A Secret Tour Inside the Doge’s Palace

Doge’s Palace – Home to the Doge as well as the Infamous Prisons:

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Arco Foscari - triumphal arch

Since the early days of the Venetian Republic, the Doge’s Palace was the seat of the government, housed the Palace of Justice and was the residence of the Doge. It was also used to house the administrative offices of the government, along with several prisons.

On an “Itinerari Segreti” or Secret Itinerary tour of the palace, we go inside the Palazzo Ducale and behind the scenes to the offices of the government and the Doge’s home.

Inside the Doge’s Palace

The main entrance to the palazzo is through a door on the Lagoon-front and once inside, you’ll be treated to an impressive courtyard with two 16th-century bronze wellheads, considered to be the finest in Venice.

The mixture of styles is characteristic of Venice, a blend of East and West thanks to its rich trading history. Here you’ll find Renaissance facades at the eastern side across from the Gothic on the south and west. The staircase at one end from 1600 represents High Renaissance.

Ascend and you’ll see two large statues at the top of the Giants’ Staircase on your way to the first floor loggia. The staircase is named after the two ‘giants’ Neptune and Mars who stand at the top the staircase. In the chambers on this floor you’ll see paintings by some of the period’s best artists, including Titian and Bellini.

A visit to the Museo dell’Opera starts at the lavish Scala d’Oro (Golden Staircase) leading to a series of rooms built in the 16th century.  As you ascend the staircase, look up at the arched ceiling to see numerous gilded stuccos by AlessandroVittorio.

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Scala d'Oro - Golden Staircase

Enter the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of the Great Council) where a frieze on the upper walls of the room portray the first 76 doges, with the exception of Marin Falier who apparently was a traitor. Look out over the Bridge of Sighs that connects the palace to the now-disused prisons.

Most fascinating for many visitors is the visit to the State Inquisitors’ room, the cells where the prisoners are held,  and the many narrow passageways along which prisoners were transferred.  These upper level cells were mainly used for petty offenders.  We see the cell where Casanova was interned and hear the story of how he made his daring getaway through a hole in the roof.

Further down the hall one can find the Doge’s private quarters. Through the other side is the Anticollegio containing masterpieces by Tintoretto. In the Sala del Collegio are more works by this master in a room designed by the famed architect Palladio. The Sala delle Quattro holds Titian’s portrait of Doge Grimani. The Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci houses several Veronese.

When we exit the palace and stand in the centre of the square to admire the Doge’s Palace, we now have a greater appreciation of this historical building.

Photography is only allowed in a few sections inside the Palace. See our inside the Doge’s Place photos here.

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