Campanile di San Marco. Tower in Venice, Italy

Campanile di San Marco

Tower in Venice, Italy

Grand Canal in San Marco Photo © Aitor Garcia Viñas

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Campanile di San Marco

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Campanile di San Marco - Campanile di
	San Marco
Campanile di San Marco - Campanile di San Marco. Photo by Richard Cassan
Anyone who visits Venice for the first time should definitely have the Piazza San Marco on their itinerary. Once you’ve seen the Grand Canal, made your way through the city’s labyrinthine streets and canals, bought endless amounts of Venetian masks and knick-knacks, emptied your wallet of every last Euro in it, then, and only then, can you make your way to the gem in the crown that is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square).

When you’ve made your way through Venice’s narrow alleys, entering the Piazza San Marco is like stepping out of a tunnel into the glaring light of the sun. Once your eyes have adjusted, you’ll be met by one of the city’s largest open spaces, complete with a huge range of some of the world’s most impressive architecture and magnificent buildings. While your eyes will dart around, struggling to pick just one of the beautiful sights to focus, they will inevitably be drawn towards one of two buildings: the Basilica di San Marco (Saint Mark's Basilica) or the Campanile di San Marco (Saint Mark’s Campanile).

Location, Location, Location

The story of Saint Mark’s Square starts in the 9th century, when a number of Saint Mark’s relics were brought to the site of what is now Saint Mark’s Basilica. While these relics may have been stolen, it didn’t stop the Venetians from deciding to make Saint Mark the patron of the city. The construction of a church was ordered and it only took four years before enough of it was built so that the relics could be removed from temporary storage and kept in the church. A campanile was completed towards the end of the century.

Campanile San Marco / Palazzo Ducale
	- Campanile di San Marco
Campanile San Marco / Palazzo Ducale - Campanile di San Marco. Photo by Maik-T. Šebenik

Lightning Never Strikes Just Twice

Campanile di San Marco - Campanile di San Marco
Campanile di San Marco - Campanile di San Marco. Photo by Rob Young
Since the campanile reaches almost 100 meters into the air, it was frequently damaged by lightning strikes. These strikes resulted in the need for the regular and ongoing maintenance of the structure. During the 14th and 15th centuries, lightning strikes to the campanile caused fires to break out in the structure and large parts of the campanile was destroyed in 1417. Saint Mark’s Campanile was damaged by an earthquake in the 16th century and then significantly. It was at this point that it gained many of its significant features.

The tower collapsed fully on July 14, 1902, without a single human fatality and minimal damage to the surrounding buildings. Sadly, it did kill a cat when it came down. It was rebuilt over the next decade and the new building reopened exactly a millennium after construction had been started on the first incarnation of the building. The replacement is seemingly just as cursed when it comes to maintenance and recent flooding has caused damage to the building’s foundations and the tower is starting to lean.

The Best Views of Venice

In addition to enjoying the Venetian architecture from terraferma, you can also climb to the top of the campanile and witness some of the most spectacular views of Saint Mark’s Square and large areas of the city. Ascending to the top of Saint Mark’s Campanile, much like many things in Venice, comes at a price. However, it should be well worth spending the money.

Getting to Saint Mark’s Campanile

When it comes to transport, Venice pays the price for being devoid of roads and there aren’t plenty of ways to get around the city. Getting to the city itself isn’t too difficult but getting around the city can become very difficult if you don’t know the city or have foolishly traveled without a map. Be sure to look for signs for Piazza San Marco.

By Air

If you’re heading to Saint Mark’s Campanile from some distance away, you’ll probably be taking a plane there. The nearest airport is Marco Polo Venice Airport. There are plenty of shuttle and connecting services from the airport to the city. The buses, like all road traffic, will take you to the Piazzale Roma, the only part of the city with any roads. The buses take between twenty minutes and half an hour to reach the city.

If you want to go directly from the airport to the campanile, you can do so by taking the water bus from the airport’s pier directly to Saint Mark’s Square. This journey takes around an hour and a quarter.

By Road

The only significant part of road in Venice leads to the Piazzale Roma which features the city’s bus terminal and the only parking for automobiles in the city. While driving to Venice is possible, it is not recommended as you’ll be spending most of your time in Venice on foot. You can save money by parking on the mainland and taking a bus out to the islands.

By Rail

There are two Venice railway stations: Venezia-Mestre and Venezia Santa Lucia. The Mestre station is on the mainland and the Santa Lucia station connects you to the islands. There are regular connections between Mestre and Santa Lucia so you needn’t worry too much if your train doesn’t go directly to the Santa Lucia station.

By Sea

A number of cruise ships and ferries make their way to Venice if you are arriving from other Mediterranean destinations.

On Foot

Whether you arrive in Venice by road, rail, sea, or air, you can expect to walk a fair bit. If your legs tire, you can always take water taxis and vaporettos around the city. Gondola rides are also possible but are more for enjoying the ride than actually reaching a specific destination.

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Author: JP_Translation. Last updated: Mar 15, 2015

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