Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy
GPS: 45.434165254538, 12.338471657015
Built from the 11th century onwards and world-famous, the Piazza San Marco is also known as St Mark’s Square. It is the ancient political, religious, cultural, social and economic centre of the Republic of Venice (an independent state from the late 7th to the late 18th centuries). This place is praised for its architectural layout and is the only square in the city to hold the title of piazza (the other Venetian squares are known as campo). Pigeons and strollers rub shoulders daily around the legendary cafés in the elegant arcaded buildings of the Piazza San Marco.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Venice came under Byzantine rule. This city-state, built on marshy land, developed rapidly thanks to the economic activity of its port and the size of its fleet. Even before the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the city became the capital of the Republic of Venice (known as “La Serenissima”), one of the greatest maritime powers of the Mediterranean basin in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, the Piazza San Marco became one of the world’s main trading centres thanks to the presence of wealthy merchants, its strategic location on the Adriatic Sea and the navigational skills of Marco Polo. This Venetian merchant and explorer was well acquainted with Asia and trade with the East, as his father had worked for several years for the Mongol emperor, Kubilai Khan. During this flourishing period, Venice was part of the great trade routes for silk, grain and spices between the European and Asian continents. Its territory expanded and its heritage was enriched with a great variety of artistic objects from elsewhere thanks to the conquest of new provinces around the Mediterranean basin. In the 18th century, the Venetian lagoon became one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. The city of Venice became a major stopover for young noblemen and aristocrats who came to perfect their education in Europe through a series of cultural journeys called the Grand Tour.
A romantic place par excellence, the Piazza San Marco is the result of several phases of construction and urban planning. It is bordered by the Grand Canal (the main waterway running through Venice), St Mark’s Basilica (the most important religious building in the city), the St Mark’s Campanile (the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica is the largest monument in the lake city), the clocktower (which looks like a monumental gate), the Doge’s Palace (former official residence of the first magistrate of the Republic of Venice), the Procuratie Vecchie (superb façade with columns, porticoes and arcades), the Procuratie Nuove (model of the Venetian Renaissance) and finally the Napoleonic wing (marking the entrance to the Museo Correr). Symbol of the floating city of Venice, a sculpture of a golden winged lion imported from Asia Minor and nicknamed the Lion of Venice, represents the patron saint of the city (St Mark).