Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Every Mile a Memory ( Part 10 ) Walking tour of Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale

Buon Giorno !!

On the last day of our stopover in Venice we took a walking tour of the Palazzo Ducale or the Doges Palace. From the cruise ship we walked to the Alilaguna Terminal to take one of their vaporettos. The ride to Piazza San Marco was 30 minutes. As soon as we arrived at Piazza San Marco, we proceeded to our first stop Palazzo Ducale.

Everything about Venice, Italy is magical and one of the most captivating stops in this amazing destination is The Bridge of Sighs. This enclosed bridge stretches over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Palazzo Ducale. Known by locals as the Ponte Dei Sospiri, the bridge itself is gorgeous – made of white limestone, fully enclosed and stretching high above the canal, it has small windows with stone bars and an arched roofline. It is known as one of the finest examples of bridge architecture in the world.

The Palazzo Ducale is situated right on St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Overlooking the Grand Canal, It was the seat of the government of Venice until it came under Napoleonic rule in 1797 and then in 1866, a part of Italy. Before, the palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. Today the palace is a museum and you can walk through the Doge's apartments-- stand in the large rooms where court was held where decisions were made and foreign dignitaries hosted. It was an absolute architectural masterpiece!

We were given time to walk around this courtyard and take photos.

After entering the inner courtyard you'll find a flight of stairs that led to the Doge's private quarters, known as the " Scala dei Giganti " that was flanked by  2 huge statues of Mars and Neptune. The decoration is enormously elaborate and impressive. The columns on the lower colonnade of the building have carvings of beasts, flowers and representations of the months of the year.

If you think the outside of the palazzo is a sight to behold, wait till you go up and see the interiors of the palazzo!! The golden staircase was fabulous! Here you can easily discover breathtaking walls made of stucco, and lavish ceilings covered with enchanted paintings. Our guide took us through the rooms explaining the art work and the historical significance of the building. Did you know that the Doge was a chosen, it was not a inherited position?

The interior of the Palazzo Ducale with the artworks by artists such as Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto.

Among the most breathtaking pieces was Tintoretto's Paradise, said to be the largest oil painting in the world. His masterpiece completed in 1577 covers the entire wall !! Unfortunately this was one area inside the palace we were not allowed to take any photos. You can take photographs in the courtyard and through the open windows of the palace, but not of the interior.

( courtesy of google images ) 

We marveled at all the various rooms and the apartments of the Doge's, the next one more ornate than the last. Don't forget to look up at the ceilings in these rooms, they are just as amazing as the walls! Below is one of the ceilings done by Tintoretto.

You also get to cross the Bridge of Sighs into the old jail. According to our guide, there was only one man who was able to escape from the infamous prison. His name, Giacomo Casanova on the night of October 31, 1756. Fortunately he was held in the less rigid section for errant nobles called the Piombi, but he had to break through the lead roof and fool the night watchmen. Risking death by falling from the roof of the Palazzo Ducale, Casanova was mistaken for a reveller who had been locked into the palace following a function. He was let out by a side door and fled by gondola.

The prison was certainly interesting to see, but it gets a bit creepy.

one of the cells inside

This was were the prisoners took a last look at freedom as they glimpsed the lagoon and San Giorgio through the small windows. Walking across the Bridge of Sighs is quite interesting because it looks gorgeous on the outside, but it is a different story on the inside.

( courtesy of Lulu Kamatoy )

The Doge's Palace is a work of art that is rooted in history! I loved the frescoes, the grand elegance of the palace, the courtyard - especially loved the paintings by Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto. From the exterior Venetian gothic architecture, artistic interior to the rich history, the Palazzo Ducale is really something!  The artwork and architecture in some rooms are just awe-inspiring. You have to go walk over the Bridge of Sighs as well - romantic and tragic history behind the story of this bridge. Seeing Tintoretto's Paradise was a huge highlight.  I could spend all day telling you about it all!

The works of art are just breathtaking, whether you like art or not, you simply cannot deny the care, effort and beauty that went into these paintings. A MUST SEE is the  largest room in the palace, the Chamber of the Great Council, there are no words to describe it. The famous Il Paradiso by Tintoretto is housed here, the longest canvas painting in the world. The Palazzo Ducale is a must for anyone who travels to Venice.

After our tour of the Palazzo Ducale we walked to the Piazza San Marco and were given free time to walk around once more. I wanted to go to the Basilica of San Marco but seeing the long lines -- I decided to just stay at the piazza and take more photos.

Another one of Piazza San Marcos sights is the clock tower. The clock was first erected as a way of showing others the wealth that existed in this city state. It was built sometime in the late 1400's. From the top of the tower you get a great view of Venice but make sure you get there early because the line can be long.

The most impressive sight in the Piazza San Marco is the San Marco Basilica. The church is named after Saint Mark and his bones are entombed in the church. The church was really the Doges' church and it showcases the exploits of many Venetian explorers. It is a mix of Byzantine and Gothic architecture.

The first view of the ornamental exterior of Basilica San Marco can be overwhelming, especially if approached from its main entrance. Columns, cupolas, statues, and touches of gold in its decorated portals and on the church's many turrets vie for the viewer's attention.

Venice is amazing. There is no other place in world like venice.The best place to see in Venice is the square. You can move around at your own pace. Truly awesome. If you like ancient architecture and art, you will love this city! When you walk in Piazza San Marco Square it literally takes your breath away! What a beautiful place! Wonderful for romantics and lovers. It was more spectacular than any photo could portray. I would recommend a visit to Venice to anyone!


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