Hardly anyone who comes to Venice – be it for the first time or the fifth time – does not make a beeline for Piazza San Marco. I can’t claim any immunity from being awed by that monumental public space, so my first full day in Venice was almost entirely given to revisiting the famous landmarks there. Which probably means that most of the photo perspectives in this installment are not unfamiliar to you. (As luck would have it, parts of the square had renovation going on – cropping scaffolds out from view caused some lopsided compositions.)
If you approach the square from the west, this would be your first view of it, framed by the collonade of Museo Correr.
The aforementioned museum extends to the buildings around the square. Here is the northeast corner of the square, including Torre dell’Orologio with two bell-striking Moors on top and part of Basilica di San Marco, as seen from one of the windows of Museo Correr.
And the opposite view to the opening shot is the perspective from the loggia under the domes of the basilica.
I did find Venice less crowded than expected during my trip, most likely because certain groups of visitors were kept away by Covid or other restrictions. The piazza feels relatively deserted in the shot above.
A close-up of the basilica towers and domes, a breathtaking amalgamation of architectural styles.
There are many superb interior spaces throughout Venice – palaces, museums, churches – but two stand above all. One is the San Marco Basilica, covered in golden mosaics with a number of eye-catcing features. Here are a few angles.
The altarpiece known as Pala d’Oro is positioned in the back of the apse in a way to maximize the incentive to pay an extra fee to see it and – purposefully or not – to minimize the proper photographic angles. This perspective barely begins to hint at the 2,000 precious stones set amidst all that gold and silver in the incredible 10th-to-14th-centuries work of art.
Another veritable work of art is the bronze horses, dating from the early 13th century, that used to oversee the entrance to the basilica. This is the original Quadriga that is now housed inside the church museum, while replicas are now positioned above the loggia (and were among the key features of the façade covered by scaffolding).
We are back on the basilica terrace, now looking over Piazzetta San Marco, the southeast appendix of the grand square. The expanse of water becomes the Grand Canal a few hundred meters to the right of this perspective. It is fronted by two columns of the Venetian patron saints, Mark and Theodore. On the left of this shot is the façade of the Doge’s Palace, the most impressive example of the Venetian Gothic architecture.
A partial view of Porta della Carta, the ceremonial entrance to the palace built in the 15th century.
We are now inside the palace’s courtyard, which was completed along with the gate in the mid-15th century but reconstructed a few times since.
The wellheads are younger by about a century.
The Giant’s Staircase used to be accessible to visitors when I first saw the palace nearly 20 years ago, but nowadays it is off-limits. Originally built as part of the courtyard development in the 15th century, it was further adorned with statues of Mars and Neptune in 1567, which is when it acquired its current name.
The interior of the palace is the second standout of the two mentioned a few parargaphs above. It is a sequence of richly decorated rooms, each having a specific purpose in discharging government duties of the Most Serene Republic.
The ceiling decorations are simply jaw-dropping.
It is, in fact, a recurring happenstance in various Venetian palaces, that ceilings retain the most of their grandeur from the heyday times of the Republic.
A view from the palace window over the waterfront promenade of Riva degli Schiavoni, towards sestiero of Castello.
Another view from the palace, of the most photogenic island of San Giorgio Maggiore, headlined by the eponymous basilica and its bell tower.
And since we are now throwing glances away from San Marco, here is a glimpse of the island of Giudecca from a window of Museo Correr.
A tour of the Doge’s Palace includes visiting the prisons, connected by an elevated enclosed bridge known as the Bridge of Sighs. The name comes from the reaction those condemned to long sentences had at seeing the blue skies for the last time, as they were led from the judicial chambers within the palace to their cells over the bridge. I took a few shots here, likely my best for the day if not the whole trip.
San Giorgio Maggiore is the main background picture in these shots.
Here is the view of the Bridge of Sighs from Ponte de Canonica.
The magic of focal compression makes San Giorgio Maggiore look as if it is close behind, while in fact there is a non-trivial amount of water between the island and the waterfront of Riva degli Schiavoni.
A lot of people prefer to photograph Ponte dei Sospiri from the always crowded Ponte della Paglia that is seen in the shot as well. I find that opposite perspective much less atmospheric.
We glimpsed the view of the San Marco Campanile in the opening shot. The highest structure in Venice, the current tower is actually a replica erected in 1912, a decade after the original tower collapsed. Ascent to its viewing platform is facilitated by a fast elevator, which makes getting up there a pretty unmissable experience while in Venice. Here is the view towards the mouth of the Grand Canal, headlined by the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute and the nearby Punta della Dogana, and beyond them the island of Giudecca with the church of Il Redentore.
Even further away is one of the smaller islands in the southern lagoon that is completely taken over by a 5-star hotel. I have never ventured there.
Here is San Giorgio Maggiore again, and behind it, the island of San Servolo and the long strip of the island of Lido, whose far side is the Venetian beach.
The northward view is dominated by Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Beyond is the greenery of San Michele Cemetery, and farther on, the island of Murano.
From the heights of the Campanile, it is not always easy to discern individual landmarks within the sea of reddish hues. I did focus on Scala Contarini del Bovolo in one of the shots.
Perspectives from its top platform will feature in one of the next installments.
And now a look at the domes of Basilica di San Marco and the Campanile from a distance.
We are now standing on the open terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store. It is the same vantage point that produced the shot in my travel bulletin. Here is another look in the same direction as that picture, but with the two roofed spans of the shops on the Rialto Bridge visible in the foreground.
The opposite direction of the Grand Canal, with the waterside Campo Erberia in the lower left corner.
Stepping away from major features, a couple of side canal perspectives featuring gondolas in the San Marco district.
The gondoliers here, as well as in Canareggio and Castello sestieri wear blue-striped shirts, while the prevailing fashion of the gondoliers in San Polo, Santa Croce, and Dorsoduro sestieri is red stripes.
A seagull is a frequent sighting around the major water routes in Venice.
I may actually write a separate post on door handles found on Venetian streets. This is just one of them.
More to come.