The richest area of the city, more sumptuous, more bewitching and slyly desired by the Serenissima to dazzle all the people who came to Venice to do business, be they commercial or political. It is also the place where those condemnations that served to educate the people were blatantly executed. For this and other reasons it is practically inevitable to be stunned by the amount of art and monuments, glimpses and powerful views that this district offers. However, in the evening or at dawn, it becomes intimate - as well as the rest of the city - and it is invaluable to see Piazza San Marco almost empty (now this does not happen even at night!).
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The San Marco district is delimited to the north by the Grand Canal; to the south, where the square overlooks the Venetian Lagoon, from the San Marco basin; to the west by the Rio del Palazzo; to the east by the Rio de San Zulian. The district borders to the north with the Cannaregio district and to the east with the Castello district, it connects to the San Polo district through the Rialto Bridge and to the Dorsoduro district through the Accademia Bridge. Administratively, the San Marco district also includes the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
Originally its name was Rivoalto - from which Rialto also comes - and it is the original nucleus of the city. In the initial period of life it was also called Civitas Rivoalti precisely in reference to the area of its foundation. Piazza San Marco is naturally the heart of the district: for a millennium it was the political, decision-making and judicial center of the Republic of Venice. Not only that, it is here that the main event of the Venice Carnival took place, a tradition that has survived to the present day.
The square was built on the ancient gardens (Brolo) managed by the nuns of the convent of San Zaccaria, surrounding the two churches originally present: the church of San Teodoro - the first patron of Venice -, which was however demolished in favor of the Basilica of San Marco and the first church of San Geminiano, erected in front of the Basilica, more or less in the center of the current square. Together with the enlargement of the square, the latter was then rebuilt at the height of the current Napoleonic wing. In 1807 Napoleon ordered its demolition, to build the Napoleonic Wing.
The Piazza, and thus also the district, inherit the name from the saint who became patron of the city. It is in fact in the year 828 that the fishermen Buono da Malamocco and Rustego da Torcello stole the body of San Marco Evangelista from Alexandria in Egypt and brought it to Venice, still preserved in the Basilica dedicated to him.
To commemorate both protectors of the city, the statues on the Columns of San Marco and San Teodoro were also erected.
No square in the world can be compared to the richness, opulence and quantity of details that make up the entire Piazza San Marco, definitely the vital center of the entire district: here is the Palazzo Ducale, the seat of Venetian political power since the ninth century and the aforementioned Basilica of San Marco, which until 1807 was the private chapel of the Doge: in fact, the people were allowed to enter the Basilica only on holidays and exceptional occasions. The Patriarchal see of Venice, before that date, was in San Pietro di Castello, in the Castello district, in the far east of the city.
A curious fact, although logical given its enormous importance that the Venetians have delegated to this area, is to be the only city space to which the name "Piazza" reserves, since in the rest of the city other open spaces take the name of fields, squares, courts and so on.
Of course, over time the name "Piazza" has also been assigned outside the central core, as in some surrounding islands (such as: Piazza Galuppi in Burano, Piazza Maggiore in Malamocco, Piazza del Priorado in Lazzaretto Vecchio) or on the mainland (as for example: Piazza Erminio Ferretto in Mestre, Piazza Mercato in Marghera), but even today when we talk about the "Piazza" in Venice we always mean that of San Marco.
And together with the Paròn de casa, or the Campanile di San Marco which with its 98 meters high surely towers proudly over the square and the whole city, you can enjoy the view of numerous monuments and complexes of monuments, all harmoniously combined despite different styles , as in Venetian stylistic custom.
There are in fact the Procuratie in front of the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale, seat of the juridical power of the Serenissima; the clock tower, restored in 2006; the well-known bridge of sighs beyond which the Castello district begins. There is also the entire Napoleonic Wing where the Correr Museum resides in part and together with the Procuratie.
But outside the square there are also the La Fenice Theater, the Goldoni Theater, the church of San Moisè, Palazzo Grassi and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, where the basilica of the same name and the Cini Foundation are located.