Romantic, melancholic, masked, and so clearly a lagoon place. That’s Venice. Its beauty, its charm and its lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage since 1987 , go far beyond definitions. From the red carpet of the Film Festival to the colorful Carnival, the internationality of Venice has deep roots. “It is the finest drawing room in Europe” – as described by Napoleon.
An extraordinary Gothic architecture is reflected in the water together with ferries, roofs, colorful shutters, and gondolas always full of tourists and VIPs from around the world . It’s a picture of a thousand pastel shades, which has inspired artists, writers and memorable poets . Piazza S. Marco with its Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and tall bell tower, is the front door and the beating heart of this enchanting city. A trapezoidal square, among the most beautiful in the world, which is surrounded along the longest side by a long succession of magnificent arches and porticos of the Old and New Procuratie, once the apartments of Prosecutors . Palazzo Ducale (IX century) is a universal jewel of grandiosity and splendor: it enchants for its elegant gothic pierced gallery, the detailed allegorical decorations, its capitals and sculptures. It was the Doges residence and seat of the government of Venice, as well as of the court and of the prison where Casanova lived before his getaway. The Basilica of San Marco ( XI- XV centuries), with its five domes, is another masterpiece of the Romanesque -Byzantine style and focus of the religious and public life in Venice. Inside, colored marbles and magnificent golden mosaics tell the stories of St. Mark, St. Nicholas and St. Peter and episodes of the new and old Testament. The high altar, embellished by a golden altarpiece, houses the remains of St. Mark which were stolen in Alexandria in 828.
Every day Piazza S. Marco teems with day trippers, who approach pigeons with their hands parted. In its immensity, St. Mark’s Square welcomes at its side the sea and the ancient history of the ancient Maritime Republic that this place is keeping. To separate it from the Basin there are the two columns with the winged lion and San Todaro (first patron saint of the Venetians), copy of the original kept in Palazzo Ducale. Majestic and brown, well in contrast to the rest of the square stands the Bell Tower, square based and 98.6 meters high. On top of all shines a golden angel about 2 meters high. From up here the view is extraordinary. The bell tower was built in the twelfth century, it collapsed in 1902, and was rebuilt ten years later. Once its bells attracted the Venetians to the main events of the city and, at its feet, there were wine retailers who moved depending on the time to follow the shadow of the tower itself. It’s for this ancient custom that the Venetians call “ombra” (shadow) a glass of wine.
How not to fall for Venice then? You get lost and just abandon yourself to its slow going. The magnificent Clock Tower, also known as the Moors, takes care of marking the time, and closes to the east the beautiful view of the Old Procuratie. It’s a mechanical machinery with Roman numerals and moon, solar and zodiac phases. Further up there is a niche with a statue of the Virgin, the Lion of St. Mark , and the bell of the Moors. Still on this side we find the square of the lions, so named for the two lions of red Cottanello marble (Rieti), made by Giovanni Bonazza in 1722. In the middle there is the only public well in the area. Other monuments of inestimable value in the square are the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (also called Sansovinian Library) – one of the largest in Italy – containing collections of Greek, Latin and Oriental manuscripts among the most valuable in the world, and the Correr Museum, dating Renaissance, which offers a journey to discover the history and life of Venice. Here, at St. Mark’s, under the arches, there are also many luxury shops, like the historic Caffè Florian (1720), the most important jewelers and glass masters of the lagoon like Archimede Seguso. Thomas Mann was right : ” Death in Venice “, because of its incomparable charm.