Venice, Italy #3: San Marco Piazza, the Campanile, and a Spot of Tea
Travel Log: Venice, 2014, #3
The off-again, on-again light rain continued through the late afternoon and early evening on our visit in late May. Although it did not dampen our plans for exploring the square, others stayed away. Even the caffés (Italian spelling) closed their outdoor venues. (See Venice, Italy #2: San Marco Piazza in the Rain for my post on Basilica San Marco.)
Campanile of San Marco’s Basilica
On the right side of Piazza San Marco, the Campanile (bell tower) rises 333-foot-tall (98.5 m). First built in 1173, the tower’s five bells each ring out different messages. The marangona rings in the morning and at night signifying the beginning and end of the work day; the nona rings at noon; and the other three ring for special situations. The mezza terza tolls the meeting times of senators while the trottiera calls the Great Council into session. The last, malefico, rings as an ominous warning to others: an execution is about to take place.
This tower is not the original Campanile. The San Marco Campanile had been restored after an earthquake (1514) and totally rebuilt (1912) after its collapse in 1902. An inside elevator will whisk you to the top to see incredible views of Venice.
In the foreground of the Campanile, shops and caffés stand at ground level with the Procuratie Nuove above. This colonnaded “new” building, built in the mid-16th century, houses the offices of procurators (government agents responsible for finance, taxes, and management of government property).
On the ground floor, one of the most famous caffés, Caffé Florian, opened in 1720 as Alla Venezia Trionfonte (Triumphant Venice). The rain showers closed down the caffé action for a while, but as soon as the skies cleared a bit, the waiters wiped down the tables and business started up again. Musicians supplied entertainment for the diners, walkers, and pigeons in the square.
On the left of the Basilica, stands the Procuratie Vecchie, built earlier in the 16th century, which houses more government offices. On the ground level, shops and caffés carry on their lively business indoors, serving both locals and tourists alike, but somewhat less so in the rain.
Caffé Quadri, a favorite of the Austrians when they were in power in the 19th century, 1898-1804 and 1814-1866, serves guests indoors while it rains, but spreads out again outside when the rain stops. (See Venice, Italy: San Marco Piazza in the Rain for more historical detail.) (The Venetians at that time preferred the Caffé Florian on the opposite side of the square.)
- Here’s a sneak peak at Florian’s Caffé by Destination Deeks: Sweetlu’s Pick: Venice, Italy
- Another review of Florian’s Caffé by Style Magazine
- Caffé Florian: Must See in Venice
You can read more of my travel log of Venice here: