Photo Piazza San
View West into the Piazza
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
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
Marco -- The farther away you get, the better the food and the price. So if you
ever go there, keep that in mind.
thanks to Tommaso Esmanech of Verona, Italy, a
friend of the JSS Gallery, for offering the virtual tour.