Piazza San Marco ★★★

St. Mark's Square, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy (Photo by Kayla Sawyer)
St. Mark's Square

The pigeon-filled St. Mark's Square

Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Ramon Espiña Fernand)
, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Andrzej Otrębski)
Piazza San Marco from the Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Nick Savchenko)
Cafe tables on the Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. (Photo by Ștefan Jurcă)
The view from St. Mark's Basilica, Piazza San Marco, Venice, Italy. (Photo by ChrisSampson87)

The living room of Venice is a year-round carnival, one of milling tourists, a seemingly endless supply of pigeons, locals relaxing at outdoor café tables, and couples caught up in Venice's romance dancing on the cobblestones to the competing strains of the cafés' live pianists and classical trios. Also, in winter, sometimes it's full of water

This epicenter of the city is flanked on three sides by a unified 16th-century arcade and anchored by St. Mark's, Italy's most mosaicked cathedral. The square is mobbed at midday, but late at night or at dawn it's virtually deserted, an emptiness that brings it to life with a Venetian magic all its own. 

One of the best ways to appreciate it is by riding the elevator to the top of the Campanile, the bell tower standing across from the Basilica di San Marco.

The north side of the square is enlivened by the Torre dell'Orologio, a Renaissance clock tower atop which two darkened bronze statues chime the hours. In the square's southwest corner sits the Museo Civico Correr. 

Just north of Piazza San Marco lies the Bacino Orseolo, where many of Venice's gondolas park overnight (cool sight)

(Incidentally: only the main body of the square is, technically, Piazza San Marco. The wing branching south along the Doge's Palace toward the outlet of the Grand Canal is called Piazzetta San Marco. The scrap of open space along the north side of the Basilica of St. Mark's is called Piazetta Leoni.)

The mosaics of the transept (Photo by amberapparently)
St. Mark's Basilica
Venice: San Marco

The gloriously mosaicked Basilica di San Marco

The Palazzo Ducale facade (Photo by Michael aus Halle)
Doge's Palace
Venice: San Marco

The gothic Palazzo Ducale with its Renaissance art and hidden rooms

The Campanile di San Marco at night (Photo by A L E S S I O)
Campanile di San Marco
Venice: San Marco

A ride up St. Mark's Bell Tower

 (Photo )
Museo Civico Correr
Venice: San Marco

The history of Venice, in paintings

The clock on St. Mark's clock tower tells both the time and the position of the sun relative to the signs of the Zodiac (Photo © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5)
Torre dell'Orologio
Venice: San Marco

The Clock Tower on Piazza San Marco

Photo gallery
  • St. Mark
  • Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Marco, Italy (Photo by Ramon Espiña Fernand)
  • , Piazza San Marco, Italy (Photo by Andrzej Otrębski)
  • Piazza San Marco from the Campanile, Piazza San Marco, Italy (Photo by Nick Savchenko)
  • Cafe tables on the Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Marco, Italy (Photo by Ștefan Jurcă)
  • The view from St. Mark
Piazza San Marco tours
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How long does Piazza San Marco take?

Well, you'll spend plenty of time just walking through this piazza, ringed with tops sights, and mreo time waiting in line for St. Mark's. But do take a little time just to sit here and do nothing, soaking in the atmosphere.

Is a cafe table worth it?

Yes, the cafes on the piazza are overpriced, but they're worth it for a slowly-sipped cappuccino and a front-row seat to the carnival of Venetian life.

Come at night

Be sure to return at night, after dinner, when the moon-slicked piazza shakes off its tired touristy air and cloaks itself in that moody Serenissimamagic once again.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).