To get to know the supreme expression of Venetian culture, whether you are attracted to architecture, painting, sculpture or all together, a visit to the Doge’s Palace is imperative.
Although we are often tempted to recommend the discovery of Venice on narrow streets and hidden canals, early in the morning or late in the evening, we can equally say that visiting Venice without seeing the Doge’s Palace, in the middle of the day, inside and outside, can be considered a missed visit.
Initially built of wood in the 9th century, the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was rebuilt several times afterwards, acquiring the form we see today between 1340 and 1424, with the construction of the Great Council Chamber under the supervision of the architect Filippo Calendario.
After that period, new constructions have been added to the palace, under the care of Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon (father and son), of which we can remember the Porta della Carta, the main entrance that directs visitors to the inner courtyard.
After a major fire that occurred in 1483, the inner courtyard will be rebuilt in a Renaissance style by architect Antonio Rizzo.
The exterior of the white and pink marble can be admired free of charge from St. Mark’s Square, but to know the wonders left by many architects, painters and sculptors inside the palace, you have to pay the entrance ticket.
Among the architects whose work is still adorning the palace today, we can also remember Jacopo Sansovino, who built the Giants’ Staircase after a project by Antonio Rizzo, named after the two huge statues found on top – Mars and Neptune, Scarpagnino (Antonio Abbondi), who seems to have finished the Sansovino Golden Staircase, or Antonio Contino, who left behind the beautiful Bridge of Sighs, built around 1603.
Inside the palace, you can find paintings belonging to Tintoretto (Return of the prodigal son, Doge Girolamo Priuli receiving the sword and the balance, Doge Andrea Gritti kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary or the enormous Paradise, the largest oil painting in the world). In addition, the palace hosts works by painters such as Guariento di Arpo (fresco fragments painted in the Great Council Chamber), Tiziano Vecellio (Doge Antonio Grimani in front of the Faith), Paolo Veronese (The kidnapping of Europe) or Jacopo Bassano.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Doge’s Palace can easily be found thanks to the well-known location of St. Mark’s Square, on which most Venetian roads converge. To reach it on water, use any of the lines of ACTV Line 1 or ACTV Line 2 to San Marco Vallaresso station or any of ACTV Line 1, ACTV Line 2, ACTV Line 4.1, ACTV Line 4.2, ACTV Line 5.1, ACTV Line 5.2 to San Zaccaria station.
The roads leading to St. Mark’s Square are marked with “per San Marco” arrows, that are very hard to miss. However, it is good to have a map with you. Arrived in the square, you will find the palace without any effort.