ST. MARK'S SQUARE
St. Mark's Square is located in Venice and is the main tourist
attraction of the city. St. Mark's Square can be
visited all year and you do not have to pay a ticket to enter.
St. Mark's Square, unique case in Venice, is the only large
open space called "Piazza" (Square), while the others are called "Campi".
St. Mark's Square has the shape of a trapezoid with a length
of 175 meters, a width of 57 meters on the smaller side of
the Napoleonic Wing and 83 mt. on the side of the Basilica.
How to get to St. Mark's Square
In order to get to St. Mark's Square by "vaporetto" from Piazzale Roma car parking or the Venezia Santa Lucia train station you can
take lines 1 or 2 and get off at "Vallaresso" stop (ticket costs 7,00 euros).
To go to the St. Mark's Square from Tronchetto you should take
the vaporetto line 2. To reach St. Mark's Square from Marco Polo
International Airport catch the public boat service offered by
Alilaguna (Gold Line, ticket 25 euros, from April to October), or the
Red and Blue lines (15 euros). To get
to St. Mark's Square from Venice Cruise Terminal you can take the
vaporetto M (Brown) provided by Alilaguna, at the cost of 7,00 euros.
Private taxis are also available to get close to St. Mark's Square,
but their price is less economical than that of public transportation.
To walk toward the Piazza San Marco from the train station you have to
follow the direction to Lista di Spagna-Strada Nova-Campo San Bartolomeo-Mercerie
(40 minute-walk). To get walking to St. Mark's Square from
Piazzale Roma you can take the same route, crossing the Constitution
Bridge, or heading towards Campo Santa Margherita-Accademia Bridge-Campo Santo Stefano-Via 22 Marzo (40 min.). From
Rialto we arrive at St. Mark's Square through the Mercerie with a
comfortable walk of about 10 minutes.
History of St. Mark's Square
The history of St. Mark's Square is over a thousand years old.
In ancient St. Mark's Square there was not that lavish that we see today.
Rather than a square it was an orchard owned by the nuns of S. Zaccaria
which was donated to Doge Giovanni Partecipazio I in 829 ad. The original
St. Mark's Square was crossed by a canal called Rio Batario and had
at its ends two churches, one was dedicated to St. Teodoro (the
first patron saint of the city) and another was titled
to St. Geminiano. Only at the beginning of the ninth century was built
in St. Mark's Square the Basilica, following the transfer of the body of
the Evangelist, stolen in Alexandria, Egypt, in 828 ad.
St. Mark's Square was extended around the year 1172, thanks to the
interventions intended by the Doge Sebastiano Ziani, doubling its
surface and burying the canal running through it. St. Mark's Square
was paved with bricks arranged in a herringbone about a hundred years
after the death of the Doge Ziani and was paved with paving stones
during the current Doge Alvise III Sebastiano Mocenigo, during the
eighteenth century. This place was the scene for centuries of
shows and events. In fact, there were held fairs and markets, games
and processions, hunting of bulls and tournaments of chivalry, but there
was also brought in triumph the newly elected doge and there were celebrated
the most important events of Venice Carnival.
When standing in the center of St. Mark's Square and looking towards the
Basilica, you will see clockwise the following buildings: the St. Mark's
Belltower, the Procuratie Nuove, the Napoleonic Wing, the Procuratie Vecchie,
the Clock Tower,
the Patriarchal Palace and finally the Basilica (which will be discussed in a separate page). We remind you that you have
not to pay to get into St. Mark's Square.
St Mark's Belltower
The construction of St Mark's Belltower began in the
ninth century with the intention of using it as an observation tower and lighthouse. The bell
tower had its belfry from 1172 ad. In the period 1511-1514, during the reign
of Leonardo Loredan I it was possible a major renovation that led him to have
the current form. On top of the belltower was hoisted in 1513 a golden angel,
a statue swivel that moves with the wind. On August 21, 1609 Galileo Galilei
showed to the Signoria of Venice, right from the belfry, the telescope. The
belltower collapsed on the morning of July 12, 1902 without causing casualties
because at that time St. Mark's Square was empty of people. It was rebuilt
in just 10 years where he was and with the same shape, and opened April 25, 1912.
St Mark's Belltower is 98.60 meters high (resulting the highest in Venice) and
has two distinct parts: the first, consisting of bricks, measuring 49.50 m., while the
second, the upper one, forms the cell bell. Inside are placed five bells, of which the
original one is called Marangona (the others were destroyed by the fall of 1902, and
then merged again, whose names are: Pregadi, Nona, Maleficio, Trottiera). A stunning view
of Venice can be enjoyed from the top,
especially on sunny days, while on cloudy days or in windy conditions is not advisable
to climb the bell tower. Also you should avoid standing in the belfry during the striking
of the bells, as the noise caused by them is truly remarkable and it bothers the ears of
the most sensitive people (especially children).
It is allowed to climb the St. Mark's Belltower only by elevator. The entry ticket
costs 8 euro, while the reduced price is € 4 (children and groups). Opening hours
vary depending on the period, as follows: from April to June and in October from
9.00 am 7.00 pm, from July to September 9.00 am to 9.00 pm, from November to
March 9.30 am to 3.45 pm. The Venetians affectionately like to call this building as
"el paròn de casa," (the master of the house). In ancient times, were placed around
the base of it some wine sellers, covered by tents, from which came the way of saying
well known in the city: "Bevemo un'ombra" (let's drink a shadow, or simply a glass of
wine), as this was consumed in St. Mark's Square, in the shadow of the curtains and
the great bellower. From the belfry, at noon on the first Sunday of Venice Carnival, the
Angel gives the official start to the biggest event in the city.
The Procuratie Nuove occupy the south side of St. Mark's
Square. The Procuratie Nuove were built in Neoclassical style designed by Vincenzo
Scamozzi in 1582 replacing the old Hospice Orseolo. The Procuratie Nuove were divided
into 9 apartments rented for free to the Procurators of St. Mark's. With the fall of the Republic
they became the royal palace of Napoleon. Since 1922 the Procuratie Nuove were intended
as the site of the Correr Museum, which contains extensive and valuable collections of coins,
paintings, furniture, sculptures and much more. In this museum you can experience the entire
history of Venice from its origins until the last century, through an interesting path that will
allow to all visitors to discover the habits and customs of the city, but also its art and architecture.
From the windows of the Correr Museum, you can see some interesting views of St. Mark's Square.
The entrance to this museum is located in the Napoleonic Wing, with the following opening hours:
from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm. Ticket costs € 13, reduced € 7.50 (tel. +39 041 2405211).
Napoleonic Wing and Procuratie Vecchie
The Napoleonic Wing was built at the behest of Napoleon in 1810.
He wanted to turn it into a dance hall for his royal palace. To realize it was demolished the
Church of San Geminiano in 1807, built by Jacopo Sansovino at the bottom of St. Mark's
Square around half of the 16th century in Renaissance style. By a majestic staircase you
reach the entrance of Museo Correr. The Procuratie Vecchie are supported by 50 arches
and were built by Marco Codussi in 1500, replacing the previous building in Venetian-Byzantine
style, but finished in the following years by Guglielmo Grigi and Sansovino. Under its arcades
there are many shops and some Cafés who have their tables in St. Mark's Square. On the upper
floors are located various private offices but also some apartments.
The Clock Tower was built in Renaissance style by Mauro Codussi
in 1499 (the middle part), while the two wings were completed in 1506 by Pietro Lombardo.
From his porch begins the Mercerie, a long and busy street, full of shops, from St. Mark's
Square it ends near the Rialto area. The Clock Tower features on the main facade a beautiful
blue enamel that shows the signs of the zodiac and the phases of the moon and of course it
marks the hours. In the Clock Tower's terrace is located a bell who is stroked every hour by the
"Mori", two bronze sculptures made by Ambrogio da le Anchore in 1497. The entrance of this
magnificent building is located at the beginning of the Mercerie on the left. The visit to the Clock
Tower can be done every day, but only by appointment just calling the phone number
+39 041 5209070 (full price € 12, reduced € 7). From the terrace of the Clock Tower can be
seen St. Mark's Square from a different angle.
The Patriarchal Palace is located over the square, in Piazzetta dei Leoncini,
which is named for the presence of two small sculptures of lions in red marble (Giovanni Bonazza,
1722). Not far away you can see the Church of San Basso rebuilt in 1676 and closed in 1810. On the
other side of this small square (which is dedicated to Pope John XXIII) can be seen, near the basilica,
the tomb of Daniele Manin. He was the leader of the Venetian patriots during the uprising against the
Austrians in the period 1848-49. Daniele Manin died in exile in Paris in 1857. The Patriarchal Palace
was completed in 1850 and designed in Neoclassical style by Lorenzo Santi. Inside, the most notable
place is the Hall of Ceremonies, formerly the Banquet Hall of the Signoria, who entertained the
distinguished guests of the Venetian Republic in the '600 and '700. The Patriarchal Palace can be
visited only on Friday with the start of a tour at 3, 4 and 5 pm. A reservation is required at ph.
+39 041 2413817, the ticket costs 10 euro and also entitles you to entry into the Diocesan Museum,
which is located not far from the square, at the Cloister of San'Apollonia, Castello 4312, tel. +39041 5229166.
Café in St. Mark's Square
There are three historic cafés in Piazza San Marco: Florian, Lavena and Quadri. In the eighteenth
century the Café in St. Mark's Square were 24. Café Florian is located on the south side of St. Mark's Square,
under the Procuratie Nuove, and was opened in 1720 by Floriano Francesconi with the original name "The Venice
Triumphant." It boasted Giacomo Casanova
among its many illustrious clients. Its interior rooms are richly decorated
with stucco, paintings and mirrors. For more information phone +39 041 5205641. The Café Lavena is located on the north side
of St. Mark's Square, not far from the Clock Tower, it was opened in 1750 as "Coffee Shop Hungary", but assumed its
present name in 1860. It has the following telephone number: +39 041 522 40 70.
Café Quadri, not far from Lavena and also with entrance from St. Mark's Square, was opened in 1775,
ph. +39 041 52 22 105. In these cafés are available, during summer, many outdoor seats where you can
enjoy the famous orchestras that perform music in St. Mark's Square. The prices of drinks sitting at the tables
in the square are not exactly cheap, so I recommend, before getting some nasty surprises when you pay the bill,
to check prices on the price lists displayed outside. The prices of drinks at the bar are slightly higher than those
of the other bars in town. Not far from Florian is the newest of the cafés in St. Mark's Square, Cafè Aurora, tel. +39 041 5286405.
The museums of St. Mark's Square
The museums of St. Mark's Square are as follows: Doge's Palace, Museo Correr,
Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and National Archaeological Museum. The museums
of St. Mark's Square can be visited all with a single ticket that costs 12 € (reduced € 6.50) from November to
March. From April to October the admittance is valid for the "San Marco Museum Plus" (full 13 €, reduced 7,50 euros),
which allows to visit all the museums of St. Mark's Square and even another museum of the city of your choice. Rather
than buying a single ticket for one single museum you should considering to buy one of the two passes available that
allow you to save on the cost of a single visit and avoid long lines at the ticket office.
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