As much as I have always opined that you can only find the real authentic Venice the further you travel out of the tourist centre, there is no doubt that the Piazza San Marco remains the heart and soul of the city, even though it also coincides as the epicentre of the tourist trade. And just as three previous visits had never seen me travelling on one of the city’s famous gondolas, I had likewise never visited one of the most important buildings in the city, the Doge’s Palace. There can be no justification for this shortfall, since the palace was, and remains at the historical core of what was one of the world’s greatest republics. And on this trip I was determined to put things to rights.
Walking through the main stone archway leading into the palace courtyard, passing one of the miscellany of ancient relics looted from all over the Eastern world, there could be no mistaking the grandeur of what had once been the centre of Venice’s administrative, political and legal core. But beyond the exquisite marble facades, the windows characterised by the iconic “Venetian Gothic” style and the impressive statues peppering every wall and corner of the exterior, the real grandeur was reserved for the inside. For up a heavily gilded staircase and into the pomp of the ceremonial rooms upstairs, our eyes sprung open in astonished amazement at the extent of opulence on display.
The Doge’s Palace outside
There, paintings by the very historical best of Venice’s artists were practically beaten into submission by the heavily baroque gilded mouldings which surrounded them. However it was the combination of both gilding and paintings on every surface of the walls and ceilings which created the real drama, and we were only saddened (and rather surprised) by the extent to which the condition of all surfaces had, like the city surrounding the palace, been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair.
The splendour of the gilded interiors
One might wonder how the world outside this glittering palace could follow this magnificent display of splendour, but of course Venice always has a new treasure in store, and as we left the Doge’s Palazzo and saw a small queue forming across the square at the famous Bell Tower of San Mark’s, we had just discovered our next treasure… for from the top of the tower, mercifully reached by lift, you can enjoy the most astonishing views of Venice sprawling out beneath you.
I loved the fact that from the top of the campanile, you could get a flavour of the true personality of this fascinating island… the extent to which the city is packed into a tiny space surrounded by a misty, boggy lagoon; the consistency of the sprawling wave of terracotta rooftops; and the incredible beauty of the many churches and palaces springing up all over the skyline.
Venice from above the campanile of St. Mark’s
A day full of such beauty could only be concluded by a visit to the other of the Piazza San Marco’s famous gems; Florian’s café, where we rightfully treated ourselves to a tray loaded with tea, macarons and cakes fit for the festive season. And with that marvellous afternoon tea, taste joined the others of our senses which had been utterly enchanted by a further day in Venice.
A well earned visit to Florian’s and the Piazza of San Marco at night
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