The city of Venice was built on more than 120 former marshy islands. They were connected by over 400 bridges: The city-state of Venice came into being, gaining wealth and power in a very short time. However, the disfavor of the other countries grew just as fast. Venice’s heraldic animal is the winged lion of San Marco, which illustrates the city’s combination of fantasy and power and is meant to represent its apparent victory over gravity.
Venice has a rich cultural heritage. Numerous palaces adorn the banks of the Grand Canal and an indescribable variety of churches and squares characterize the cityscape. The extremely talented citizens of this city knew how to help themselves in many a difficult situation and on this occasion invented such practical things as the glass mirror, the giro banking system, double-entry bookkeeping and the arsenal.
Tip 1: Doge’s Palace
The Doge’s Palace of Venice is one of the most impressive sights in Italy. The building, which is over 800 years old, has a long history that can be experienced and felt when visiting the palace.
The Doge’s living quarters are a highlight of the palace, as is the great hall with its enormous oil painting. The architecture and furnishings of the palace are impressive. The palace is located in St. Mark’s Square, a central location in the lagoon city.
The Doge’s Palace sits directly on the sea and overlooks the Adriatic Sea in front of the city.
Historically, the building is the home of the Doges of Venice, a powerful family that long held political power in the city and kingdom.
The building is characterized by different architectural styles. Due to the many reconstructions, peculiarities from the different times were brought into the building.
The south wing at the Meno shows especially the typical building style between 1340 and 1400, when this part of the building was realized. The steno window was finished in 1404.
The wing that leads to the Piazzetta was built between 1424 and 1457. The Porta della Carta was built around 1440. The east wing of the building is much younger, after the fires it was rebuilt only in the 17th century. At the same time the prisons belonging to the palace were built, which were equipped with a courtroom.
The foundations of the building are made of wooden logs and Istrian stone. The walls of the Doge’s Palace are built of bricks and almost entirely covered with marble. The south and west side of the palace has three floors, the east side even four.
Tip 2: Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs connects the palace with the prisons, the Porta della Carta leads directly to St. Mark’s Basilica. Actually, the bridge, built around 1600, with a length of 10 meters, is nothing special. It is on everyone’s lips because it used to be connected with the fate of many people. Once upon a time, prisoners were brought back to prison over the bridge after the trial and sentencing in the Doge’s Palace. In case of a long prison sentence or even a death sentence, a “sigh” was already understandable.
The Bridge of Sighs is probably one of the most photographed bridges in the world, together with the Rialto Bridge. The best photos of this mysterious and legendary bridge, around which many stories entwine, are best taken from the neighboring bridge – the Ponte di Paglia.
Tip 3: St. Mark’s Basilica
What makes Venice and its St. Mark’s Basilica so unique is the fusion of Byzantine, Arabic and Gothic elements into an independent medieval architectural language. Orientally inspired, sumptuously furnished – St. Mark’s Basilica delights with the largest mosaic cycle in the entire Occident. Visitors move through a “picture book” – a kaleidoscope of Venetian styles. The result of a comprehensive iconographic plan is on display here.
The mysterious magic of golden mosaics that covers all the walls inside was not only intended to be a symbol of the divine, but also to give the building the look and feel of an early Christian site. While the main and secondary facades were decorated with sculptural ornaments, the interior features a multicolored marble floor. On an area of 4000 square meters, shimmering gold mosaics depict biblical scenes, episodes from city life and the legend of Mark.
The brick is the actual building substance of the structure. Planned scenes were already sketched in color on the wet plaster. Later, the artists added individual pieces of mosaic to the mortar. In addition, they paid attention to different angles of inclination in the statics. These angles make the play of light reflections more vivid.
The pictures on the walls, rich in figures, tell of the Passion of Christ and the work of St. Mark. In the vestibule, barely visible behind inconspicuous stone grates, are the oldest preserved Doge’s tombs from the 12th century.
The church was modeled on the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople (536-546), which was destroyed in 1461. The architecture is based on Venice’s close connection with Byzantium. The artists used basically worked according to the Byzantine model.
Tip 4: St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is the largest and most beautiful square in Venice, it is 175 meters long and 82 meters wide. It was laid out as early as the 9th century, but received its current appearance only between 1200 and 1600. The “most beautiful ballroom in Europe”, as Napoleon called it, is populated daily by hundreds of tourists, photographers and by just as many pigeons. Incidentally, it is the only square in the city that bears the name “Piazza”, the other squares in Venice are called “Campi” because they were not originally paved. The square is dominated by the facade of St. Mark’s Church (Basilica di San Marco) and the freestanding St. Mark’s Tower (98.6 m high) and is enclosed by the old and new procuratoriums. In the extension by the so-called “Piazzetta” it reaches to the Bacino di San Marco with the beginning of the Canal Grande.
Since the square rises only slightly above sea level, it is repeatedly flooded at high tide. The square, like almost the entire city center, is one big pedestrian zone.
Tip 5: Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal in the heart of the city is the oldest bridge and probably the most famous bridge in Venice.
The bridge is named after the Rialto neighborhood in San Polo, which was once the most important commercial center of Venice. Until the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge was the only permanently installed connection in Venice to get to the other side of the river.
Between 1588 and 1591, by decision of the city authorities, the Rialto Bridge was replaced by a stone single-arch bridge designed by the architect Antonio da Ponte.
The Rialto Bridge is easy to find thanks to the good signposting in the city center. In addition, just beyond the bridge is the Vaporetto docking station of the same name. During carnival time, however, the bridge is hopelessly overcrowded.