Venice: Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco

March 17, 2016 / Art & Archaeology
Venice, Veneto
Italian Notebook l Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco l ornaoreilly (3)

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.

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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.

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As we ascended the flights of stairs which took us up to the Doges’ reception rooms, we were struck by the wonderfully decorated ceilings.

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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.

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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.

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Italian Notebook l Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco l ornaoreilly (2)
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Italian Notebook l Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco l ornaoreilly (10)

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.

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Rich golden mosaics stud the vaulted ceilings and walls and it is lavish beyond description.

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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.

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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.

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by Orna O’Reilly

Orna is a former interior designer who practised in South Africa, Mozambique and Ireland. Now writing full time, she moved from Ireland to the Veneto area of Italy in 2013.

She writes her way around Italy by blogging about it (at Ornasite) and is currently writing a novel set in Venice. You can follow her tweets @OrnaOR, and her Travel & Design page on FB.

12 Responses to “Venice: Palazzo Ducale and Basilica of San Marco”

  1. Joan Fenendael

    I only got to spend a day and a half in Veneto and I’m ready to go back.

    Reply
  2. paul belli

    i have been to Venice several times and taking my significant other there this September. Love the place. Can you recommend a guide for private tour of the ducal palace and st. mark’s?
    Grazie,
    Paul N. Belli

    Reply
  3. Mitti Meyers

    The Bridge name is The Bridge of Sighs (Il ponte dei sospiri) and NOT the Bridge of Sites…..(Il ponte delle vedute). The name was given to it by the prisoners who crossed it to be put in the famous prison “I Piombi”,.The cells there had led ceiling, which were very cold in winter and very hot in summer. The prisoners sighed went the saw the last view of Venice from the bridge windows, before entering the horrible prison. They never knew if the would come out alive.

    Reply
  4. Helen larrissey

    Really hoping to go to Venice in April. All info greatly apprecisted

    Reply
  5. Marianna Raccuglia

    Thank you for this informative article. We will be going to Venice in early May and will be doing a similar tour. So looking forward to being there

    Reply
  6. Susan Horowitz

    Grazie! Thank you for the beautiful photos and article. Venice was so wonderful. I will never forget Italy. Very special.

    Reply

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