on September 15, 2011
The Doges Palace is one of the most recognisable buildings in Venice. This magnificent building made of limestone and pink marble was built in the 1400s as the home for the Venetian Government led by the Doge. The area had been run by the power of the Doge since the 9th century but this building was the final home for the government until the last official Doge was in power in the 1700s.We visited in the height of the season so we arrived at 9.00 when the Palace first opened to avoid the worst of the crowds. Tourists no longer enter through the original entrance; we have to use the entrance which is closest to the canal. This entrance led us into a huge courtyard where the amazing gothic style became evident. The courtyard allows views of lots of sculptures and statues along the top of the walls. Visitors have to leave all large bags and any backpacks for collection later and we were informed that photography was allowed in most areas but not in any of the rooms that contained paintings.Once we had taken in the marvels of the courtyard our guide pointed out the "lions Mouth" sculpture to us where people could leave messages about possible traitors who would be punished, however people had to be careful about their accusations because if they were false the person making the accusation would be punished instead. We then walked past large sculptures including one of Neptune and found our way to the Scala d’Oro (The Golden Staircase). This amazing walkway is simply breath-taking; the ceiling is almost completely covered in gold leaf around paintings and relief. Everyone walks up it craning their necks to get a better view and the large stained glass window also adds more colour and light to this wonderful spectacle. Once you are on the second flight of steps you can look round and see that the floor, which is covered in gold coloured and black tiles, is designed in such a way that it gives a very clever 3D optical illusion.Once we entered the inner chambers we came across many painting in which the Doge was always easy to spot due to his distinctive conical-shaped hat. One of the paintings showed an original style Gondola which had a covered seating area; there are no longer any of these gondolas in existence so it was interesting to see one in the painting, especially since the backdrop was so easily recognisable as it was almost identical to the present day Venice. Some of the rooms in the palace are huge and the paintings cover large sections of wall and some are claimed to be the largest in Europe but our guide stated that she thought the claims were untrue. There are two clocks in the Palace which no longer work but are fascinating due to their elaborate nature, they only had one hand and were astrological clocks telling what day of the year it was.The Doges palace was the home of the Doge and also a constant stream of temporary members of the government (Counsellors) made up of wealthy local families. There was no hereditary system and people were only in office for a short time so that there was not time for them to become corrupted by power. The Palace was also the law courts and the prison. Once someone had been tried they would be taken directly to the prison areas which were under the rafters in the roof or down in the cellars. Eventually a new prison was built which is reached by the Bridge of Sighs. I was very disappointed on our visit to find that the outside of the bridge was covered in hoardings and only a small section in the centre was visible from the canal. Luckily the bridge is fully accessible from inside the Palace and we walked across to the prison. The bridge actually has two levels within it. The bridge was named as the small windows would afford prisoners their last view of their city of Venice for a long time, possibly for life. Inside the prison you can see the cells in which the prisoners were held, their families could come and bring them food but they had little access to light. This section of the tour has some very low roofs and beams so care needs to be taken if you are a little bit tall.Leaving the Palace tourist leave by what was the original front entrance. Before you leave make sure to turn around as that is when you get the impression of what the entrance would have felt like with the large staircase in front of you.The Doges palace is a must-see attraction in Venice, it is elaborate and imposing and gives a fascinating insight into Venetian history.
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