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The Piazza San Marco - from center
Virtual Tour Images 360 provided by -- after load - click right mouse button to move within image

San Marco looking west towards Ala Napoleonica
(Views of Piazza) 

Caffè Florian - outside
(Views of Piazza) 
(thumbnail only)

Photo Piazza San Marco
View West into the Piazza
Jpg: Unknown

Views from the Campanile 


The Piazza San Marco is considered the only true square in Venice. On the north or right-hand side of the square is the Procuratie Vecchie --  construction began in 1512. This was the offices of the nine (9) Procurators, the most important citizens of Venice after the Doge. They maintained the Basilica and ran the 6 sections of the city.   The order of columns and arches' on the building are similar to an earlier Byzantine building that can still be seen in Gentile Bellini's painting Translation of the Relics of the Cross hanging in the Gallerie dell'Accademia. 

The Procuratie Nuove, on the south or left-hand side of the square was constructed over the first half of the seventeenth century. It was designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi on the model of the Libreria. 

Ala Napoleonica is the west side, or the side we are looking towards. It was built by Napoleon ten years after the fall of the Republic in 1797 --  thereby enclosing the Piazza. In order to do so, however, he raised Sansovino's church of San Geminiano.  Napoleon called the Piazza the "drawing-room of Europe" and, in his signature modesty, intended to erect a sculpture of himself in the middle of the west wing - but the Venetians resisted citing that this was a public space and not for the glorification of any individual -- past or present.

The Caffès of the Piazza

The Caffès such as the Florian or the Quadri are famous; and it's from these, historically, that we get Starbucks (The McDonals of coffee houses in the States which I don't go to) and my coffee addiction (I have to blame someone).

In 1585, the Venetian ambassador to Instambul returned with wild stories of the Turks drinking a hot black drink, made by a  seed called Kahavè. It seems they just had to have it or they just couldn't function (okay so I'm stretching it).  In 1638, the evil seed was brought back to Venice, roasted, ground, and sold at an "expensive price" from a special caffè shop (things haven't changed much in 400 years have they?)  located directly under the Procuratie Vecchie (the North wing). In short order, caffè shops opened up all over the city and by the end of the 18th century there were 24 caffè's in Piazza San Marco alone. 

These were the places to be seen, meet and gamble, another favorite past time. The popularity of these places grew, and in 1720 one of the most elegant: "Caffè alla Venezia trionfante" (Caffè of the Triumphant Venice) opened. This  was a  popular meeting point for both foreign and domestic high society. The first owner was Floriano Francesconi and hence commonly called "Florian". In  1775 G. Quadri opened a new caffè shop across the Piazza and promised to serve only the "real" Turkish Café. Some of the most famous people from around the world have sipped coffee here.

Today, as I understand it, it will cost your right arm to buy a cup of coffee from one of these shops for the "privilege" of drinking with history. David W. Spracklen, at his former website, stated that there is a direct inverse relationship between the quality of the food and the distance from the Piazza San Marco -- The farther away you get, the better the food and the price. So if you ever go there, keep that in  mind.

Special thanks to Tommaso Esmanech of Verona, Italy, a friend of the JSS Gallery, for offering the virtual tour.


Under the Porticos of the Procuratie Vecchie
(Views of Piazza) 

(Views of Piazza) 

(Views of Piazza) 

Copyright 1998-2005 Natasha Wallace all rights reserved
Created 10/30/2000


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