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Venice: an open-air museum with a thousand-year tradition

The charm of Venice and its architecture is a sight not to be missed: Five places you really should visit

06 October 2022

4 minutes

Losing your way in the maze of interweaving streets and canals, admiring the sumptuous palaces overlooking the Grand Canal, being left breathless in St. Mark's Square - Venetian architecture exerts an hypnotic charm over anyone. The meeting of different styles has given rise here to extraordinary hybrids. References to Byzantine and Gothic art, the influence of RenaissanceBaroque or XVIII century periods are magnificently found and reinterpreted everywhere. ????The unique face of this amazing city built on water is that of an open-air museum ready to transform your stay into a journey through time and history. Are you ready? Here are at least five places you really must visit.

1. St. Mark’s Clocktower

Torre dell'orologio, Venezia

The emblem of Venice in a masterpiece of engineering.

One of the symbols of St. Mark's Square, the Torre dei Mori (St. Mark’s Clocktower) is one of the most original buildings in early Renaissance Venetian architecture. Its huge gold and blue enamel astronomical clock has kept time here for more than five hundred years. The top of the Tower houses a bell and two gigantic bronze automata, nicknamed the ‘Moors’, which strike the time in succession every hour. The old man on the right with a beard strikes the hour two minutes early to symbolise the time that has passed. The young Moor on the left replies two minutes later, marking the time that is still to come. An open-air masterpiece of engineering you simply must not miss when in Venice.

2. The Contarini del Bovolo staircase

A jewel of singular architecture.

The Contarini del Bovolo staircase, in a hidden courtyard in the San Marco quarter, emerges with all its extraordinary beauty as the most impressive spiral staircase in Venice. It is 28 metres high and from its romantic belvedere you can admire the domes of the Basilica of St. Mark and the Basilica della Salute, as well as a breath-taking view over the roofs and bell towers of the entire city. This jewel of architecture is part of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. In addition to its magnificent staircase, it is also home to great works from the XVI-XVIII century Venetian art collections belonging to the historical and artistic heritage of the IRE.

3. Ducal Palace

Venetian art, history and culture

The Ducal Palace is the symbol of Venice and a treasure trove with some of the finest works in the world. It bears witness to the political and art history of the city: from the prisons that Giacomo Casanova managed to escape from, with the secret itineraries and the Bridge of Sighs, to the majestic Chamber of the Great Council with Tintoretto's enormous painting of Paradise and the Chamber of the Scrutinio with the painting of the Battle of Lepanto. As one of the most visited museums in Italy, the Doge's Palace offers a long and fascinating journey through a thousand years of history in Venice. The admission ticket includes entry to the Correr Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Marciana Library. It is possible to buy entrance tickets and book private museum visits directly online.

4. Basilica of St. Mark's

The symbol of Venice

The majestic, evocative and startling emblem of the city of Venice, the Basilica of St. Mark's is visited every year by a great many tourists from all over the world. As a symbol of the city, it is in the top list of places you must visit while in Venice. Its fascinating architecture is a blend of Romanesque-Byzantine and Gothic styles. It is characterized by the five amazing domes recalling the typical structure of mosques. Byzantine gold mosaics cover the interior of the basilica, creating the setting for precious works and objects of immense value. Frescoes, marble finishing and bronze details turn the Basilica of St. Mark into sumptuous, rich architecture typical of the Venetian style.

5. Borges Maze

A mystical experience between nature and architecture.

Meditative and spiritual treasures are kept on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore by the Giorgio Cini Foundation. An atmospheric wood is home to the Vatican Chapels, 11 fascinating installations created by 10 international architects for the 2018 Architecture Biennial. Composer Antonio Fresa has recorded a soundtrack for each one (played on the audio guide), with the aim of creating an experience of full-immersion in the beauty of nature and its architecture. Another treasure is the Borges Maze - a metaphysical path where you can lose your way surrounded by 3000 different plant species. Installed to pay homage to the Argentine writer, it has been selected as one of the most beautiful parks in Italy.