Visiting Doge’s Palace in Venice should be on the top of your bucket list when you visit Italy. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, Doge’s Palace was once home to the ruler of Venice and since then, has become one of its most famous landmarks. Its Gothic architecture is nothing short of a masterpiece and with an all-inclusive tour, you’ll get to explore its museums, council chambers, prisons and hidden passageways to the fullest.
History of the palace
Built between the 10th and 11th centuries, Doge’s Palace has undergone a lot of refurbishments and add-ons throughout the years. The concept of the palace first came about when Doge Agnello Participazio decided to move the seat of government to Rialto. It was initially on the Malamocco island, and as a result of the move, a palace was planned to be built. However, a devastating fire destroyed that building. Reconstruction didn’t start until Doge Sebastiano Ziani took the throne. Today, the only remains from the original fortress include the herring-bone pattern brick pacing and wall base in Istrian stone on the ground floor.
The old castle had a massive fortified gateway with buildings housing prisons, stables, courtrooms and public offices. The remastered Doge’s Palace was built in classic Byzantine-Venetian architectural style. In 1424, the new wing overlooking the Piazzetta San Marco was added. Construction continued, with new areas being added to the palace throughout the centuries. In the 17th century, the Bridge of Sighs was built to connect the palace to the new prisons.
Why visit Doge’s Palace?
Aside from being a sight to behold, Doge’s Palace is a lavish building with plenty to see and do inside and outside. It has a geometric pattern of pale pink marble and white Istrian stone on the outside. The symmetrical gothic style of the building is unique and elegant, very much in line with its classy interior. Walk under stone arches and view the 15th century ‘Staircase of the Giants’ in the internal courtyard before setting off to explore the rest of the palace.
Visit the grand central courtyard first. Here, you’ll wander around the ground floor and view the armoury, prisons and staterooms. Each one is impeccably decorated with paintings, sculptures and riches. Learn about the history of the palace and Venice’s rulers as you pass through the Doge’s apartments, which are richly ornamented. With so much to see and do inside the palace, it’s worth booking a tour to help make sure you don’t miss anything.
Touring Doge’s Palace
With a tour of the palace, you’ll have further access to the grounds, rooms and additional features such as the Bridge of Sighs and the prisons. Climb the golden staircase and marvel at the giant marble statues of Hercules and Atlas. Meander through the palace and step back in time as you cross the famous Bridge of Sighs. The bridge got its name from the sighs of convicted prisoners who crossed the bridge from the court to their prison cell. Their last view of Venice was through the thin, narrow windows of the bridge, which offered them a final peek of the city before imprisonment. You’ll get to enjoy a fully narrated tour of the prison too, which includes a walk through the halls and cells.
Features of Doge’s Palace
As you uncover Doge’s Palace secrets and explore its interior, it’s easy to miss out on a few hidden gems. The Porta della Carta, for example, is an entrance gate featuring a sculpture of a lion with wings, intimidating spires and carved trefoils. It’s also known as the ‘paper gate’ because a lot of the state archives were kept here. Another main attraction is the Museo dell’Opera, which is the museum you’re free to roam through during your visit. Inside, you’ll find various displays containing elements and artefacts from the early days of the palace’s existence.
Doge’s Palace is home to so many different rooms; it’s all too easy to get lost. The second largest room in the palace is found on the second floor and was once the main meeting hall, and the place where votes were counted. It contains an extraordinary ceiling and walls with intricate carvings and impressive paintings of maritime battles. One of the most exciting rooms in the palace is the Sala del Collegio, where you’ll find the elaborate Doge’s throne. This tends to be the room that most people look forward to seeing. Again, the walls and ceilings are filled with paintings by the famous artist, Veronese.