A Piazza full of history:
Piazza San Marco is usually the starting point of any sightseeing tour of Venice. There’s a lot to see here and within this Piazza are some of the greatest historic landmarks of Venice.
At the eastern end are two of Venice’s most important landmarks – the Basilica San Marco which reflects the city’s Byzantine connection and next door to it is the Doge’s Palace, once the seat of power and home to its rulers.
Some other important landmarks around Piazza San Marco include:
- the Columns of San Marco and San Teodoro near the water’s edge used to mark the entrance to Venice during the days when it could only be reached by sea. Up the the mid-18th century, criminals were executed here and up to this day, superstitious Venetians will not walk between the columns.
- the 98.5-m high Campanile with its golden weather-vane – you can go up to the top, by an internal lift, to get a spectacular view of Venice.
- the Zecca, which was the city’s mint until 1870.
The Piazza gets very crowded at the height of the tourist season and it’s common to see every square inch of ground covered by a sea of people. Under the arcades of the Procuratie there are many souvenir shops, smart boutiques and cafes. Caffe Florian was the favourite haunt of literary figures like Byron, Dickens and Proust, so you may wish to have a drink at this historic cafe.
Summer evenings are particularly pleasant at the Piazza as people dine or have a drink in the outdoor elegant cafes, serenaded by orchestras. Even if you’re not dining at the Piazza, it’s nice to promenade here, enjoy the music and reflect on how incredible it is to be in such a historic Piazza.
If you’re at the Piazza at high tide, don’t be surprised to see it covered by water. Being next to the lagoon, a common occurrence at the Piazza is flooding when the tides wash in.