intricate carvings and undulating marble arches, Saint Mark's Basilica is a glorious example of Byzantine architecture, crested by a series of glistening domes. The basilica was originally built in the 9th Century to house the mortal remains of Saint Mark. Destroyed in 932 CE, the church was later rebuilt to a more opulent design, and served as the Doge's chapel until 1807 when it replaced the Basilica di San Pietro in Castello as the cathedral of the Archdiocese. Although the architectural plan of the church has remained largely unchanged since the 12th Century, generous adornments were added over the years, creating one of Italy's most impressive collections of ecclesiastical art. Inside, the ceilings are a sea of gold mosaics, glimmering above lavish sculptures and intriguing architectural details. One of Venice's most iconic structures, the Saint Mark's Basilica sits amid Piazza San Marco at one end of the Grand Canal.
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.
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.
Built over a lagoon, upon a collection of over 100 small islands, Venice is a city of extraordinary beauty. The city's scenic canals serve as major thoroughfares, reflecting the people and places that surround its teal waters as gondolas glide past historic facades awash in the pink hues of sunset. The Grand Canal forms the city's main waterway, lined on either side by an elegant array of Renaissance and Gothic mansions, culminating at the Piazza San Marco where the eponymous basilica inspires awe. Bedecked in Byzantine mosaics, the basilica is just one of the city's many artistic treasures, while others await down narrow bylanes and cobblestone streets. Each morning, the city comes alive to the call of the gondoliers, while by night, Venetian bars brim with diners eager to sample tapas. The lagoon itself is a thing of beauty, formed thousands of years ago and maintained by artificial means. Several small towns and cities occupy the islands, besides the city of Venice.
Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is celebrated here in full spirit. In the Basilica di San Marco, just after sunset, a torch is lit in the atrium and carried in a procession to the Basilica.
Piazza San Marco is an iconic square that has functioned as a gathering place since the 12th century. Today, it serves as Venice's social, political, and religious center. It is home to the architectural marvel, St. Mark's Basilica and is Venice's only square to be honored with the title of "Piazza". The three sides of the Piazza are flanked by stately public buildings and on the fourth side tower the domes and arches of St. Mark's Basilica.
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.
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.