The Piazza San Marco and the adjoining Piazzetta are the heart and soul of Venice and are surrounded by history on every corner. The infamous space is the only formal square in the city other than the Piazzale Roma which is now home to a bus station.
The beauty of the square is staggering as the vast open space covered with cobbles is home to many of Venice's most famous sights. Most notably, the Basilica di San Marco stands at the head of the square and is reknowned for its distinct and somewhat unusual style. In addition, the Clock Tower is impossible to miss on the corner between the Piazza and the Piazzetta.
The rest of the buildings are just as grand with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) lining one side of the Piazzetta and a number of beautiful stone buildings home to many shops and restaurants all around. You really have to visit the place to appreciate the aura and the intricate detail in every little part of it. Interestingly, much like many parts of Venice, the square gets covered in water during high tide which can make the surrounding buildings look somewhat surreal.
Although little remains of Venice's ancient past, the Piazza's origins go back to the 9th century when the first chapel was built on the site of today's Doge's Palace. While initially it was dedicated to St Theodore, the patron saint was changed as St Mark's remains were brought to the city from Alexandria in Egypt.
A number of early churches and buildings surrounding the square were erected during the following two centuries as the city gradually grew into a major trade hub. Its prominent position along major trade routes made it one of the fastest growing cities of its time and the early medieval Piazza was bustling.
As wars waged on, many of the spoils ended up in Venice as buildings constructed on all sides used marble from the Turkish conquest. Many of the columns and other features around the square today originally came from Crusades and African exploration. Many of the grand buildings seen today were built during the Renaissance which can easily be seen from many of the distinctive features of the period. Most notably, the Doge's Palace and the Basilica were expanded due to the small size of the previous versions of the buildings.
Major changes to the square happened under Napoleon as the city surrendered in 1798. A number of statues were taken down as they were seen to be symbols of the city's independence, but were later restored under Austrian rule. Many of the collonaded façades and buildings around the square were either constructed or altered by Napoleon as he wanted the Piazza's grandure to represent the might of his Empire.
Throughout the Year
Piazza San Marco