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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 were laid during the 14th Century. Through the years, the palace was repeatedly reconstructed, extended and restored, creating a mix 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, 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 around every corner. This historic icon also houses the Museo dell'Opera and its extensive art collection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Set in the majestic Gothic Palazzo Giustinian, the former home of the Torcello bishops, Museo del Vetro (Murano Glass Museum) was established in 1861. It is among the Venetian Civic Museums. Get a fascinating glimpse into the history of glass making that caught the fancy of the world. From the 1st Century till the 20th Century, their collection is laid out in a sequential order. These include the archaeological selection dating to the 1st Century CE, exquisite chandeliers, opaque lamps, Murano crystals, filigree, iced glass, feathered glass, mirrors, Bohemian-style crystal, vases and other glassware in various forms. Glass workshops offer visitors the chance to see master-glass workers in action.