Venice – St Marks Square

The historic center of Venice

Piazza San Marco, also known as St Mark’s Square, is the principal public square of Venice, Italy. Napoleon is said to have called the Piazza San Marco “the drawing room of Europe“.


The Square is dominated at its eastern end by St Mark’s Basillica . The Piazzetta dei Leoncini is an open space on the north side of the church named after the two marble lions (presented by Doge Alvise Mocenigo in 1722).


Beyond that is the Clock Tower (Torre dell’Orologio), completed in 1499. To the right of the clock-tower is the closed church of San Basso, designed by Baldassarre Longhena (1675).


To the left is the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza, the buildings on this side are former homes and offices of the Procurators of St. Mark, built in early 16th century by the Republic of Venice. The arcade is lined with shops and restaurants at ground level, with offices above. The restaurants include the famous Caffè Quadri, patronized by Austrian rulers in the 19th century, while the Venetians preferred Florian’s on the other side of the Piazza.


Turning left at the end, the arcade continues along the west end of the Piazza as the Napoleonic Wing, rebuilt by Napoleon in 1810. Behind the shops is the entrance to the Museo Correr (Correr Museum).

Turning left again, the arcade continues down the south side of the Piazza. The buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Nuove, which were designed by Jacopo Sansovino in mid 16th century. The upper floors were intended by Napoleon to be a palace for his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais, his viceroy in Venice, and now houses the Museo Correr. At the far end the Procuratie meet the north end of Sansovino’s Libreria (mid-16th century), whose main front faces the Piazzetta. The arcade continues round the corner into the Piazzetta.

Opposite to this, stands the Campanile of St Mark’s church. The original structure was from 12th century, restored in 1514 and rebuilt in 1912. Adjacent to the Campanile, facing towards the church, is the elegant small building known as the Loggetta del Sansovino, built by Sansovino in 1537-46, and used as a waiting lobby for patricians meeting the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace.

Across the Piazza in front of the church are three large mast-like flagpoles with bronze bases decorated in high relief by Alessandro Leopardi in 1505. The Venetian flag of St Mark used to fly from them in the time of the republic of Venice and now shares them with the Italian flag.

Doge’s Palace in Venice

A tour of Venetian history

The Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923.

The history of a residence for the Doge in the current location goes back as far as 810 A.D. Doge Agnello Participazio moved the seat of government from the island of Malamocco to the area of the present-day Rialto, when it was decided a “ducal palace” should be built. No trace remains of that 9th-century building as the palace was partially destroyed in the 10th century by a fire. Around 1172 A.D., Doge Sebastiano Ziani inititated reconstruction work that would drastically change the entire layout of the St. Mark’s Square. The new palace was built out of fortresses, one façade to the Piazzetta, the other overlooking the St. Mark’s Basin. Between 1340 and 1430 A.D. further reconstruction was done to transform it into a Gothic style palace.

Violent fire in 1483 and then again in 1547 forced further repair and reconstruction work.

Refurbishment works were being held at the palace when on 1577 a third fire destroyed the Scrutinio Room and the Great Council Chamber, together with works by Gentile da Fabriano, Pisanello, Alvise Vivarini, Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini, Pordenone, and Titian. In the subsequent rebuilding work it was decided to respect the original Gothic style. Since the 16th century, the palace has been linked to the prison by the Bridge of Sighs.

As well as being the ducal residence, the palace housed political institutions of the Republic of Venice until the Napoleonic occupation of the city in 1797. In 1866 Venice became part of Italy. By the end of the 19th century, the structure was showing clear signs of decay, and the Italian government set aside significant funds for its restoration and all public offices were moved elsewhere except the State Office for the protection of historical Monuments, which is still housed at the palace’s loggia floor. In 1923, the Italian State entrusted the management to the Venetian municipality to be run as a museum.

Venice at night

The beauty of Venice really shines at night. We took the following pictures one evening taking the Vaporatto (water taxi) ride near the train station, then going out into open ocean passing the cruise port, and getting off at the mouth of the grand canal near Plaza San Marco.

We finished the evening with a walk over Academia bridge to admire the view of the grand canal and having dinner at Plaza San Vidal.