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Evolving from a 9th-century fortress that was destroyed by a fire, the Palazzo Ducale has traditionally been the centre of power in the city, and owes its current appearance to a reconstruction carried out between the 14th and 16th centuries. The building you can see is considered as a veritable masterpiece of Venetian Gothic.
Combining its facets of official residence of the Doge and headquarters of important institutions for the government of the city such as the Grand Council or the Senate, the building is, thanks to the marvellous pictorial testimonies hanging from its walls, a history class in its own right, which informs the visitor of the past glories of the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
The typical palace wings that project out towards the Piazzetta and the San Marco Canal represent a beautiful and stunning welcome to the visitor arriving for the first time in the city.
The brilliant solutions devised by the architects responsible include having inverted the logical order in the distribution of weight of the structure, since the compact main body covered in pink marble sits over some light-looking arcades made in Istrian stone. This whole framework also rests over a porticoed colonnade.
The Porta della Carta, the 15th-century doorway in florid Gothic style, is the main entrance to the palace. Once you have crossed the Foscari portico you will find yourself in the magnificent inner courtyard of the building. Here is the large stairway where the doges were crowned, called Scala dei Giganti. The work of Antonio Rizzo, it was later decorated by Sansovino.
By means of another stairway, the ostentatious Scala d’Oro, made by Alessandro Vittoria during the 16th century, the second floor is reached, where the authentic tour begins, beginning with the private rooms in which the doges lived.
On the third floor are the spaces that were dedicated to governing the city, such as the Salla del Collegio, where the Signoria met and received the foreign ambassadors, or the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci. In the latter room a body of great prestige and power met, the Council of Ten. It is decorated with the magnificent works of Veronese: Youth and age and Juno showering grace upon Venice.
In the nearby Sala della Bussola is one of the post boxes of Venice in which the citizens could deposit their anonymous complaints.
The monumental nature of the palace is shown, above all, in a large room on the second floor: the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, which was the headquarters of the Grand Council, formerly entrusted with important functions such as appointing the top civil servants or passing laws.
Here you will be absolutely astonished on seeing a gigantic work by Tintoretto, titled Paradise, the size of which makes it one of the largest pictures ever painted. Its nigh-on 8 metres’ height and 25 metres’ length leave nobody indifferent.
Some of the author’s disciples were responsible for painting the numerous portraits of the doges that hang from the walls. Lastly, we should point out The triumph of Venice, painted by Veronese, which features in one of the ceiling panels of the room, as well as the presence of works by Palma the Younger and Bassano.
Finally, you will be able to visit one of the major points on the tour, the Bridge of Sighs, from where you can have the same view of the rio as the prison inmates, such as Giacomo Casanova, who was held in one of the cells you can see after having crossed the bridge.
The tour, which passes through other rooms, such as the offices of the Avogaria or the Senate Room, is completed by the visit to the military museum, which has a very varied collection that will delight fans of military history.
Gran Canal (1A)
Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (22)
Palazzo Ducale (6)
Ponte dei Suspiri (10)
Santa Maria della Salute (42)
Basilica de San Giovanni e Paolo (36)
Columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore (8)
Palazzo Grassi (26)
Ponte dell’Accademia (3)
Torre dell’Orologio (9)
Basilica di San Marco (5)
Ca’Vendramin Calergi (19)
Fondaco dei Turchi (17)
Palazzo Labia (16)
Ponte di Rialto (2)
Chiesa dei Gesuiti (33)
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (41)
Statue of Colleoni (38)
Calle del Fumo (30)
Chiesa del Redentore (47)
I Gesuati (43)
Malibran Theatre (35)
Palazzo Mocenigo (25)
Calle Larga XXII Marzo (14)
Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto (31)
La Giudecca (45)
Mercato di Rialto (18)
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni (39)