St. Mark’s Campanile has been watching over Venice since the 9th century. Follow Captain Ulysses on a tour of this iconic monument of the “Serenissima”! ?
Short history lesson
The first version of St. Mark’s Campanile
In 888, the construction of the first watchtower began on the foundations of an ancient Roman building. But in 1080, the tower collapsed. The Doge of Venice, Domenico Selvio, therefore decided to build a new watchtower a few metres away, on the site of what we know today as St. Mark’s Campanile.
Completed in the 12th century, the tower was 98.5 metres high — the highest building in Venice — and was both the city’s lighthouse and watchtower.
Damaged in a fire in 1489 and then again in 1511, St. Mark’s Campanile underwent multiple transformations in the centuries that followed its construction. In the 16th century, it took on its current appearance although it had to be restored repeatedly because of fires, until it was equipped in 1776 with a lightning rod.
Galileo and St. Mark’s Campanile
In the 16th century, Galileo used St. Mark’s Campanile for the observations based on which he designed his astronomical telescope. He even demonstrated his telescope publicly at the top of the tower.
The collapse of st. Mark’s Campanile
In 1902, cracks began to appear on the campanile and local authorities defined a security perimeter around the tower. On July 14th 1902, at 10 a.m., St. Mark’s Campanile collapsed. Miraculously, no victim was to be deplored (except for the caretaker’s cat…) St. Mark’s Basilica, located only a few metres away, fortunately did not suffer any damage.
The new campanile
On the evening of the accident, the City Council of Venice immediately approved the construction of a new campanile which was to look identical to the one which had just collapsed.
Construction work began less than a year later and the new tower was completed in in March 1912, almost 10 years after the previous campanile had collapsed. The Venetians nicknamed this new building com’era dov’era (“as it was, where it was”).
⚓Attention, sailors! ⚓
Looking for more tips and suggestions for your trip to Venice ? Check out the Capitain’s article on the best things to do in Venice!
There are 3 replicas of St. Mark’s Campanile in the world:
- one in Las Vegas, built in the 1990s
- one at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
- one in Manila, Philippines
Visiting St. Mark’s Campanile
The exterior of St. Mark’s Campanile
If you are afraid of heights, better to simply admire the campanile from St. Mark’s Square!
Square in shape, St. Mark’s Campanile is 98 metres high and 12 metres wide. The base of the tower, which is 50 metres high, is surmounted by an open space in which the bells of the watchtower are situated. Then comes a section decorated with lions and allegories of Venice, and finally the spire, topped with a golden weather vane representing Angel Gabriel.
St. Mark’s Campanile counts 5 bells in total, each of which plays a very specific role:
- The Marangona heralds the beginning and end of the working day
- The Nona rings noon
- The Trotteria announces a meeting of the Great Council
- The Mezza Terza announces a session of the Senate
- The Malefico announces an execution
The view from the top of St. Mark’s Campanile
An elevator leads to an observatory located at the top of St. Mark’s Campanile. From there, the view on the “Serenissima” (Venice) is absolutely stunning! On a clear day, it is even possible to make out some islands in the distance, including Murano.
Getting to St. Mark’s Campanile
The nearest vaporetto stations are San Zaccaria and San Marco. They are served by lines 1, 2, 41, 42, 51, 52, N and LN.
St. Mark’s Campanile is open every day:
- From April 16th to October 31st, the tower is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- From November 1st to March 31st, the tower is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- From April 1st to April 15th, the tower is open from 9am to 5pm.
To climb to the top of St. Mark’s Campanile, full-price tickets are 8 euros, discounted fare tickets are 4 euros (students…).
Guided tour and skip-the-line tickets
If you are curious to learn more about Venice and want to avoid queuing at the entrance to St. Mark’s Campanile, Captain Ulysses recommends that you opt for a private tour of the monuments around St. Mark’s Square which includes skip-the-line access to the Campanile.
Venice is a very touristy city and you’ll have plenty hotels to choose from, but, be warned: they are overall rather expensive. If your budget is tight, Captain Ulysses suggests staying in Mestre, just outside of Venice, where hotels are much more affordable and you’ll find regular buses to Venice. Find out more here. For intermediate budgets, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Hotel Le Isole: ideally located a few steps from St. Mark’s Square, this beautiful hotel boasts spacious and elegant rooms. And if you’re looking for a more luxurious option in Venice, then Captain Ulysses most definitely recommends the Londra Palace nestled in a Venetian palace on the Riva degli Schiavoni.
Tickets, guided tours, gondola tours, day-trips… There are plenty of things to do in Venice. But the city is often packed with tourists, which is why Captain Ulysses recommend that you book your activities online and opt for skip-the-line tickets. The Captain suggests having a look at Musement and Tiqets, which are online platforms specialised in selling tourist activities worldwide.
Venice is synonymous gondola and vaporetto. As an accomplished sailor, Captain Ulysses can only recommend that you embark on a boat ride on the Venetian canals. But beware of cams: some gondoliers tend to take advantage of tourists! That’s why the Captain advises that you book your boat tour on a reputable website like here or here.
If you’re planning on visiting all of Venice’s top sights, Captain Ulysses recommends you to opt for a Citypass,which will give you access to a selection of the city’s must-see sights and monuments. There’s a variety of citypasses to choose from. Find out more here.
To get to Venice from the airport, you’ll have four poptions: the bus, the vaporetto (orange Alilaguna Arancio line), the taxi or the water taxi. It’s up to you to choose the option that works best for you! 🙂 Be aware, however, that the historic centre is pedestrian, and buses and taxis are not allowed to operate there.
Get ready to walk. The historic centre is not accessible to buses or cars. The local type of public transport is the vaporetto: boats travelling on the water. If you’re planning on using the vaporetto regularly (in Venice or to visit the surrounding islands like Murano and Burano), or if you are staying in Mestre and have to take the bus to Venice everyday, you might want to consider opting for a Public Transport Pass. You can book it here.
Venice is a city easily accessible by plane, train and bus. To book your plane tickets, Captain Ulysses recommends Skyscanner, which allows you to compare countless flights to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible. Overnight trains are also a great way to save time (and money) ! For more information, visit Trainline.com.
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