Archive for the ‘San Giorgio Maggiore’ Tag

Venice – Palazzo Ducale & San Marco Campanile Bell Tower   14 comments

As you saw from previous posts Piazza San Marco has lots to offer and two of it sights deserved their own post.

The Palazzo Ducale. It was the seat of Venice’s government for seven centuries but was gutted by fire in 1577 and restored with white Istrian stone and Veronese pink marble.


It served not only as a form of parliament but also as a prison, executioners block and grand palace of the Doge, the elected head of state.


It was also the home of the feared Council of Ten who preserved Venice’s democracy through their network of informers and spies


In some respects it can seem rather plain from the outside especially compared to the Basilica next door. In many other ways its stunning and understated while retaining an air of grandeur and awe that I imagine kept the mortal folk in awe.


It’s on a tour of the interior that both its dark and shady secrets and its palatial opulence are revealed.


We took a guided “Secret Passages” tour which I’d read was excellent and so it was. The tour not only gave an insight into the dark and mysterious world of the council of ten (their offices, secret doorways, torture rooms and the like) but also a very useful background history of Venice itself. I was fascinated by the details of Venice’s democracy and for the times, it was quite advanced, almost civilised (even it did still favour those with money or power). It would be a history essay in itself to give that background but safe to say its well worth some research and background reading. One of the famous stories is that Casanova was imprisoned here and was reputedly the only man ever to escape the prisons. The tour was fascinating although taking pictures in these dark places was nigh on impossible. Safe to say if you are in Venice I strongly recommend paying the extra to take the tour of this fascinating building


Once we were done with the secret passages tour we were free to rejoin the masses and explore the rest of the palace. The artwork is simply staggering and there are works of art by many a famous artist such as Tintoretto and Titian adorning the walls and especially the ceilings.


It’s very hard to capture this in a photo but hopefully mine give a sense of the grandeur



This room was the court room where the council of ten sat and pronounced judgement and punishment. The last wooden panel on the right is actually a secret door back into the Council of Ten rooms we’d been through earlier


More lavish artwork



As we climbed to the second floor there were windows with views out over the city and the water front



And over the water to the islands of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Lido


The most stunning room was the Sala del Maggior Consiglio or Grand Council Hall


It was absolutely enormous and decorated from floor to and on the ceilings with stunning art work


Many of these works of art are considered propaganda paintings depicting prominent Venetians in historical or biblical settings. The painting at the far end in the photo below is Paradise by Tintoretto’s son Domenico depicting 500 Venetian politicians in heaven! Talk about blowing your own celestial trumpet 🙂



As Venice grew so did its criminal population. The palaces cells could no longer cope and new prison was built next door. To reach the prison you cross the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs). When I was young I always thought it was the Bridge of Size, an enormous construction spanning the city. Like most people I was surprised at its true meaning and size (and spelling), so-called, to mark prisoners feelings as they walk to their cells having been convicted. This is photo looking inwards towards the city from one side


And the cramped passageways around the prisons


The prison courtyard


And the view seawards from the bridge. You can see the crowds gathering to take photographs.


It’s a very small, not especially dramatic bridge so I’m not quite sure why it gets so much attention. Still, I’m glad I saw it and walked across it – twice!


It was a full half day in the palace. If you were a real fine art buff it would take a lot longer. We were well pleased with our visit but you can have too many prison cells and paintings especially when its lunchtime so we took our leave of the palace and the Basilica next door (with another secret passage so the Doge could worship in peace) and went home for lunch


Later in the day we went up the Campanile Bell Tower for an aerial view of the city. This was well worth booking in advance as the queue was long and slow-moving. We just went round to a back door, waited a couple of minutes and went up in the lift


The view was grand and everything you’d expect. Expansive squares, red-tiled roofs, water and churches


The Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute



The Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore. You can visit the island and climb the church tower but to my regret we never found time. The views of the Piazza San Marco are supposed to be the best in the city


A Panorama shot looking over the island to the lagoon and Lido beyond (larger version if you click on it)


Along the waterfront to the Castello district


West over the Basilica di San Marco to the Canareggio district.


The Basilica and Palazzo Ducale


North west over San Marco to Canareggio. Our apartment is in there somewhere. We walked through those buildings to reach the Piazza. One thing that strikes you up here is just how densely packed the buildings are. It’s almost impossible to make out streets or canals. No surprise how easy it is to get lost


North towards the Sa Polo area and entrance to the city. You can just make out the causeway to the mainland


Family pose


The mechanical clock tower and the Piazza directly below


And one final shot of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute


As we reluctantly headed down the sun was lighting up the tower to great effect


A fine finish to a storming first full day in Venice. We packed a lot in and it still seems amazing that it was all about 15 mins walk from our little home



Venice – Piazza San Marco and around   10 comments


Piazza San Marco is the heart of Venice and contains three of its most treasured and well-known sites. The Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale and the Campanile Bell Tower.

Before I take you down there for a look around a few photos from our neighbourhood in Venice. A sunrise view from the waterfront a hundred yards from the front door


The street where we lived


The view from the balcony


And over the rooftops to the massive Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the left


Our first day in Venice was very much a Piazza San Marco day. We spent the morning on a tour of the Palazzo Ducale (on the left here). More on that in the next post


And this is the magnificent Basilica di San Marco. It’s a stunningly ornate and beautiful work and one of Venice’s treasured buildings.


It’s free to visit and we paid a couple of Euros each to skip the line. You aren’t supposed to take photos so we dutifully didn’t although everyone else was. Trust me when I say its astonishing inside. A picture or two from the Interweb to give you a feel

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The amazing golden look is created by using gold leaf on thousands of tiny mosaic tiles behind a layer of fired glass. This creates the shimmering effect. It’s absolutely extraordinary and even though it only takes 10-15 mins to walk around its worth a few Euros to beat the queue or just to wait in it

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In between our visit to the Palazzo Ducale and the Basilica we returned home for lunch. We took a circuitous route to take in some typical Venetian streets, canals and squares



It’s the middle part of the day and this image proves that you don’t have to wander far or try to hard in Venice to lose the crowds. Alas I have no idea which lovely square this was



A leisurely lunch on the patio was always welcome and enjoyable


We went back for our Basilica visit and to climb the Campanile Bell Tower which again I’ll cover in a future post



This is still peak time and you can tell that even though there are loads of people the square is big enough to cope without feeling too oppressive (it’s the streets leading to it from the Rialto that are really crowded). The square is surrounded by up-market coffee houses with orchestras playing music. I was tempted to sit down and enjoy a break till I saw how much they wanted for a beer.


We decided to wait for our time slot to climb the tower by the waterfront near the gondolas. No beer or music but it was free


We went back to the square many times such was its draw. Early evening was perfect as the crowds thinned and the sun bathed the buildings in golden light that seemed appropriate somehow


On our first evening visit we arrived a bit late and the Basilica was half in shadow although it still looked inspiring



Again we took in the view from the waterfront. I think this view across to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and its church was my favourite in Venice


Closely followed by the view from the same spot to the eye-catching Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute


I paid a visit early one morning on a very long walk and boat ride to pick up the breakfast pastries. It was quite startling to see it with no one there


The Torre dell’Orologio with its mechanical men that chime the bell


This photo shows really well just how quiet it was


I enjoyed this shot, standing in the shadow of the bell tower


With the inevitable pigeon in shot


A morning view of the Basilica


And the Palazzo Ducale


We came back on our last night to try to catch the light better. Still not quite early enough to avoid a shadow on the Basilica alas.


But the light was still amazing



The Palazzo Ducale


And a final close up of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore


And the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute


I was expecting to find the Piazza overcrowded and spoilt. But even with the crowds you can really appreciate its splendour and charm and I fell in love with it and its surrounds and water front views (as you can tell from the many visits and photos). Make the effort to come late or early and its even better. Only occurs to me now that we never saw it at night. I shall have to go back then

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