When thinking of Venice, the first image that often comes to mind is that of St. Mark’s Square, the city’s pulsing heart. But at the center of this emblematic location stands a symbol that has witnessed the centuries and observed the unfolding of Venetian history: the Lion of St. Mark.
The History of the Lion of St. Mark
The Lion of St. Mark is the emblem of the city of Venice and represents St. Mark, the city’s patron. According to tradition, as St. Mark was traveling through Europe, an angel appeared to him in the form of a lion and prophesied that he would find rest in Venice. Since then, the lion has become not only a symbol of St. Mark but also of the power and majesty of the Republic of Venice.
Over the centuries, the lion has been depicted in many forms: from the winged lion to the full figure, and it can be observed on flags, coins, and countless monuments throughout the city.
What to Visit Around St. Mark’s Square
Besides the Lion and the Square itself, there are many places of interest nearby that deserve a visit:
- St. Mark’s Basilica: This extraordinary church, with its magnificent mosaics and architecture, is a must-see. Its facade and interiors represent the power and wealth of the Republic of Venice.
- St. Mark’s Campanile: From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Venice. The view from above is breathtaking and offers a unique perspective of the city.
- Doge’s Palace: Another symbol of Venice’s grandeur, the Doge’s Palace was the residence of the doges, the rulers of the Republic. It offers an overview of the political power and history of Venice.
- Bridge of Sighs: Connecting the Doge’s Palace to the New Prisons. It’s named so because it’s said that prisoners would sigh as they took their last look at freedom through its windows.
- Correr Museum: Located on the other side of the square, it boasts a vast collection of artwork and artifacts that narrate the history of Venice.
St. Mark’s Square and its surroundings are a journey through the history, culture, and art of Venice. Every corner tells a story, and there’s always something new to discover. If you get a chance to visit Venice, be sure to dedicate time to this enchanting place.
Beyond the Square: Exploring the Alleys of Venice
Once you’ve explored Venice’s pulsing heart, there’s still much more to discover. The surroundings of St. Mark’s Square are just the beginning.
- Acqua Alta Bookstore: Just a few steps from St. Mark’s Square, you’ll find this one-of-a-kind bookstore, known for its “floating” books and bohemian atmosphere. Books are arranged in boats, tubs, and even a gondola, to protect them from frequent floods.
- La Fenice Theater: One of the world’s most famous opera houses, La Fenice is rich in history, culture, and, of course, music. Even if you don’t get a chance to see a performance, it’s worth taking a tour to admire the interior.
- Church of Santa Maria della Salute: Located on the other side of the Grand Canal, this baroque basilica was erected as a vow for the city’s protection during a plague outbreak. It offers a spectacular view of the canal and St. Mark’s Square on the other side.
- Accademia Galleries: For art lovers, this museum houses one of the most important collections of Venetian painting, with works by Titian, Tintoretto, Canaletto, and many others.
- Rialto: Further north, the famous Rialto Bridge connects the two banks of the Grand Canal. The surrounding market is a lively trading hub where you can find fresh produce, fish, and souvenirs.
Like any city, Venice reveals itself best when walked without a specific destination in mind. Every alley, every bridge, and every canal has a story to tell. So, after visiting the main attractions around St. Mark’s Square, let curiosity guide you. Explore, lose and find yourself in the mazes of this magical city. And remember, Venice is not just a destination, it’s an experience.