Having been invited along by Walks of Italy, we met our guide underneath the wings of the famous Lion of Venice in Piazza San Marco.
Entering the Doges’ Palace, an enormous twelfth century edifice, visited by more than one million visitors each year, which – according to our guide – was the seat of power for the Doges (governors) of Venice until 1797 when the city fell to Napoleon.
As we ascended the flights of stairs which took us up to the Doges’ reception rooms, we were struck by the wonderfully decorated ceilings.
After being shown several lavish rooms, we progressed to the most lavish of them all: the largest room in Europe, a fantastic architectural triumph, having no pillars to support the ceiling. This vast room also contains the largest complete oil painting, Il Paradiso by Tintoretto.
Our next port of call was the prison which is reached by crossing the famous Bridge of Sighs, so called because the little windows gave prisoners their last sight of Venice as they crossed over to the grim dungeons.
Emerging blinking into the bright piazza once more, we made for the Basilica of San Marco, an example of Byzantine architecture which was built in the eleventh century.
Rich golden mosaics stud the vaulted ceilings and walls and it is lavish beyond description.
We gasped at the magnificence of the four original bronze horses, brought from Constantinople in 1204, which used to adorn the front of the Basilica but now reside indoors to preserve them while the ones on the façade are actually replicas.
We then walked to the spectacular main altar, which houses the remains of San Marco (Saint Mark), patron saint of Venice.
This tour took three hours and was worth every moment.