Spotlight On: San Marco Square in Venice

My second trip to Venice was in spring. This time the visit was focused on San Marco Square (St. Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco). The place is described in the quote, “the drawing city of Europe,” which is attributed to Napoleon who conquered Venice in 1797. It is unquestionably true when you see the aristocracy of the piazza, which used to be an important place of assembly for the Venetians – it was the religious, political, and social centre of the city.

San Marco terminal sign
San Marco boat terminal
St. Mark’s Museum: 9:45 am – 4:45 pm (entrance ticket € 5, reduced € 2.50 for groups of more than 15 people)
Pala d’oro: 9:45 am – 4 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 4 pm (entrance ticket € 2, reduced € 1 for groups of more than 15 people)
Treasury: 9:45 am – 4 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 4 pm (entrance ticket € 3, reduced € 1.50 for groups of more than 15 people)
St. Mark’s Museum: 9:45 am – 4:45 pm (entrance ticket € 5, reduced € 2.50 for groups of more than 15 people)
Pala d’oro: 9:45 am – 5 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 5 pm (entrance ticket € 2, reduced € 1 for groups of more than 15 people)
Treasury: 9:45 am – 5 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 5 pm (entrance ticket € 3, reduced € 1.50 for groups of more than 15 people)
St. Mark's Basilica
The Campanile (belltower)
Facade of Doge's Palace
The St. Mark’s Clock Tower or Torre dell’Orologio stands with an archway leading to Rialto, the commercial and financial center of Venice. The tower was completed in 1499. On its right is the closed San Basso church, which is sometimes open for shows. Connected to the clock tower are the Procuratie, three buildings bordering the square. Procuratie Vecchie on the north side of the square contained the offices and apartments of procurators. It is the oldest among the three buildings. Procuratie Nuove is on the south side of the square, held more offices for the procurators. The two buildings were once separated by a small church which was demolished and replaced by the Napoleonic Wing.
The Basilica, belltower, and Procuratie Nuove housing Cafe Florian (with white rolled-up drapes) 
viewed from Napoleonic Wing

The famous St. Mark’s Basilica (Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark or Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco) is located at the east end of the square. The 4 horses on top of the central doorway symbolize the power and pride of Venice (see photo of the Basilica’s facade below). There was war between two maritime republics of Italy, Venice and Genoa. In 1379, the Genoese said that there could be no peace between them and the Venetians until the horses had been bridled. Napoleon had taken them down when he conquered Venice 400 years later.
The Basilica is a perfect example of Byzantine architecture and Romanesque art. The intricate Byzantine mosaic, the polychrome marble columns, and bronze-fashioned doors made it an exquisite display of the city’s wealth. In the 11th century, the Basilica was given the nickname Chiesa d’ oro or Church of Gold.
Opposite the Basilica, you will see St. Mark’s Campanile (bell tower). The tower collapsed in 1902 and acquired its present design in 1912 after reconstruction. It houses 5 bells tuned in the scale of A and stands alone at 323 feet. Each bell has its own purpose. The bell Renghieraor Maleficio declared executions, Mezza Terra announced Senate sessions, Nona rang midday, Trottiera called council members for meetings, and Marangona (the biggest) marked the beginning and end of the workday. St. Mark’s Campanile has inspired the design of many bell towers around the globe. Its replicas can be found on The Venetian Las Vegas, The Venetian Macau, and in the Italy Pavilion of Disney World.
You can visit the Basilica and climb up the bell tower on the following schedules:
Basilica: 9:45 am – 5 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 4 pm (free entrance)
March/April (Easter) – November:
Basilica: 9:45 am – 5 pm, Sunday and holidays: 2 pm – 5 pm (free entrance)
The Piazetta or little Piazza, is an extension of the square towards the lagoon. On its far side is the Doge’s Palace or Palazo Ducale, which flashes Gothic designs and Istrian wall bases. The Palace was the residence of the head of the Venetian Republic, the Doge of Venice. Aside from the Doge’s apartments, the building was house to the courtyard, Museo dell’ Opera, institutional chambers, old prison, The Bridge of Sighs, and new prisons. It became a museum in 1923.
The famous Bridge of Sighs

The ground floors of the Procuraties accommodate shops and cafes like Cafe Florian and Cafe Lavena – opened in 1720 and 1750, respectively. Both cafes are famous, not just because they are frequented by prominent people but because they carry a rich history. These coffee bars witnessed the people, arts, lifestyle, religion, and politics of Venice since the time they were established. That makes your drink extra special – and expensive!

In Cafe Florian, for instance, Cappuccino costs € 9. When you dine with the quintet playing you are charged an additional € 6. A latte is € 8.50. A glass of white wine is € 10. Chocolate Lava Cake costs € 13 each slice. But let’s consider:
1) It is the oldest cafe in San Marco square it can be considered a historical landmark.
2) The nice setting. You might decide to dine in open-air but you should see the interior – the beauty and elegance that can bring you back to 1720.
3) We were not in Cafe Florian nor San Marco Square for any accounting or money matters. We were there for experience which is… priceless.

I spent a romantic night at St. Mark’s Square. I knew I had to wait until dark to see what the place looks like when all the lights are on. The photos below were taken early evening when the cafes were not yet crowded.
Procuratie Vecchie with the Clock Tower to the right viewed from Cafe Florian
Napoleonic Wing (left) and part of Procuratie Vecchie (right)

Note: RediscoverMore is also being maintained, but no longer updated, by me.


  1. Wonderful visual post, Glad you enjoyed yourself.
    Have a good week-end.

  2. Obrigada pela visita, amei as fotos.
    Bom final de semana

    1. Obrigado pela visita e ter um fim de semana abençoado, também!

  3. You should do travel brochures. I'll probably never get to Venice but if I thought I would, I'd print out this post and use it as a guide. Beautiful photos, too. I've seen the piazza many times in films and pictures, but your photos really brought it to life. That cathedral is quite magnificent! I'll bet Venice was more fun in the spring!

    1. Yes, more fun in the spring. Thank you so much, Lowell!

  4. I visited St. Mark's Basilica in January of 1976, and I still remember being disappointed that I was not allowed to tour it that day. At the time I was wearing a short skirt (appropriate of the times) and apparently slacks were required to enter the Basilica which I didn't realize. So, I have lots of pictures from the outside, but I'm still miffed about it.

    1. Yes, there is a dress code.. At least you saw it, even if it' just the outside which is really beautiful. Thank you, Jill!

  5. Lovely post! Really makes me want to go to Venice :-) And if you think te prices at Cafe Florian is expencive you should take a trip to Norway :-P

    1. A agree, it's way more expensive in Norway! Thank you, Ida!

  6. Beautiful pictures, Lea. I adore Venice. Actually I adore Italy in total. I have based a lot of my stories in Italy, mostly in Sorrento.

  7. Beautiful photos of a beautiful city I want to meet one day.

    The informations are precious. As for prices, they are very scary when compared to prices in Portugal :)