Venice must-see, an introduction to St. Mark’s Square and a walking tour - Tour 1
St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, the Prisons and the Bridge of Sighs, St. Mark’s Church, the Procuratie Vecchie and Nuove, the Clock- and the Bell-tower, a walking tour in less known parts of Venice, the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.
St. Mark’s Square has always been the heart of Venice, where the most important government buildings were constructed. It is dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica, founded in the 9th century to house St. Mark’s relics smuggled from Egypt by two Venetian merchants. On that occasion St. Mark became the patron saint of Venice and his symbol, the winged lion, was adopted to emphasize the power and majesty of the city. When the church was rebuilt in the 11th century, both the outside and the inside were decorated with pillaged marble, slabs and columns, as well as with an enormous quantity of glass and gilded mosaics.
The Doge’s Palace, that stands next to it, is a notable example of Gothic architecture. For centuries, it was used as the seat of the government, the governor’s residence and the palace of justice. Its official rooms were decorated with works by famous artists such as Titian, Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese. At the end of the 16th century the palace was connected to the new-constructed palace of the prisons with a suspended bridge, called the Bridge of Sighs.
Around the rest of the big square there are the Clock-tower and the Bell-tower, the administration offices, the famous Library and the two columns along the pier that have statues on their top representing the symbols of Venice patron-saints, St Theodore and St. Mark’s, the Evangelist to whom the square is dedicated.
After the visit to the square you will walk through a number of less known streets in order to reach the Rialto Bridge, located in the middle of the Grand Canal. The present stone bridge replaced a wooden one, that collapsed several times. From it, you will admire the amazing warehouses, where the Venetian noble people once lived and worked.
Venice Overview: a walking tour and a boat ride - Tour 2
St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Church, the Doge’s Palace, the Prisons and the Bridge of Sighs, the Procuratie Nuove and Vecchie, the Clock- and the Bell-tower, the Library and a boat ride along the Grand Canal and narrower canals, a visit to a glass-blowing factory on Murano island.
A relaxed walking tour to the main sites of St. Mark’s Square, the centre of the city in order to understand Venice history and how it became a maritime Republic. All around it, you will admire its spectacular buildings constructed over the centuries. The two most important ones are St. Mark’s church, the former private chapel of the governor, and the Doge’s Palace, an amazing Gothic structure, that served for a long time as the seat of the Venetian government.
After the visit to the square the tour will continue with a stroll in less- known places and areas of Venice in order to learn more about every day life. You will notice that Venice is full of hidden treasures that are just as magnificent as its famous landmarks and that the layout of the city is confusing for your orientation.
A private boat ride along the Grand Canal will add more to your understanding of Venice amphibious nature. The main water thoroughfare, criss-crossed by many narrow and shallow canals, is flanked by palaces owned by the local aristocracy for trade and housing.
Finally, you will reach Murano where the tour ends. Located in the northern part of the lagoon the island still bears architectonic features of its glorious past. Here glass furnaces were moved in the Middle Ages to avoid fires in Venice. Today there are many that are still active and the visit to a glass-factory will introduce you to this fascinating art and its secrets. A glass-master will give you a demonstration of how glass is still blown.
Explore St. Mark's district, the heart of the city - Tour 3
St. Mark’s district, the Fenice Opera House, the Albanian Confraternity, Santo Stefano Church, the house of Casanova, the Guild of the German Shoemakers, Palazzo Pesaro, Campo Manin, Contarini del Bovolo and the Rialto Bridge.
St. Mark's district not only included St. Mark’s Square but also theatres and ‘ridotti’ where fun was the order of the day. Among the few theatres left La Fenice is the most famous one, and it is worth seeing. Reconstructed after a fire in 1996 close to its original shape, it is one of the most renowned landmarks in the history of Italian opera.
A couple of blocks far away from it, you will still find traces of the presence of foreign lay brotherhoods such as the Albanian and the German ones. Both communities were allowed to own their guilds, where they met for their activities.
Framed by St. Stephen 14th century Gothic church, that preserves doge Francesco Morosini’s tomb in its interior, St. Stephen’s Square is located in the heart of one of the main shopping and dinning areas of Venice. In its neighbourhoods, you will come across the imposing Pesaro Palace overlooking Campo San Beneto, better well-known as Palazzo Fortuny. In more recent times it became a museum focusing on textile design, photography and painting.
After crossing Campo Manin, in a secret courtyard you will admire the Contarini del Bovolo Palace with its very unusual and outstanding snail-looking staircase not far away from the Rialto bridge, the oldest of the four bridges spanning over the Grand Canal. It was originally designed to let market-galleys pass beneath it but in the 16th century it was reconstructed as a stone-arch bridge.
The tour will end in this area, where you can have a bite, if you wish.
Venice seen from the top, amazing bird’s eye views - Tour4
The Horses Terrace in St. Mark’s Basilica, St. Mark’s Bell-tower, Contarini del Bovolo staircase and the Fontego dei Tedeschi.
If you have already visited Venice many times, why don’t you see it from above? This tour offers you several chances among which you can choose what best suits your needs.
St. Mark’s Basilica has a Loggia from which you can not only admire the whole square, but you can also visit its museum, where the Triumphal Quadriga from the 3rd century B.C. is kept. The four bronze alloy horses, it is composed of, were originally located at the hippodrome of Constantinople. From this privileged lookout you will be closer to the domes and the vaults, covered with a coat of approximately eight thousand square meters of gilded mosaics.
The next visit will be the Bell-tower, the tallest tower in the city, from which you will have the best view over Venice and its lagoon! Used as a watchtower and a lighthouse provided with five bells, that marked the civic and religious time during the republic of Venice, Galileo Galilei tested his telescope from here, as an inscription reminds us.
Back to the square your guide will lead you to another interesting tower, one of the city’s hidden treasures, an external staircase built in the shape of a snail. The Contarini family, to whom it belonged, added the word Bovolo to their family name to distinguish themselves from many other Contarini families present in Venice.
Your tour will end at the Fontego dei Tedeschi, the German warehouse, which has a new rooftop, added to it when it was restored. From here you have a spectacular view over Venice, the Grand Canal and the Rialto bridge.
Options: George’s bell-tower on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
You can also choose which towers or terraces you would like to go up. Some have a lift, some do not.