Not on purpose, simply, it happened that a few weeks ago when visiting Palazzo Ducale, I was the only visitor around. It was the day I visited the memorable Acqua e Cibo Exhibition. Such a strange feeling, not scary but awesome, just myself and our otherwise overcrowded Doge’s Palace …
Often, the only sound I heard during my visit was the humming of the electric radiators positioned in a corner of the bigger halls trying in vain to fight off the moist cold. Sometimes I could make out footsteps and echoing voices of the staff a few halls ahead.
Being “alone” gave me the possibility to concentrate on the views and on details. I stayed here for more than three hours !!
Palazzo Ducale, first built in 810 AD as soon as the headquarters of the insular communities had been moved from Eraclea to the Rialto islands, tells the history of the Republic of Venice like no other building does in town.
Every floor mosaic pattern does, each and every wooden ceiling, gilded frame, painting on the wall. Every door, wooden bench has witnessed world history, war discussions, merchant deals, state security affairs, ambassadors, luxurious feasts.
In the Portego (Sala dello Scudo) of the Doge’s private quarters, I sat down on a wooden bench under the stemma (coat of arms) of Doge Lodovico Manin. He was the last Doge of the Republic until 12 May 1797, his stemma is still here above me on the wall. The Portego, former entry and reception hall, still houses two giant globes put here in 1732. Huge turquoise-brow-green colored maps cover the walls showing Venetian territories and those explored by Venetian seafarers.
Venetian explorers were mapping new territories not just as a “side effect” to spice business. Mapping was no hobby by the otherwise busy spice merchants but was supported by the Republic and done in the city by experienced cartographers.
When you enter Palazzo Ducale via the Porta del frumento door, located on the part of the Palace looking out towards the sea (Bacino di San Marco), that’s the view you get of the Cortile (courtyard, a few visitors have appeared by now).
The Museo dell’Opera during the Republic was the seat of the master builders in Venice. Opera in this context means “(repair) works”. The masters coordinated building projects and repair works in the Doge’s Palace.
After all, the Doge’s Palace and Ca d’Oro were the model for the Veneto-Byzantine style in town. In the gallery below you can see a few impressions of the courtyard, the Scala dei Giganti (staircase leading up to the Doge’s quarters) and the Museo dell’Opera.
The sala degli stucchi is probably a highlight of the mantelpiece-lined private quarters of the Doge’s. Here you can also discover precious paintings just like in other rooms where the halls are decorated with huge paintings by Tizian, Tintoretto and Veronese. You can also see the painting of the Doge welcoming the French King Enrico III, a feast re-enacted during Carnival 2016 (read more here).
Finally, from Sala Erizzo via a mobile staircase (scala mobile) you can reach the giardino pensile, the private hanging gardens of the Doge.
I loved these perspectives from the Doge’s windows, a few of the million views Venice is regaling us. Like this one below where I look down from a second-floor window beyond the Palazzo delle Prigioni, Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) towards the wide quay Riva degli Schiavoni.