Sunday, 13 October 2013

St Mark's Square in Venice - A Few Highlights

Venice - The city that floats in a world of its own
With 150 canals, 400 bridges, palaces and elegant squares, Venice is sometimes referred to as the most romantic city in the world.  America writer - Fran Lebowitz - said of Venice "If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined.  Venice is - Venice is better".

Venice is divided into 6 districts with Piazza San Marco [St Mark's Square] being the most popular place to start as it is in the centre of Venice.

So join us as we explore just a few of the highlights of St Mark's Square, and also recommend 2 different hotels in which to stay so that you can be near to the Square.

St.Mark's Square - Venice
Your introduction to St Mark's Square will probably be as you arrive by gondola [no trip to Venice is complete without experiencing a ride in a gondola] or by water bus [vaporetto]. 

As you step out, one of your first reactions will undoubtedly be to grab your camera and start taking photographs of what greets you.  Doge's Palace, St Mark's Basilica, Campanile di San Marco to name just a few.

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace -Venice
Known as Palazzo Ducale [Doge's Palace], this is a huge, grand civic building from which the city of Venice has been governed for a thousand years.  The exterior [sometimes likened to a delicate pink wedding cake] has been restored and the interior updated to now include a museum of sculpture, bookshop and cafĂ©.  It should be possible to pre-book what is called "The Secret Itinerary" which is a 90 minute tour of the Palace, exploring behind the scenes.  [Check with your hotel reception for details].  

The Palace was first built way back in the 9th century as a fortress.  However, nothing remains of the fortress as the building was extended and remodelled right up to the mid 15th century.  Constructed in limestone and pink Verona marble, the first 2 floors are arcaded making the structure look fairly fragile.  If you go up to the second floor, you will be greeted by richly decorated rooms with walls and ceilings painted by Venetian artists.  In fact, Tintoretto's "Paradise" adorns one of the walls.  Just outside the Palace is the famous Bridge of Sighs [Pone dei Sospiri] which crosses the canal to the prison and waterlogged dungeons. 

The Palace is open daily April-October 09:00-19:00 and November-March 09:00-17:00 with the last admission being 1 hours before closing.  During busy periods, it may be best to arrive early and make Doge's Palace your first sight to visit.  If you are visiting here during the winter months, then please dress warmly as there is no heating in the Palace! [Times may vary slightly]

St Mark's Basilica

This is the centrepiece of St Mark's Square and you should allow plenty of time to take in this building together with the museums that can be found inside.   The Basilica dates back to around 830AD and was originally built to house the body of St Mark [the patron saint of Venice].  However, it was burnt down following a riot, and was re-built in the 11th century with the domes added later in the 13th century.  Inside, you can spend hours marvelling at the gold mosaics that cover around an acre of the vaulting, the gold altarpiece encrusted with over 2,600 pearls, emeralds, rubies and other gems. 

You may find that you queue for quite a while to enter the Basilica.  It is important to note that modest dress is required  no bare shoulders or knees and sightseeing is limited during mass.  The Basilica is open daily from 09:30-17:00 and on Sunday 14:00-16:00 [Time may vary slightly].

Campanile di San Marco

Campanile - Venice
At first you may not be sure what this is.  However you will not be able to miss it as it is the tallest building on the Square and is known as il paron di casa [head of the house].  Originally built as a watchtower dating back to 900AD, the building was struck by lightening and was then re-built as a bell tower and is a height of 99 metres. 

Unfortunately, the entire building collapsed back in 1902 and was, again, rebuilt as a copy of the former bell tower and took 10 years to complete as it was recreated brick by brick.

Enter the Campanile and you can take the lift to the gallery that surrounds the belfry.  Another fantastic opportunity to take some photographs as you will have panoramic views of the city of Venice and the lagoon [although the canals cannot be seen].

The Campanile is open daily July-August 09:00-09:00  April-June, September and October 09:00-19:00, November to March 09:30-16:15.  [Times may vary slightly]

So how about a hotel to stay in during your Venice city break?  We recommend a couple of hotels below.

Royal San Marco Hotel

Ideally located in the centre of Venice and only a few steps from St Mark's Square, the Royal San Marco Hotel is rated as 4 star and is built in typical Venetian style with a lovely mezzanine to welcome you with leather sofas and marble flooring.

There are 5 floors with a total of 51 rooms.  Facilities include a 24-hour reception, lifts, internet, bar and restaurant.  Room facilities include en-suite bathroom with hairdryer, mini-bar, telephone, flat screen TV and air-conditioning.

Dona Palace Hotel

The elegant, classy, boutique 4 star Dona Palace Hotel is located only a few moments away from St. Mark's Square. 

Once the residence of the Doge Dona, this 14th century palace underwent a 3 year restoration project before opening as the Dona Palace Hotel in 2004.  

There are 5 floors offering a total of 27 rooms.  Facilities include, 24-hour reception, lift, lounge bar, WiFi access, 3 annexe restaurants, room service, laundry service.  Room facilities include en-suite bathroom with hairdryer, satellite/cable TV, telephone, WiFi access, mini-bar, safety deposit box, heating/air-conditioning.   Junior suites and suites are available which offer more spacious accommodation and overlook the canal.  [Standard rooms have internal views]. 

So if you feel you would like to visit Venice and stay in a 3, 4 or 5 star hotel in the vicinity, just give us a call on Freephone 0800 5 677688 or on 01582 421117 from a mobile.  Alternatively you can complete our enquiry form, setting out your requirements, and we will get back to you.

Author : Gail Hewitt, Corona Holidays

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