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Saint Mark's Square in Venice

What to See on Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy

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Basilica San Marco on Piazza San Marco

Martha Bakerjian

Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark's Square, is the largest and most important square in Venice. Being the widest swath of flat, open land in a waterborne city, Piazza San Marco has long been an important meeting place for the citizens of Venice and the design showcase for Venice's aristocracy. It is most impressive from its sea approach, a legacy from the centuries that Venice was a powerful maritime republic.

Piazza San Marco has famously been called "the drawing room of Europe," a quote attributed to Napoleon. The square is named after the unusual and stunning Basilica San Marco that sits on the east end of the square. The slender Campanile di San Marco, the basilica's bell tower, is one of the square's most recognizable landmarks.

Adjacent to Saint Mark's Basilica is the Doges' Palace (Palazzo Ducale), the erstwhile headquarters of the Doges, the rulers of Venice. The paved area that extends from the Piazza San Marco and forms a large "L" shape around the the Doges Palace is known as the Piazzetta (little square) and the Molo (jetty). This area is characterized by the two tall columns along the waterfront which represent Venice's two patron saints. The Column of San Marco is topped with a winged lion while the Column of San Teodoro holds up a statue of Saint Theodore. (see photo)

Saint Mark's Square is bordered on its other three sides by the Procuratie Vecchie and Procuratie Nuove, built, respectively, in the 12th and 16th centuries. These connected buildings once housed the apartments and offices of the procurators of Venice, government officials who oversaw the administration of the Venetian Republic. Today, the Procuratie Nuove houses the Museo Correr, while famous cafés, such as the Gran Caffè Quadri and Caffe' Lavena, spill out from the Procuraties' arcaded ground floors.

Save time by buying a San Marco Square Pass from Select Italy that includes admission to the 4 major sites on Piazza San Marco plus one additional museum. Cards are valid for three months from the pick-up date.

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