Our last stop on our two week Eurotrip this past spring was in Venice, Italy! We spent two and a half days there and knew that we had to see Piazza San Marco, one of the busiest squares in the city and home to the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco.
Hoping to beat the crowds, we headed there first thing one morning and even though it was early April and not quite busy season yet, the square was already full of people. First we visited the Doge’s Palace, where Venice’s head of state, the Doge, lived for hundreds of years. Unlike the monarchs of other countries, the title of Doge did not pass from father to son through generations but rather the Doges of Venice were elected to the highest ranking position for a life-time term.
Like we did when visiting the palaces of Vienna, we opted to spend a few extra euros for an audio guide to listen to as we explored the palace. We began in the courtyard and then went inside and up the Gold Staircase. Unfortunately several of the rooms in the Doge’s apartments were closed that day, but we were able to see many of State Government rooms – huge extravagant chambers with paintings depicting Venetian history and portraits paying tribute to the past Doges.
We also saw the rooms of the armory and the collection of weapons and suits of armor from the 15th and 16th centuries. And the last stop on the tour was the prisons – including the corridor connecting the palace to the prison known as the“Bridge of Sighs.” It was nick-named as such because it was here that prisoners got their last glimpse of freedom looking out the tiny windows at the lagoon.
After leaving the Doge’s Palace in mid-morning, heading back out into square, we got in line to visit the Basilica of San Marco right next door. Again it was hard to believe that it wasn’t even the busy tourist season, as we waited in line for about a half hour before being able to go inside. Though we were somewhat rushed going through due to the long line, we were still able to take in the huge gold mosaics on the walls and the intricate marble floors.
Lining another side of the square is the long arcade of buildings that were once government offices and homes to high ranking officers. There is also the blue and gold clock tower with the winged lion, the symbol of Venice, at the top.
While it was definitely one of the most crowded places in the city, Piazza San Marco and its sights are must-sees while visiting Venice! Stay tuned for more from our time in Venice!