The Doge's Palace together with St Mark's Basilica and its bell tower are the heart of Venice. The Doge's Palace, once a political and judicial centre and the seat of the Doge, is without doubt one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. The Doges ruled the Republic from this grandiose palace until the fall of the Serenissima. The first Doge to take an interest in building a seat for the Doge in St Mark's Square was Doge Ziani. He was followed by Doge Gradenigo in the 14th century and Doge Francesco Foscari in the 15th century.
The palace underwent many extensions and renovations over the centuries until it became the building it is today. The Doge's Palace is a testament to the stability of Venice as it was not a castle or fortress, but an elegant meeting place. Like all structures in Venice this palace rests on a raft of larch logs which in turn rests on slabs of Istrian stone.
The facade is punctuated by sculpted figures representing virtues that symbolise Venetian values of civilisation and power. The façade is a magnificent example of Venetian Gothic art, with traits of Renaissance and Mannerism. Each of the four facades is a riot of artistic innovation. The capitals and the magnificent Porta della Carta are examples.
The interior is less rich than it was centuries ago, but still boasts an extensive art gallery with names such as Tintoretto, Veronese, Titian and other Venetian artists. One of the masterpieces of Venetian art is certainly Tintoretto's Paradise in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio.
The structure consists of three areas: the wing towards St Mark's basin with the Hall of the Great Council from 1340, the wing with the polling room from 1424. On the opposite side of the palace are the Doge's residences and the government offices which were finished in 1565. Each area of the palace will leave you stunned by its architectural and pictorial grandeur. The Doge's Palace is undoubtedly the highest expression of the Serenissima's power over the centuries.
In 1797 with the fall of the Serenissima the palace changed functions, especially under the French, who also stripped it of its riches. In 1923 it became a museum.
We advise you to carve out at least three hours to visit the wonders this place has to offer. The ducal palace offers very interesting guided tours. One of the most popular tours is the 'secret itineraries'.