When you are part of a tour group like Go Ahead Tours, like we were, you get to skip ahead of those who are waiting in line. Tickets are purchased in advance, a guide provided and you are also given listening devices so you can hear what your guide is saying without being right next to them. This is particularly wonderful if you are like me and off from the group taking photos. You can hear what is being said at all times.
The Palace is beautiful from the outside with columns spanning around the corner of St. Mark's Square.While, from a distance, the columns all look the same they are, in fact, all different. Each has carvings on it of people, like this one, animals or birds. Most people walk right by them and never notice the details so wonderfully carved into the marble.
The columns are topped by these cutouts that create a beautiful pattern around the Palace edges.
Step into the corridor and you immediately get a totally different look, a more Tuscan look to the Palace.But step inside and you are dazzled by the inner courtyard and you begin to understand just how opulent this place actually is.
Opulent and elegant with repeating patterns cut into the marble arches. This side of the Palace was built in the early 1300's.
This 16th Century well head sits in the center of the courtyard. I was fascinated by all of the carvings on it.To say that this place is beautiful is an understatement. You are completely overwhelmed the moment you step into the courtyard.
The domes you can see from the courtyard are actually those of St. Mark's Basilica.But the ornamentation of the courtyard, like this marble clock, are completely hidden from St. Mark's Square.
The entire view of the side of the Basilica ornamentation is beautiful. This is also where you exit the tour.
The left hand side of the courtyard was actually constructed over a hundred years after the right hand side!
The right hand side is all marble while the left hand side adds beautiful ironwork and brick to the look of the Palace.
Entering into the Palace from the courtyard there are several interesting details such as this doorpull!
But I simply loved this heavily carved wooden door. Unfortunately the room behind this door is not on the tour.
We went into this section of the Palace and, while this gate is pretty, it doesn't give you any idea what you are about to see next!The Golden Staircase is the last part of the interior of the Palace that you are officially allowed to photograph. Our tour included the apartments as well as the official greeting and courtrooms of the Palace. The overall feeling is opulence and it is a beautiful tour. But, with wealth and privilege comes the chains of it as well. The Doge was relegated to only a few rooms of the Palace and it was a lifetime position. So while he was completely taken care of and had every "thing" he could wish for, he was also very trapped. As trapped as those he sent to the dungeons never to be seen again.
The Bridge of Sighs has a very beautiful exterior. It is named for the sounds of the prisoners heading into the dungeons. (it is flanked in blue plastic due to restoration efforts that were going on at that time)
While the outside is ornate the inside is very plain and dreary. It takes only a few seconds to cross from the opulence of the Palace into the horrible dungeons.
The official guide said that while we are "encouraged not to take photographs, what happened when she left the room was of no concern to her". I made sure to use only natural light to photograph the area and took only a few photos to keep it quick.
This would have been your view from inside the cells. Those who entered rarely exited alive.In the late 1400's they built the staircase up to the Doge's apartments. They added the statues of Mars and Neptune in the mid 1500's to "guard" the staircase.
The staircase is made from marble, and the arch is made from bands Istrian stone and red Verona marble.These statues are giant. When you exit the Doge's apartments you are faced with their backsides. It's rather comical and tends to bring out the immaturity of the guests who pass by. A little bit of needed humor after the sadness of the dungeons and a fun way to end the tour.
Next week we'll head out to the island of Murano. This is where the Venetian glass is made so I hope you can come back and tour the island with us!
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