Piazza San Marco

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Coordinates: 45°26′02″N 12°20′17″E / 45.434°N 12.338°E / 45.434; 12.338

Piazza San Marco (often known in English as Saint Mark's Square), is the principal square of Venice, Italy, where it is generally known just as "the Piazza". All other urban spaces in the city (except the Piazzetta) are called campi. The Piazzetta (the 'little Piazza') is an extension of the Piazza towards the lagoon in its south east corner (see plan). The two spaces together form the social religious and political centre of Venice and are commonly both considered together. This article relates to both of them.

A remark usually attributed to Napoleon calls the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe". (The attribution to Napoleon is unproven)[1]. It is one of the few great urban spaces in Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic.


Description of the Piazza

The Piazza[2] is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St Mark. It will be described by a perambulation starting from the west front of the church (facing the length of the Piazza) and proceeding to the right. The church is described elsewhere (see Church of San Marco). One starts by crossing the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, an open space on the north side of the church named after the two marble lions (presented by Doge Alvise Mocenigo in 1722) on which children are often scrambling, but now officially called the Piazzetta Giovanni XXIII.

Beyond that is the Clock Tower, completed in 1499, above a high archway where the street known as the Merceria (a main thoroughfare of the city) leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, the commercial and financial centre.

Turn left and follow the long arcade along the north side of the Piazza. The buildings on this side are known as the Procuratie Vecchie}, the old procuracies, formerly the homes and offices of the Procurators of Saint Mark, high officers of state in the days of the republic of Venice. They were built in the early 16th century. The arcade is lined with shops and restaurants at ground level, now with offices above. The restaurants include the famous Caffe Quadri, which was patronised by the Austrians when Venice was ruled by Austria in the 19th century, while the Venetians preferred Florian's on the other side of the Piazza.

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