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Campanile di San Marco. Venice.
The campanile di San Marco can be found in St. Marks Square Venice towering high above the square at a height of 323 feet. It is the tallest building in Venice and whether you arrive by land, sea or air it is the tallest building that you cannot fail to see. St Marks Square is at the heart of Venice surrounded by cafes, The Basilica San Marco and the Doges Palace.
Work on the original tower started in the 9th century finally reaching an end to construction in the 12th century. It was used as a light house to guide ships towards the islands of Venice. In the 1400's a fire destroyed the tower and after being rebuilt was again destroyed in the 1600's by an earthquake. It was rebuilt into its current shape in 1664 but after more fires which cracked the brickwork and a stone tumbled and killed several people. Finally it was rebuilt again in 1776 and lasted to July 14th 1902 after cracks began to show in the brickwork which grew and finally it collapsed into a heap of bricks on the ground. There are photos showing the tower cracking and collapsing. That same evening a committee decided to rebuild it.
Work began to rebuild the tower in the same design in red brick with reinforced brickwork which hopefully would help the building to last. It was finally completed in April 1912 and inaugurated on the evening of the Feast of St. Mark.
The logia at the base of the tower where you enter to go to the top of the tower is clad in Marble bas reliefs depicting Crete, Cyprus and Venice.
The tower contains five bells which have quite specific roles.
Bell number 1. The Renghiera announced executions.
Bell number 2. Announced a session of the senate.
Bel number 3. The Nona rung at midday.
Bell number 4. The Trottiera called the members of the council to meetings.
Bell number 5. The Marangona the biggest bell in the tower marked the end of the working day.
Inside the top of the tower you can see a cast iron flight of stairs that go right to the top of the tower although that part is locked off. On the top of the tower is a gold statue of the Arch angel Gabriel.
Currently the tower is undergoing repairs due to it beginning to lean slightly and small cracks are beginning to show in the brickwork. Most of Venice's buildings are built on wooden stilts which are hammered into the soil however due to the shifting soil from the tides the tower is beginning to lean. Engineers are constructing a titanium ring beneath the structure to provide strength to the tower and prevent it from tumbling. I first visited St. Marks Campanile three years ago and they are still carrying out repairs to the tower reinforcing the base of the tower.
Thankfully there is a lift inside the tower which whisks tourists to the top of the tower. Once at the top of the tower you are given unparalleled views of Venice and the surrounding islands. The views from here are absolutely stunning, overlooking St. Marks square down below and the red terracotta tiles on the roofs below and as far as the eye can see. In front of the tower you can see the beautiful domes of St. Marks Basilica and the pinkish white icing like facade of the Doges palace.
You can see the Islands of Murano and San Giorgio Maggiore Island with a similar tower to St. Marks albeit somewhat smaller of the church directly opposite. To the West you can see the domed church of Santa Maria della Salute in the Grand Canal and the Academia which houses a beautiful art collection. Further still you can see the massive cruise liners berthed in the docks which spew out thousands of tourists into Venice for the day. To the north you can see the railway station and the causeway that leads to a massive parking lot that bring tourists to Venice for the day.
There are an estimated 60,000 visitors a day to the small islands, canals and alleyways that make up Venice. Venice is absolutely packed with tourists so expect to queue at most venues to gain entry. After 4pm most of the tourists head back to whence they came leaving the residents and those staying in Venice in relative calmness. During the evening there are still hundreds of tourists milling around looking for places to eat in some of the tavernas and restaurants around the city. Be warned if you eat in St. Marks Square you will pay a premium price however head off down some of the alleyways and you will find more reasonable priced places to eat.
To the North East of Venice you can see the Marco Polo International airport and the water taxis and water busses bringing even more tourists to Venice.
The views are phenomenal and I would highly recommend a visit to the top of St. Marks Campanile.
It costs 8 Euros to reach the top of the tower fortunately the assent is by a lift. It does get really packed during the day but during the evening or early morning it is much quieter before the thousands of tourists arrive for the day. It is open from roughly 09:00 to 21:00 which is great as once the day trippers have gone there are hardly any queues and we queued for about 15 minutes.
Once we came down we were quite exhilarated by the views we had just seen. A massive cruise liner passed by being guided along the water course towards the sea by tugs which looked tiny in comparison to the massive ship it was pulling. The liner towered above the town houses and Palaces along the route and once in front of St. Marks Square it obliterated the view of Isla San Georgio.
Once we came down by lift to the ground the bells started to chime. We were very fortunate to have left the tower when we did as the bells sounded really loud. There were still tourists up the tower as the bells began to chime.
I thoroughly recommend a visit up St.Marks Campanile it is a superb way to see the sights of Venice and one of Venices Landmarks. If you are lost in Venice all you need to do is look towards the sky every so often and you will eventually see the tower so that you can get your bearings.
The Campanile in St Mark's Square provides the most impressive views out over the city, and the lagoon surrounding it. The current tower was built in 1912, and is based on designs drawn up in the 16th century when the tower was rebuilt following an earthquake. Visitors to the new campanile will be glad to hear that the current design includes a lift to carry visitors up to the top, so you don't have to walk up the internal ramp as Galileo did when he demonstrated his telescope to one of the Doges in the early 16th century. The original design, from the 12th century, was for a lighthouse to aid ships coming into the port of Venice, and it was only later that it became used as a belltower, with five bells to ring at different times of the day, to alert the public to an imminent public execution, or to summon senators to meetings at the Doge's palace. The view from the top of the Campanile is truly incredible, because the buildings of Venice are all very short by modern standards, due to the strict construction laws imposed on the city. Consequently, you get an exceptional view of the orange roofs of the city's buildings, as well as a superb view down on the Basilica's five domes. The admission fee is relatively cheap, but you can often have to queue for a long time to go up the Campanile as the lift only carries a small number of people at a time.