- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Doge's Palace, Venice
One of Europe's most beautiful and easily recognizable buildings, the Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was not only the center of government during the Venetian Republic but also the residence of the Doge. The Doge's first palace was a wretched gloomy wooden fortress with massive defensive towers, and after several fires, the castle was converted into a Byzantine-style palace. The one you see today was built mainly in the 14th century, and the façade overlooking the Piazzetta dates from the first half of the 15th century. Although the palace is now a museum, unlike most museums, these paintings were created especially to decorate the Doge's Palace, not added later. Its art works, interesting history, and iconic beauty make it one of Venice's major attractions for tourists.
Façade and Exterior
The distinctive look of this masterpiece of Gothic architecture stems from the way its designers managed to suspend the enormous solid bulk of the palace upon a double arcade of slender, almost delicate Istrian marble columns. They achieved that visual balance by creating a remarkably light-looking upper story, its surface made to appear almost lacy with patterns of pink Verona marble, pierced by graceful arching windows. The effect is nothing short of enchanting and is enhanced by a cornice of merlons and spires that seem to make the palace waft airily into the sky. The façade is sometimes seen as a metaphor for the city itself, its enormous weight supported by a foundation of wooden piles driven into the floor of the lagoon.
Be sure to step back and admire the façade as a whole work of art, but don't overlook the individual columns, their beautiful carved capitals, and the sculptures that decorate the façades overlooking the Grand Canal and the Piazzetta. A reminder of the palace's grimmer past -- you'll find many more inside -- are the two columns (the ninth and 10th) made of red marble, between which death sentences were once pronounced.