Long the political and religious heart of Venice, it’s hard to believe Piazza San Marco was once just a monastery garden crossed by a stream. The glittering basilica and Doge’s Palace command the east side of the square, while other stately buildings along its borders have been the backdrop for magnificent processions. The western end was remodelled by Napoleon, who wished to construct a royal palace here. Today the piazza continues to bustle, with a museum complex, cafés and costumed Carnival crowds.
Campanile: Open 1–15 Apr: 9am – 5:30pm; mid-Apr–Oct: 8:30am–9pm; Nov–Mar: 9:30am–5:30pm; book guided tours on www.venetoinside.com; Adm €8
Torre dell’Orologio: 041 427 308 92 (from abroad); 848 082 000 (from Italy); Guided tours: 10am & 11am Mon–Wed, 2pm & 3pm Thu–Sun. Adm €12.
Museo Correr Complex: Open 10am–7pm; Nov–Mar: 10am–5pm (last admission 1 hour before closing). Adm €20 (includes Doge’s Palace)
See Doge’s Palace
A marvel to behold, the imposing and impressive Renaissance-style clock tower is topped by two bronze Moors hammering out the hours on the upper terrace. At Epiphany and Ascension there is an hourly procession of clockwork Magi that are led by an angel. According to legend, the craftsmen were subsequently blinded to prevent them repeating the work.
Incomparable views of the city and lagoon can be had by taking the elevator to the top of this 98-m (323-ft) bell tower. It was masterfully rebuilt to its 16th-century design following its clamorous collapse in 1902.
Once an inlet for boats and witness to the arrival of distinguished visitors during the Republic’s heyday, this now fully paved mini square fronts the lagoon.
This is one of two granite columns erected in 1172 by Nicolò Barattieri; the other symbolizes San Teodoro. Public executions were held here.
The Procurators, who were responsible for state administration, lived in these elegant 15th-century buildings.
This is the site of a former vegetable market, where a pair of small lions (leoncini) carved from red Verona stone have been crouching since 1722.
Reputedly Europe’s first coffee house (see A Day in San Marco), the premises still retain their original 1720 wood-panelling, marble-topped tables and gilt-framed mirrors.
These shady public gardens, created during the Napoleonic era, took the place of boatyards and grain stores, situated just behind the panoramic waterfront.
Booming through the city, the five bells in the Campanile have been employed to mark Venice’s rhythms for centuries. The Maleficio bell was sounded to announce an execution, the Nona rang at midday, the Trottiera spurred on the nobles’ horses for assemblies in the Doge’s Palace and the Mezza Terza was used to indicate that the Senate was in session. The Marangona bell is still sounded to mark midnight.