Certainly Venice’s best-known church, and one of the most easily recognized in the world, St. Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) was originally the Doge’s private chapel, decorated with Byzantine art treasures that are part of the booty brought back by Venetian ships after the fall of Constantinople.
The vast expanse of Venice’s largest square is brought together and made to seem almost intimate by the elegant uniformity of its architecture on three sides. But more than its architectural grace, St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is loved as Venice’s living room, the place everybody gathers, strolls, drinks coffee, stops to chat, meets friends and tour guides, or just passes through on the way to work or play.
Visitors arriving in Venice once stepped ashore under the façade of this extraordinary palace. They couldn’t have failed to be impressed, both by its size and the finesse of its architecture.
Sweeping through the heart of Venice in a giant reverse S curve, the Grand Canal is the principal boulevard through the city, connecting Piazza San Marco, Rialto Bridge,and the arrival points of the rail station and bridge from the mainland.
Once the only bridge across the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge marks the spot of the island’s first settlement, called Rivus Altus (high bank). Built in 1588, some 150 years after the collapse of a previous wooden bridge, this stone arch supports two busy streets and a double set of shops.
This impressive white marble building was built between 1515 and 1560 to house a charitable society dedicated to San Rocco. Soon after its completion, the great 16th-century Venetian artist Tintoretto won the competition to paint a central panel for the ceiling of the Sala dell’Albergo by entering the building and putting his painting in its intended place before the judging, much to the irritation of his rival artists.
The delicate marble filigree by Bartolomeo Bon seems too lace-like to be carved of stone, and you can only imagine the impression this façade must have made covered in its original paint and gold.
A trip to Venice wouldn’t be complete without hopping aboard a vaporetto for the ride across the lagoon to Murano, home of Venice’s fabled glass workers. They were sent here in the 13th century in hope of decreasing the risk of fire from one of the glass furnaces sweeping through Venice’s tightly compacted center.
Called “Accademia” for short, this museum on the Grand Canal has the most important and comprehensive collection of 15th-18th-century Venetian painting in existence.
Just as Ca’ d’Oro lets you glimpse into the life of the late Middle Ages, Palazzo Rezzonico gives a vivid picture of life here in the Baroque and Rococo periods, in the 18th century.
This Gothic church was begun by the Franciscans about 1340 and finished with the completion of the facade, interior, and two chapels in the middle of the 15th century. Its impressive 14th-century campanile is the second highest in the city.
After the vast grandeur of St. Mark’s and the soaring expanse of Frari, little Santa Maria dei Miracoli is like a fresh breeze, a masterpiece of Early Renaissance architecture by Pietro Lombardo.
The long (12-kilometer) strip of sand that separates the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic Sea was Europe’s first real beach resort, and in its heyday, at the turn of the 20th century, was Europe’s most fashionable watering hole for royalty and the day’s celebs.
The Arsenal, the shipyard of the Venetian Republic, was the largest and busiest in the world until the end of the 17th century. From its founding in 1104, it was continuously expanded, until in its heyday, it employed as many as 16,000 workers.