Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square)
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Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square)

The World > Europe > Italy > Veneto > Venice

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Piazza San Marco (often known in English as St Mark's Square), is the principal public square of Venice, Italy, where it is generally known just as "the Piazza". All other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzetta and the Piazzale Roma) are called "campi" (fields). The Piazzetta (the 'little Piazza') is an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon in its south east corner (see plan). The two spaces together form the social, religious and political centre of Venice and are commonly both considered together. This article relates to both of them.

A remark usually attributed to Napoleon calls the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe". (The attribution to Napoleon is unproven).[1] It is one of the few great urban spaces in Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic.

The Piazza[2] is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St Mark. It will be described by a perambulation starting from the west front of the church (facing the length of the Piazza) and proceeding to the right

The church is described elsewhere (see St Mark's Basilica) but there are aspects of it which are so much a part of the Piazza that they must be mentioned here, including the whole of the west facade with its great arches and marble decoration, the romanesque carvings round the central doorway and, above all, the four horses which preside over the whole piazza and are such potent symbols of the pride and power of Venice that the Genoese in 1379 said that there could be no peace between the two cities until these horses had been bridled and, four hundred years later, Napoleon, after he had conquered Venice, had them taken down and shipped to Paris.[3]

One starts by crossing the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, an open space on the north side of the church named after the two marble lions (presented by Doge Alvise Mocenigo in 1722) on which children are often scrambling, but now officially called the Piazzetta Giovanni XXIII.

Beyond that is the Clock Tower, completed in 1499, above a high archway where the street known as the Merceria (a main thoroughfare of the city) leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, the commercial and financial centre. To the right of the clocktower is the closed church of San Basso, designed by Baldassare Longhena (1675), sometimes open for exhibitions.[4]

Turning left and following the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza, the buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Vecchie}, the old procuracies, formerly the homes and offices of the Procurators of Saint Mark, high officers of state in the days of the republic of Venice. They were built in the early 16th century. The arcade is lined with shops and restaurants at ground level, now with offices above. The restaurants include the famous Caffe Quadri, which was patronised by the Austrians when Venice was ruled by Austria in the 19th century, while the Venetians preferred Florian's on the other side of the Piazza.

Turning left at the end, the arcade continues along the west end of the Piazza, which was rebuilt by Napoleon about 1810 and is known as the Ala Napoleonica (Napoleonic Wing). It holds, behind the shops, a ceremonial staircase which was to have led to a royal palace but now forms the entrance to the Museo Correr (Correr Museum).

Turning left again, the arcade continues down the south side of the Piazza. The buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Nuove (new procuracies), whch were designed by Jacopo Sansovino in the mid 16th century but partly built (1582-6) after his death by Vincenzo Scamozzi apparently with alterations required by the Procurators and finally completed by Baldassare Longhena about 1640.[5] Again, the ground floor has shops and also the Caffe Florian, a famous cafe

opened in 1720 by Floriano Francesconi. which was patronised by the Venetians when the hated Austrians were at Quadri's. The upper floors were intended by Napoleon to be a palace for his stepson Eugène Beauharnais, his viceroy in Venice, and now houses the Museo Correr. At the far end the Procuratie meet the north end of Sansovino's Libreria (mid-16th century), whose main front faces the Piazzetta and is described there. The arcade continues round the corner into the Piazzetta.

Opposite to this, standing free in the Piazza, is the Campanile of St Mark's church (1156/73 last restored in 1514), rebuilt in 1912 ' com'era, dov'era ' (as it was, where it was) after the collapse of the former campanile on 14 July 1902. Adjacent to the Campanile, facing towards the church, is the elegant small building known as the Loggetta, built by Sansovino in 1537-46, and used as a lobby by patricians waiting to go into a meeting of the Great Council in the Doges Palace and by guards when the Great Council was sitting.

Across the Piazza in front of the church are three large mast-like flagpoles with bronze bases decorated in high relief by Alessandro Leopardi in 1505. The Venetian flag of St Mark used to fly from them in the time of the republic of Venice and now shares them with the Italian tricolour.

The Piazza is usually thronged with tourists and photographers and extremely popular with pigeons.

(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_San_Marco)

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Dette panorama blev taget i Venice

Dette er et overblik over Venice

Overview and History

Do you know why you never like to get out of the bathtub? It's because you wish you were in Venice, that's why.

Take one hundred and eighteen salt-marsh islands in the northern Adriatic. Combine them with Roman refugees and a liberal stinking of Visigoth invaders. Shake until well-mixed. Season with Crusaders, international silk trading and seamen of naval warfare. Glaze thickly with castrated Baroque sopranos and finish with a garnish of bridges. Serve on boats.

Venice is divided into six districts called "Sistieri" in Italian; that word will come in handy when you're floating hither and yon. They are Cannaregio, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Santa Croce, San Marco, and Castello.

Beyond these, there's Lido and Mestre. Lido is a sandbar to the east of Venice with 20,000 permanent residents and 65 tranzillion summer people. In the beginning of the 12th century, thousands of Crusaders were stuck here in Lido when they could not afford to pay transport rates for Venetian ships! See, location really IS everything.

On the west side of the Lagoon is Mestre, which has the airport, the buses, the traffic and basically everything else from modern life that you come to Venice to ignore. To be fair, for centuries now Mestre has borne the brunt of the international shipping traffic coming into Porto Marghera, while "Venice" takes all the credit. Typical older sibling.

How did it get here? Venice used its location at the top of the Adriatic to become a massive naval and commercial power. By the end of the thirteenth century, trading among the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim countries to the south had made Venice the wealthiest city in Europe.

Venice declined in stature from the 15th century. First they lost a war against the Ottoman Empire and then lost a lot of business when a sea route to India bypassed their port. The Plague came in next and wiped out a third of the citizens

But nevermind that! Venice was the center of the musical universe during Opera season. Composers, musicians and mask makers would prepare all year for the orgy of productions that came to Venice during Carnival.

Real quick -- opera was an Italian invention for combining Greek tragedies with music, theater and spectacle. It broke out of private royal courts and became a public event as of 1637, supported by a season of ticket sales before Lent. Hence opera season.

Pow, zing, wow and instant popularity. Masks were permitted to be worn in public, European dignitaries arrived from everywhere, and this was THE PLACE to be. I mean, like, imagine Louis XIV getting up on stage to prance while the orchestra freaks out and plays the ritornello a few more times until he wants to sit down again. (Orchestras don't really improvise so well).

Ever been to the movies? Thank Venice. In fact, to this day a vestige of the operatic tradition remains -- Lido hosts the Venice Film Festival in September of every year. Hint hint, late summer visit, hint hint.

Getting There

Venice is served by the The Marco Polo Airport. Here's an overview of where the airport is in relation to the city.

Now it's time to look at that map and start cheering because you can take a BOAT to and from the airport!! Traffic jams do not exist on boats. Maybe some kind of docking delay once in a while, but who's going to complain about that?

Thus Venice is yours for the taking (plus ten Euros to the boat operator).

The airport is also connected to the city by buses, which regularly run to railway stations Venice-Santa Lucia and Mestre-Venice.

You can buy bus tickets at the local tobacco shop or news stand.

Transportation

Public transportation in Venice transcends all other people-moving devices on earth. This is how city life should be, enjoyable and relaxed during every instant of the day or night.

Where on earth is the metro a primary reason for visiting? Nowhere. Usually it's the primary reason for LEAVING. Let me wipe the sweat of ugly metro-memories from my brow before we go on to this placid paradise.

Buses cross the Lagoon Bridge (Ponte della Liberta) and connect to Piazzale Roma, Venice's bus terminal.

Vaporetti are the crowded and cheap water buses that connect the canals of the city to the different islands and the lagoon. The Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare in Venice.

The Number One vaporetto goes up and down the Grand Canal, making stops in all six Sestieri.

Rialto Bridge is one of the three bridges that cross the Grand Canal - the others two are the Accademia Bridge and the Scalzi Bridge. It is dated 1591, a masterpiece of Antonio Da Ponte, after a long story of failures, disappointments, and falling wooden bridges...

Calatrava Bridge will be the fourth one.

It costs 6.5 Euro for a one hour ticket, so if you're planning to move around a bit it's probably better to get a travelcard. Ride unlimited distance for 12 hours and only pay 14Euros unless you're a dolphin.

People and Culture

Venice has a rich history and it's all slowly sinking into the sea. By pumping water for industrial uses, Venetians unintentionally removed some of the city's geological foundation. Soft mud, islands and tides did the rest.

There are a few plans to remedy this problem, including floating pontoons, pumping water back into the soil around the lagoon, or "moving upstairs."

Let's see a few details waiting to be found in Venice.

Liuteria Veneziana, creates and repairs violins, guitars and the like.

St. Giacometto one of the oldest churches in Venice.

Floating fruit market at Ponte dei Pugni

Rialto Side "narrow road means good food."

Night in Venice is for lovers. Look at that sky!

Things to do & Recommendations

Venice has restaurant night life but not disco and club night life. Young people go over to the mainland for that.

Requirement: as always, get up as high as you can and have a look around. In Venice, you'll want to go up the San Marco tower.

Text by Steve Smith.

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