San Marco: Venice Hotel Accommodation Guide
Places to see in San Marco
Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi (Street of the shops of the Germans). The Venetian Republic welcomed strangers and allowed individual foreign communities to have shops for their merchants and ambassadors ('fontego' is itself an Arabic corruption of the Italian 'bottega' or 'shop').
Piazzetta dei Leoncini. On the north side of the basilica is this small square, named after two small marble lions that have been rubbed smooth by generations of children's bottoms. The large pallazo at the far end of the square is the 19th century residence of the patriarch (cardinal) of Venice.
Calle dei Bombaseri. This street contained the shops and workshops of the cotton manufacturers ('bombaso': Venetian dialect for 'wad of cotton').
Riva del Carbon. This was the only place in Venice in which the law of 1537 permitted coal to be unloaded.
The Tourist Board of Venice recommends quite a few places to see in San Marco:
The Doge's Palace
The monumental entrance was the Porta della Carta, enchanting example of floral Gothic style that contains two bronze well-curbs. The courtyard is surrounded by porticoes with a top loggia. On the eastern side there is the Scala dei Giganti (Giants' Staircase). It is so called because of the two enormous statues by Sansovino at the sides. The stairway goes up to the loggia but to reach the top floors we go up the Scala d'Oro ('Golden Staircase'). It owes the name to its lavish frescoes and gilded stuccowork. The Venetian Republic was ruled from the Doge's Palace and the building is still the highest expression of Venetian art. It was the residence of the Doge and the seat of the main government departments. As one walks through the its rooms the history and glory of the Venetian Republic is revealed in its paintings and sculptures.
Saint Mark's Basilica
The Basilica is a wonderful example of Byzantine Venetian architecture. It was at one time the Doge's chapel but it was also the mausoleum for Saint Mark, the patron saint, whose life is narrated in the golden mosaics on the walls.
Saint Mark's Square
It is trapezoidal, and the Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove run along the two extensive sides. They are known as old ('vecchie') and new ('nuove') on the basis of the age of the buildings over the arcades of the ground-level porticos.
The Clock Tower
The Procuratie Vecchie runs along the north side of the square from the Clock Tower and have kept their Renaissance features. They are followed by the Ala Napoleonica. This was built in 1810 by the architect Giuseppe Soli on the site of the demolished San Geminiano church, which was built Jacopo Sansovino. The Procuratie Nuove runs along the west side of the square and includes the Libreria di San Marco which was designed by Jacopo Sansovino at the request of the Venetian Republic to house the codicils donated to it by Cardinal Bessarione. The clock tower is at the start of the Mercerie, the road that leads from Saint Mark's Square to the Campo di San Bartolomeo. The name Mercerie refers to the many shops on both sides of it.
This houses amongst other things the famous collections by Domenico Grimani and by his nephew Giovanni. They are a priceless collection from the church of Santa Maria Formosa. Upon leaving the Ala Napoleonica, just after the 'Bocca di Piazza', we come to the church of San Moisè. This originally eight-century building was rebuilt in the tenth century by Mosè Venier, who wanted to dedicate it to the saint after which he was named. We then come to Calle (Street) Larga XXII Marzo. This was built in 1880 by widening Calle San Moisè and contrasted with the lower surrounding buildings. Today, this road is lined with shops as far as Bocca di Piazza. These shops house the most famous names in gold jewellery, leather goods and international and Italian fashion.
La Fenice Opera House
Halfway down Calle Larga XXII turn right into Campo San Fantin where the church of San Fantin stands. This dates back to the ninth century but was rebuilt in the sixteenth century by Scarpagnino. Opposite, there is the La Fenice Opera House. This was originally built in 1790 to a design by Selva. It burnt down in 1836 but like the phoenix ('fenice' in Italian) it was rebuilt in the same style by Meduna in just over a year. The opera house reflected the spirit of Venice of the town. It was destroyed by a fire in 1996 but the determination of the Venetians brought it back 'the way it was' in December 2003.
Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio
Coming back into Calle Larga XXII Marzo continue until Campo di Santa Maria del Giglio or Zobenigo with the church dedicated dedicated to this saint. 'Zobenigo' is a reference to the Jubenigo family, who had the church built in the tenth century. The inside is a single room decorated with the works of many painters from the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
Next page: San Marco hotel recommendations
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