The Doge's Palace ★★★

The Palazzo Ducale facade, Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy (Photo by Michael aus Halle)
The Palazzo Ducale facade

The gothic Palazzo Ducale with its Renaissance art and hidden rooms

One of Italy's grandest and most history-saturated town halls, Vence's Palazzo Ducal (Doge's Palace or Ducal Palace) is a massive Gothic-Renaissance confection raised in 1309, and rebuilt after a 1577 fire.

Getting voted off the island

Any Venetian citizen could accuse someone of misdeeds by writing the denunciation down and slipping it through specially placed Bocca di Leone ("Lion's Mouth") slots in the Palazzo Ducale's exterior walls.

Those who were investigated and found guilty were often subject to the favorite Venetian punishment: exile.

While this activity sounds like a prime breeding ground for backstabbing and malicious gossip, it was a highly regulated procedure.

All accusations had to be signed and witnessed. What's more, if they proved merely to be slanderous and not actionable, the would-be denouncer would be in serious legal trouble of his own.

Inside the Palazzo Ducale

The public halls of the Doge's Palace are heavily decorated with canvases and frescoes by Venice's greatest artists—works by Veronese and Tintoretto are exceedingly abundant.

The signposted route walks you through, and will take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending on how interested you get.

The Chamber of the Great Council

At 53m by 25m (174 ft x 82 ft), this remains one of the largest rooms in Europe, decorated after a 1577 fire by Paolo Veronese, both Tintorettos (Jacopo and sone Domenico), and Palma il Giovane.

This was where the Great Council of Venice once met, comprised of anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 leading citizens (bascially all the males over the age of 25 from patrician families).

Along the wall above the Doge's Throne is Paradiso (1588–92), the world's longest canvas painting, executed by Jacopo Tintoretto and his workshop.

Jacopo Tintoretto also got the commission (largely executed by his son) to paint the portraits of all the past doges, in order, ringing the tops of the walls. (Only 76 fit here; the overflow is in the Sala dello Scrutinio).

Note the black cloth painted in the place of one portrait. This is where the infamous Doge Marin Falerio's face would have been—had he not committed the ultimate treason and attempted a coup d'état in 1355. He recieved not only a death sentence, but was also condemned to damnatoio memoriae, the total eradication of his name and memory from all official records.

The "Bridge of Sighs" and the State Prisons

Off the back of the building, you cross over the famous, enclosed Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri), named by romantic-era writers who imagined condemned prisoners letting out a lament as they crossed and got their final glimpse of Venice and her lagoon through the tiny windows in the center.

The Bridge of Sighs crosses the Rio di Palazzo, so for the full effect you need to see it from the outside. Best vantage point: stand on the next bridge down the canal, a wide pontecrossing the Rio di Palazzo along the Riva degli Schiavoni. (I call it the "Bridge of Tourists Looking at the Bridge of Sighs.")

The cells on the other side preserve the scrawls and graffiti of ancient prisoners.

But even with an informative audioguide and the English placards describing the artworks and the civic purpose of each room, I find that simply wandering the public halls and nothing else leaves me a bit cold.

Thta's why I cannot recommend highly enough the amazing "Secret Itineraries" tour that gets you—quite literally—behind the scenes, into the rooms and chambers hidden behind those lavishly decorated walls and where the actual governing of the Venetian Republic happened. » more

 
Tickets
 
Photo gallery
  • The Palazzo Ducale facade, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Michael aus Halle)
  • The Salone del Maggior Consiglio, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Adrian Scottow)
  • The Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Superchilum)
  • A detail from
  • A cell door in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Tony Hisgett)
  • The Sala del Collegio, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Ricardalovesmonuments)
  • The Palazzo Ducale from the bacino, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Inselmann)
  • The Palazzo Ducale facade, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by trolvag)
  • The Porta della Carta, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Jim Walton)
  • The Bocca di Leone, where you could denounce people in secret, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Jose Luis RDS)
  • The Sala del Collegio (Council Hall), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • The Sala del Senato, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Dimitris Kamaras)
  • Portrait of Giovanni Mocenigo (late 16C) by Domenico Tintoretto, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Triumph of Venice (1587–94) by Tintoretto in the Sala del Senato, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Juno Showering Gifts on Venetia (Venice) (1554–56) by Paolo Veronese in the Sala del Consiglio dei Dieci, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Apotheosis of Venice (1585) by Paolo Veronese in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Detail from The Apotheosis of Venice (1585) by Paolo Veronese in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The Bridge of Sighs, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Tony Hisgett)
  • The view from the Bridge of Sighs, the last sight a condemned prisoner would see, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • The view from the Bridge of Sighs, the last sight a condemned prisoner would see, Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Rambling Traveler)
  • A corridor in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Dennis Jarvis)
  • A room in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
  • A cell in the Prigioni Nuove (New Prisons), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Joanbanjo)
  • A display in the Armeria (Armory), Doge's Palace, Italy (Photo by Zairon)
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Tips

Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Doge's Palace for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

» more on discounts & passes
How long does Doge's Palace take?

Touring the public areas takes about 30–45 minutes—maybe an hour to 75 minutes if you stop to read all the inforamtive plaques.

The highly recommended Secret Itineraries tour takes roughly 75 minutes (after which you'll likely want to wander the public spaces for another 30 minutes or so).

The ticket office closes 1 hour before the museum.

It's a cumulative ticket...

The standard admission ticket to the Doge's Palace actually covers four museums on the square—hence its name: I Musei di Piazza San Marco—so you might as well use it to pop into at least the Museo Civico Correr.

However, if you're pressed for time, go ahead and skip the less interesting Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Archaeological Museum) and Sale Monumentali della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana (frescoed, monumental rooms of the Marciana Library).

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.).

 

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The inquisition room (Photo courtesy of ItalyGuides)
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A tour that gets you—quite literally—behind the scenes, into the rooms and chambers hidden behind those lavishly decorated walls where the actual governing of the Venetian Republic happened

 
Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501) by Giovanni Bellini (Photo Public Domain)

The Dukes of Venice