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Piazza San Marco, San Marco, Venice

Venice, Italy, Europe: Piazza di San Marco, as seen from atop the basilica. Napoleon once referred to it
Torre dell'Orologio

Piazza San Marco
Tel: 39 041 520 9070

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When Napoleon and his army descended on Venice in 1797, the French general described this immense open public space—almost 40,000 square feet—as "the drawing room of Europe." He then set about making it his own, by commissioning a statue of himself to be erected in the square. The Museo Correr, in the southwest corner of the square, now houses remnants of Napoleon's short-lived reign (including his statue), along with a marvelous collection of historic globes, weapons, and works of art by Tintoretto, Vittore Carpaccio, and Antonello da Messina. Paying the entry fee here gives you access to other attractions around the piazza, like the Museo Archeologico and Biblioteca Marciana (St. Mark's Library), with its collection of historic tomes. You'll also be able to visit the Doge's Palace, the hulking Gothic structure that was the nerve center of the Venetian Republic; take the Itinerari segreti guided tour to see the difference between the frescoed, gilded public rooms and the spartan offices where the real business was done. One of the piazza's two towers, the Campanile, is, at 325 feet, the tallest structure in Venice; climb to the top for a breathtaking view over the city. The 15th-century Torre dell'Orologio (clock tower) was unveiled in late 2006 after a seemingly interminable restoration, and now visitors can finally climb up and see the inner workings of the clock from inside and take in the view of the piazza from the roof terrace.

Torre dell'Orologio: Open for guided visits only; English tours Mondays through Wednesdays at 10 and 11 am and 1 pm; Thursdays through Sundays at 1, 2, and 3 pm. Call ahead to reserve.

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