The top Venice tourist attractions are spectacular in its entirety. The fact that Venice is auto free is a plus to maneuver about whether on foot or hopping on the water taxis known as ‘Vaporetti.’ St. Mark’s Square is still the perfect place to start any exploration of the city.
Basilica San Marco (St. Mark’s Church)
Originally used as a refuge for remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, construction for St. Mark’s Basilica began in the 9th century. A fire destroyed much of the original structure in 976 and the church was reopened in 1094. The Byzantine, Roman and Venetian architecture adorning the church generates its distinctive and opulent appearance. Its exterior features its impressive dome and the replicas of the Triumphal Quadriga (St. Mark’s horses) keeping an unvarying watch over the Square.
The basilica’s interior is adorned with shimmering mosaics depicting biblical scenes and allegories. The Golden Altarpiece (Pala d’Oro) is an altar screen alleged to have been brought from Constantinople to Venice around 1105. It is covered with enamel icons, pearls, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and various other stones and is inlaid in gold.
Take the steep stairway to the roof and enter into a large space with exhibitions of the history of the basilica. Step outside and obtain magnificent views of the entire Piazza.
Visitors must adhere to the St. Mark’s Basilica’s strict dress code and dress conservatively.
Ca’Rezzonico opened in 1936 as the Museum of the Eighteenth Century. Visitors can admire paintings, furniture and frescoes when strolling through all three floors. Baldassarre Longhena was the Venetian Baroque architect who undertook the job. However, he passed in 1682, leaving an unfinished structure. The palazzo was completed under the direction of architect Giorgio Massari in 1756 and added an extensive collection of 18th century Venetian glass by the masters of the island across the canal in Murano.
The white marble façade is situated directly on the Grand Canal. Prior to becoming a museum, it was a rental property and Cole Porter was once a tenant. The museum was designed by two prominent Venetian historians, Nino Barnantini and Giulio Lorenzetti. They painfully arranged much of the furnishings to match what would have been the palace’s original décor of lavish Venetian furniture. Numerous 18th century artworks belonging to the other museums of Venice were denoted to Ca’ Rezzonico to complete its authenticity.
Doge’s Palace is easily recognizable for its numerous porticos and white limestone and pink facade. This palace sits on the site of what was once a 10th century wooden stockade that was burnt down by a fire. In the 1300s, the nobility of Venice decided that they needed an opulent palace to reflect the prosperity and wealth of the city. The structure was designed by Filippo Calendario. The building was erected in two shifts, due to the execution of Calendario in 1355. The eastern wing was built between 1301 and 1340, and the western wing was completed 110 years afterwards in 1450. Known as ‘Venetian Gothic,’ its unique style is a fusion of Gothic and Byzantine design.
Inside the palace, one can find the famous staircase “Scala dei Giganti” which is flanked by two enormous statues of Mars and Neptune, the Roman Gods. There are also portraits of all the inhabitants that resided here and the ceilings are works of art of their own with paintings on them. The largest room is the Grand Chamber Council; where over 1000 of Italy’s elite would meet up.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Museums reflect Venice’s love of the arts, and the Peggy Guggenheim collection emphasizes more of the avant-garde, contemporary and surrealist works. The building is as interesting as the artwork contained inside it. The structure originally was constructed as the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni for a wealthy Venetian family.
The palace was purchased in 1949 by American Peggy Guggenheim, who made it her home for thirty years. She opened her home part of the year to the public to view her extensive private art collection that remains housed here today. There’s an entire host of art styles and artists including Picasso, Jackson Pollack, Magritte and Max Ernst (who was also married to Guggenheim for a brief period). Walk in the Nasher Sculpture Garden on-property, which was a favorite area for Peggy to showcase new sculptures. Shortly after Peggy’s death, the Guggenheim Foundation took reins in 1985 and opened the palace to the public as a year-round venue.
St Mark’s Campanile
St. Mark’s Campanile is a bell tower and the tallest structure in Venice. It was completed in 1912 and is an exact reconstruction of the 15th century model. The original was destroyed in 1902 after a disastrous collapse. There were other towers located in the spot previously, with some serving as lighthouses or clock towers but all fell due to various reasons.
The triangular-tipped tower is referred to as “Master of the House” by the locals. Stretching above at 323 feet, a gilded statue of the Archangel Gabriel is perched onto of a gold-leaf weathervane. Ascend to the top of the tower for unobstructed and open vistas that includes the waterways and on a clear day even to the northern Alps.
There are five bells with each one originally serving a designated purpose. The ‘Nona’ resounded mid-day. The ‘Marangona’ chimed twice a day to mark the beginning and conclusion of the work day. The ‘Trotteria’ sounded for an immediate emergency meeting of the council. The ‘Maleficio’ announced executions and the ‘Pregadi’ chimed to call all senators to Doge’s Palace.
Every corner, every canal, every overpass and every cathedral provides an abundance of Venice Tourist Attractions. Visitors gain an unparalleled chance to appreciate splendor, construction and antiquity first hand.