Destinations Magazine

Venice - Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square)

By Laurawh77 @travladventurer
San Marco Piazza
Napoleon once said that Venice's Piazza San Marco was, "the drawing room for all Europe." It is one of the only major destination in Europe where there is not the beep of a car horn or the sounds of hundreds of cars surrounds the monuments standing here. This morning, since we were there so early, there was barely a soul on the frequented cobble stones. The middle of the square gives you a 360 degree view of the famous building on every side.
San Marco Square
The original Piazza was first built in the 9th century but its final design and refinement was finished in the early 17th century for the Pope Alexander III and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. One of the most remarkable things about the square that I noticed when I walked inside was the small, and otherwise hidden, features of the stones. the pattern on the stones is a harringbone pattern which were not simply for look. They were used to demarcate the areas where the market stalls would be set up in the middle ages. Really interesting! Dominating the middle of the square is the San Marco Clock Tower.
Clock Tower
The original tower that stood here was hit by a serious fire in 1489 and throughout many different periods in history there were several attempts to strengthen its structure but in 1902 a major crack was the final straw that broke the tower and brought it to its knees. It was reconstructed in 1912 and now stands as one of the most modern pieces of architecture in the square but the architects were very careful to integrate its design into the architecture throughout the rest of the square. One of the most interesting aspects of the tower is the significance of the bells. Each of the five bells has a different meaning, The Maleficio announces executions; the Mezza Terza proclaimed a session of the Senate; the Nona sounded midday; the Trottiera called the members of the Maggior Consiglio to council meetings and the Marangona , the biggest, rang to mark the beginning and ending of working day.
San Marco Square
In the picture above we can see the square looking back from where we were looking before. The gray building that hug the main square are to Prcouratie building. The Vecchue and the Nuvoe (the old and the new). Each of these buildings is built over an arcade and many of Venice most popular shops and cafes are hidden underneath. The Procuratie Vecchie housed the offices and apartments of the procurators and represent wonderful gothic architecture designed by Codussi. The Procuratie Nuova is more classical in style and was used to offer the procurators more space. Now the Nuove is used as the Correr Museum.
Piazza San Marco
Here are some of the most famous cafe chairs in all of Europe. In the afternoon, live bands and musicians come out onto the Piazza and play outside each one of the cafes, vying customers to come and take a seat and listen to what they have to offer. San Marco Square 
The Pigeons in Venice have been a popular tourist attraction but their are destructive little creatures. Their nests and waste are a harsh problem for the ancient buildings and last year many restrictions went into affect to prevent people feeding the birds.....little good it did though. We were good little tourists and did not take part. That and it was pretty gross. San Marco Basilica
This gorgeous building you see above is the magnificent St Mark's Basilica. This is the cities most famous churches and one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. I will go into more detail on this amazing church later. At this point in the day the church wasn't open yet so we got the time to marvel outside for awhile before continuing down the piazza over to the Doge's Palace. Doge's Palace
On the south side of the Piazza we can find the Doge's Palace on the left, the Zecca and Museo Archeologico on the right and standing in the back are the two columns of San Marco and San Teodoro. These columns marked the main entrance to Venice when the city was in its infancy and could only be reached by the sea. I had listened to this book on tape ever since I was a child and in the book, this little girl travels to Venice in the 17th century. She describes her boat pulling into Venice and seeing these columns guiding her off the gangplank. Standing underneath them I could close my eyes and imagine being here hundreds of years before, surrounded by merchants and the hussle and bussel of Carnivale. Incredible. San Marco Tourist Booths
Now the only merchants on this piazza are touristy shops and stands. Most of them are pretty overpriced so try and avoid buying any stuff over here if it can be avoided. I'll let you in on some of the best places to buy later on in our journey! Gondola Rides
At the end of the Piazza you can look out at San Maria de Maggoire or get a ride from a gondolier. Tourists in San Marco 
After only a short time the piazza was full up. We were amazing how in only a few hours so many people could flood into this small space. We were even more grateful to have had it mainly to ourselves earlier in the morning. So, one of my best pieces of advice for San Marco is to get their super early. It's totally worth the effort! San Marco Gondolas
Here I am in front of the beautiful blue topped gondolas.

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