Piazza San Marco & Basilica San Marco, Venice
The beautiful Clock Tower in St. Mark's square is possibly the second most well known clock in the world; after "Big Ben". It was built in 1499. It was designed by Mauro Codussi, and decorated with an astronomic clock that shows the hour, the moon phases and zodiac signs.
At the top of the tower, once an hour the bronze statues of two huge shepherds or moors strike the bell. The figures are sometimes referred to as Moors because of the dark color of the bronze patina.
At Epiphany and the Ascension (just twice a year) the procession of the statues of the three Kings led by an angel appears. The Magi's carousel; the three Kings, preceded by an Angel blowing a trumpet, passed in front of the gilded bronze Madonna with Child. Originally, the trumpet actually emitted a sound.
In the 1979 film Moonraker, James Bond is seen throwing Chang (the bad guy) through the glass face of the famous St. Mark's clock and down into a piano below, thus disrupting an opera performance. The real clock was obviously not used. For one thing, face of the real clock consists of revolving metal disks so a glass-fronted studio-based 'clock stunt double' was used.
You've seen pictures of the piazza and the birds that seem to be everywhere. Now you are there and you forgot your birdseed?
Don't let this happen to you. Take a small bag of birdseed in your suitcase and bring it to the square. Have your camera ready for some great shots. And be prepared to clean your self if the birds get carried away......
Also, if you go into the Academy and see the art display, notice that in the old paintings of the square there are no pigeons. Then give some thought as to why?--especially because the artist tried to make a good replica of what happened when they brought back St. Mark's body and had the procession.
Pigeon for Lunch, Anyone?
Fondest memory: My daughter loved to feed the birds. If you are taking children, I recommend bringing bird seed.
The Molo is the side of San Marco Piazza that is on the Grand Canal. It is the traditional way to arrive in Venice. I took a picture from a boat (photo 5) which shows the view you would have if you were arriving the traditional way. I also have a photo (4) of the way it looks from above with the gondolas all lined up for the tourists.
There are two very photogenic columns on the Molo.
Fondest memory: One column is topped by the winged lion of San Marco AKA a griffin which is supposed to have a book between his paws (photo 2). In my picture which is a silhouette taken from the piazza, you can't see the book.
The other one looks like a man in a Roman toga with a big spear and a halo standing on an alligator or a crocodile (photo 1 and photo 3). I understand that this represents St. Theodore, who was Venice's first patron saint, and the crocodile is supposed to be a dragon.
But since the columns and statues were really raided from Oriental sites, they are kind of reverse anachronisms. That is, some Venetian brought back a column with a griffin on it, and they put it up and called it the Lion of San Marco. Another Venetian brought back an Egyptian column with a man who has killed a crocodile on top, and so they stuck a Roman emperor's head on it, added a halo and called it St. Theodore and the Dragon.
The Molo is the area of St. Mark's Square that is on the Grand Canal. It is the traditional "Front Door" to Venice (molo really means 'jetty'), and is a hive of activity.
It is marked by two massive granite columns brought from the Orient in the 12th century. There were actually three of these columns originally, but one of them fell into the water and sank. I found it particularly satisfying to take photos of these columns. One of them is topped by the winged lion of St. Mark that has a book between his paws. The lion was originally gilded and may have been intended to be a griffen. The other has St. Theodore, Venice’s first patron saint (until he was replaced by St. Mark), who looks like he is standing on an alligator or a crocodile. The statue's head belongs to a Roman Emperor and the rest, including the "dragon", to an early St George.
The lion of St. Mark, on the front of the Basilica. The book under the lion's paw reads "Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus" which means, "Peace be to you, Mark my evangelist."
The words are from a Medieval legend.
"...on Mark's return to Rome, as he was passing the area around where Venice will later be founded, it was said that an angel appeared to him stating the words in your Latin inscription: Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum (trans. "Peace be to you, Mark my evangelist. Here your body will rest"), essentially prophesying that he will one day rest there (i.e. In Venice).
Fondest memory: St Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria. On the 26th of April 68 AD the pagans dragged him through the cobbled streets of Alexandria until he was dead.
In 828, his body was stolen from Alexandria by two Venetian merchants and taken to Venice, where it was sealed in a precious sarcophagus and placed inside the crypt. Its present location is under the table of the high altar.
His feast day is celebrated on 25 April, the anniversary of his martyrdom.
It was our first trip to Venice, and after reading some of the travel tips, I was somewhat concerned about Venice. I loved every second of it.
We flew into Treviso airport and we went to tourist information and bought a bus ticket for 5 Euros each to Venice (don't forget to get your bus ticket stamped when you buy it) and then two water bus tickets to St Mark's itself from the bus station (10 Euros). It was confusing to get to the water bus from the bus station and absolutely no-one speaks English. Luckily for us there was an English family who had been before who pointed us in the right direction.
We stayed at the ponte del sospiri hotel which is just off St Marks square and as the name suggests, right near the bridge of sighs. It was really lovely (all suite) and very cost effective.
I bought some venetial glass jewellry, which is just incredible that I have not seen anywhere else in the world, which was very very cost effective. We also bought an ashtray and some glass coasters, all of which were an incredible price. If you follow the shops from St Marks, you end up at the Rialto bridge area which is just lovely, and has hundreds of little shops with individual items in, some expensive and some less so.
We got completely diddled when we ate - we had a pizza each (two of us) and two large cokes and they charged us 118 Euros. Nothing we could do about it. We were not on St Marks either, but down one of the little alleys nearby.
I would recommend Venice to anyone. Be aware that Europeans smoke openly all over, which can be a bit upsetting when you are not used to it.
No problems with thieves at all, which I was concerned about which was good. Nobody knew where the hotel was and the hotel can't explain where it is either!! Found it in the end, after we went into another hotel and their concierge directed us. People were generally kind, if they would speak to you.
Favorite thing: Started in the 9th century, this church's architecture shows an eastern and Byzantine influence: note the golden altarpiece and the 13th- and 14th-century mosaics that illustrate the cycles of the Bible. The magnificent domes date from the 12th century. The Basilica houses the Marciano Museum, which contains the original bronze horses, copies of which are now on the terrace. The church is open for mass and touring visitors to appreciate daily.
Favorite thing: Piazza San Marco is surrounded by palaces connected by continuous porticoes, the Procuratie. Its dominating buildings are the exceptional Basilica di S. Marco (started in the IX century), recalling the form of Byzantine churches with façade mosaics and, standing on its own a little way off, the tall bell tower (96.8 m) from the 12th century. Towards the lagoon, there is the Palazzo Ducale (from the XIV century), the utmost expression of Venetian Gothic architecture.
Another Venetian landmark not to be missed is the Clock Tower.
Built over 500 years ago over an arch that leads to the old Merceria shops, it has an astronomical clock that has greeted all tourists and merchants to Venice for over half a millennium.
According to a story on the web,
"The clock shows the hours in Roman numerals, the phases of the moon and the Zodiac. It also gives indications to sailors about the tides and which months are more favorable for sailing. The Serenissima gave a large reward to the Ranieri brothers who constructed the clock tower, but legend has it that later their eyes were removed in order to keep them from repeating such a wonder."
St. Marks Square has been a movie scene where you can linger around and watch the world go by or waiting for your secret appointment at one of the many outdoor cafes.
Or you can try to identify all the famous tourist sites around the square, first the Grand Canal, Doge's Palace, St Mark's Basilica, St Mark's Clocktower, Procuratie Vecchie, Napoleonic Wing of the Procuraties, Procuratie Nuove, St Mark's Campanile and Logetta and Biblioteca Marciana.
Or just chill out after all that walking or riding the waves of the canals.
Go up the bell tower of St. Marks Square and have a breath-taking view of the old Venice.
It is a maze of red color rooftops with more rooftops over the islands in the lagoon.
This bird's eye aerial view is one of a must for all photographer. The other is to walk the narrow streets. The third is by boat.
Favorite thing: All Venice guides tell you to start your trip in Venice by taking the vaporetto from Piazzale Roma on the first trip to Canal Grande, directly to San Marco, to see it from the water first, then get off the vaporetto and go to San Marco square and from then start your trip to the sestieri of Venice. They are right and I did just so, it is lovely to see San Marco, Campanile and Dodge's palace from the first time coming on Canal Grande. First time visitors and returning visitors should do so.
St. Mark's Square is really the heart of Venice, mostly because of its location on the banks of the grand canal, and because of the great number of beautiful, historical monuments located there. Politically and culturally, St. Mark's Square has always been a very important and strategical area in Venice.
The piazza St. Marco, is the only square that is called a Piazza, the others are simply called "campo". It's much more than a simple city square, it's a symbol. The square is now "covered" with tourists and its famous pigeons which are a very integral part of the site. The square is lined with the buildings called the Procuratia, which housed the offices and apartments of high placed officials in the Venetian government. The "procuratie vecchie" date back to the 9th century, and were rebuilt in the 16th century
Piazza San Marco is one of those places that when you stand there you feel like you are starring in a movie
Fondest memory: I loved walking through all of those winding "streets" at night and walking over all those tiny bridges and seeing a gondola glide underneath it
The Piazzetta lies between the Basilica and the lagoon.
It was erected 1537, after Plans Sansovinos, precisely at the moment, since Venice made a name of pressure and book metropolis for itself.
Each visitor of Piazzetta gets there, a first impression of the shine and splendour of the republic.
The Doges Palace opposite, the Biblioteca Marciana arises, that belongs today, to the Museo Civico Correr.
The columns at the water come from the 12th century.
The winged lion, on the first pillar, is Persian or Syrian origin.
On the other column stands a statue of the sacred Theodor, the first protection patron of the city.