We prepare ourselves to visit Sestiere San Marco and discover the "heart" of Venice.
Political and legal centre since ancient times, it hosts the majority of restaurants, shops and luxury hotels, in addition to imposing churches, three theatres – including La Fenice – that recently re-opened its doors after the 1996 fire, as well as a number of stately palazzi.
Our walking tour starts from Campo San Vidal, where we enter the XI
century church with its Palladian façade that gives its name to the
campo, to admire Vittore Carpaccio’s San Vitale.
We leave the church and proceed to Campo Santo Stefano. In its centre dominates Nicolò Tommaseo’s statue, the Dalmatian intellectual who led the 1848 riots. From the distance, we hear the notes coming uninterruptedly from the windows of Palazzo Pisani, seat of the Benedetto Marcello Conservatoire.
We now set out for Campo San Maurizio, leaving to our left the lavish baroque façade of San Moisè, to reach Museo Correr where the sight of Giovanni Bellini’s Pietà and other wonders of the picture gallery are just the prelude to the surprise waiting for us outside.
Finally, we stand facing “the most elegant drawing room of
Europe”, in Napoleon’s words: Piazza San Marco. Our waiting to access
the Basilica, with its extravagant Byzantine domes and the very
peculiar taste for precious ornaments, is amply rewarded by the visit.
Inside, the mysterious light reflected by oriental mosaics and the
unbelievable dimensions of the place, create a sense of confusion and
amazement that is difficult to forget.
Behind the altar, the indescribable splendour of Pala d’Oro, magnificent icon of X century made of 250 small panels decorated with thousands of precious stones.
Once outside again, from Ponte della Paglia, it is inevitable to take a look at Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), across which, convicted people were moved from Palazzo Ducale to the infamous Piombi prisons. Our eyes run along Palazzo Ducale, the Piazzetta with the two columns, the arcades of Procuratie Vecchie and Nove, and the most ancient and characteristics cafes in Venice.
After initial hesitations, we decide to end our tour with a visit to the Campanile (Bell Tower), first built in 1173 and subsequently rebuilt after its collapse in 1902.
After going up 100 metres by lift, we are granted an unprecedented view. We will never be bored of observing the lagoon, the roofs of the city and the Alps in the distance. Unfortunately the ring of the five bells tells us it is time to set off…