The elegance and grandeur of the Doge’s Palace is evident on the exterior, and those who visit the inside will not be disappointed.
You can admire the luxurious Doge’s Apartment, passing through the luminous and magnificent Scala d'Oro, the austere institutional settings and the important salons of the Magistracy until you arrive at the area dedicated to the armory and prisons.
If you like mysteries, get involved with the intriguing Secret Itineraries tour: a different way to learn about the activities that were carried out in the Palace.
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Currently, the entrance for visitors is the ‘Porta del Frumento’, on the side of the San Marco Lagoon.
You can visit the palace by beginning on the ground floor with the Museo dell 'Opera, to then pass through the courtyard and go up to the first floor with the precious rooms of the Doge’s Apartments and then Institutional rooms between the second floor and the floor of the Loggias. The tour ends with a visit to the Armory and Prisons. There are also ‘Secret Itineraries Tours’, which are not part of the normal route of the Palace, but can be visited with a guide and by booking.
The Museo dell'Opera is on the ground floor, where you can see original columns and capitals that were replaced in the mid-19th century, among other objects.
The floor of the Loggias provides an extraordinary view of the Piazzetta and the lagoon in front of it. There are many ‘lion mouths’ in the walls, where secret complaints by citizens or secret agents of the Serenissima could be inserted.
You can access the Scala d'Oro (The Golden Staircase) from the loggias, built in the second half of the 16th century and decorated with stucco work by Alessandro Vittoria. The scala leads to the first floor with the apartments of the Doge and public rooms - reserved for only the most distinguished people.
The Doge’s floor contains many rooms, including:
- The Sala degli Scarlatti, (The room of the men in scarlet) for the color of the Ducal Councilors' clothes;
- The Sala dello Scudo, (The room of the shield) where the Doge's coat of arms was displayed;
- The Sala delle Mappe, (The room of the maps) with walls decorated with gigantic maps;
- The Hall dei Filosofi, (The Philosophers' Hall) for the twelve images of philosophers;
- The Sala Grimani, used for private hearings;
- The Sala degli Scudieri, (The pages’ Room) the customs officials.
The Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Hall of Great Council) is the most important of the institutional rooms. At 53 meters long and 25 wide, it is among the largest rooms in Europe. It is decorated by notable artists and was where the Grand Council gathered, the most important institutional body of the Serenissima.
Below the ceiling are portraits of the first seventy-six Doges of the Republic; the portrait that was supposed to be of Doge Marin Faliero is represented by a black cloth. Faliero had attempted a coup and thus as a traitor, his effigy was removed.
The halls of the most important magistrates of the state are on the second floor: the Signoria, the Senate and the Council of Ten, all decorated by famous artists.
The Sale dell’Armeria (Halls of the Armory) of the Council of Ten are remarkable, a real ammunition store of the building. You can see an impressive varied collection of weapons and ammunition in the four rooms, including armor of all types, even for horses or children (or perhaps a dwaves) and instruments of torture from various eras. The ‘secret’ weapons, hidden in common objects but still quite lethal, are interesting.
The prisons of Venice can also be found inside the Doge's Palace. There were the notorious Pozzi, practically at water level, humid and unbearable; on the contrary were the no less feared Piombi. These, placed in the attic, were very hot in summer and very cold in winter, as the roof was covered with lead sheets. Among the ‘guests’ of the Piombi was Giacomo Casanova, who seems to have succeeded in escaping.
Another part of the prisons were the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), built in the second half of the 16th century on the other side of the can, which was accessed through a covered roof passage, the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs).
There are two special routes that can only be taken by booking and accompanied by a qualified guide: The Secret Itinerary Tour of the Doge’s Palace winds through some of the places where delicate and important business of the Republic was carried out, such as the secret Archive of the Notary Room, while the treasures hidden by the Doge in the attic accompany the visitor to the discovery of the rooms where the Doge enjoyed his private life in the company of family members, squires and the servants, such as the Chiesetta and the Antichiesetta.