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Our walk starts from Piazza San Marco. the very heart of the city since the fifteenth century (and a real paradise for pigeons). The square, of rectangular form like an immense salon rich with precious marbles, is considered the most beautiful in the world. It is enclosed on the north by the Torre dell'Orologio with its famous statues of two Moors who sound the hours, and by the Procuratie Vecche, ancient home of the Procurators of St. Mark; on the west by the Napoleonic wing; on the south by the Procuratie Nuove (1585-1640).
On the eastern side, which opens to the lagoon, stands the Basilica di San Marco. The Campanile is isolated and at its foot stands the sumptuous marble Loggetta by Sansovino (1540).
The Basilica di San Marco was built in the Romanesque-Byzantine style, with five cupolas of oriental aspect, to hold the body of St. Mark the Evangelist. On the terrace, which divides the two stories of the façade, stands the famous work of Greek origin, the copper-gilt Four Horses (4th to 3rd centuries B.C.). From the atrium, lined with marbles and columns and with splendid vaulted mosaic ceiling illustrating stories from the Bible (13th c.), one reaches the church's three entrance portals, with the "well" of the central portal which allows for the sight of the vaulted mosaic ceiling depicting Paradise (11th c.). The interior in the form of a Greek cross with three naves per arm, divided by colonnades along which run the galleries, is resplendent with golden light reflected by the mosaics which cover the walls and vaulted ceilings. These mosaics, initially the work of Venetian and Byzantine artists, were in part redone following cartoons made by Tiziano, Tintoretto and Verone! se. The earlier mosaics can be recognized by their stylized forms and hieratic character of the figures such as Christ, Mary, the Prophets and Apostles, and in particular the Ascension in the central cupola. On the ciborium covered altar is the famous Pala d'Oro, an altarpiece which is a masterpiece of goldsmith's art from the 10th century, studded with gold, gems and enamels.
Our next stop is Piazzetta San Marco which faces the San Marco basin, and is confined on the west by the Libreria Vecchia. and on the east by the Palazzo Ducale. From the quay rise two columns (12th c.) with statues of the lions of San Marco and San Teodoro.
Libreria Vecchia (1536-1588), designed by Sansovino in pure Venetian style, conserves the relics of St. Mark's library (illuminated codices, paintings by Tiziano, Tintoretto and Veronese, the Flemish Grimani Breviary) and it was its original seat.
Our walk ends in Riva degli Schiavoni, once the docksite for ancient ships, today a stupendous promenade along the San Marco basin. Here are to be found the church of Santa Maria della Pietà (paintings by Tiepolo and Moretto da Brescia), the Hotel Danieli (XV c.), the Baroque Prisons building which is connected to the Doge's Palace by the Ponte dei Sospiri (bridge of sighs) across which the prisoners once walked, and, in Piazza San Basio, the Museo Storico Navale.
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), built from 1309 to 1442 in the most elegant of Venetian-Gothic forms, was the residence of the Doges and the seat of the Republic's highest offices. Entering by way of the richly decorated Porta della Carta, one sees the Courtyard, the Scala dei Giganti with its statues by Sansovino and, in the interior, the Loggia, the Scala d'Oro, the ducal apartments, the decorated ceilings, decorations, and the collection of works by great painters such as Tiziano (Doge Grimani), Tintoretto (panels), Veronese (the Rape of Europa and panels).
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