What’s the Doge’s Palace? The Doge’s Palace was built in 1340 to be the home of the Doges of Venice, which it was until the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797. After being the office and home of the Doges, the palace housed various other administrative offices from the subsequent governments of Venice. The palace was built in the Venetian Gothic style but was extended and redecorated so today it’s a combination of Gothic and Renaissance styles. During the time of the Doge’s it was much more than just a residence - it was also where prisoners were interrogated (especially during the time of the Inquisition), then tried and convicted, and it was even the site of public executions. Today it’s a museum and is visited by over 1.2 million people every year.
Who were the Doges?The Doges were the leaders of the Republic of Venice from 726 to 1797. Doges were elected by Venetian noblemen and served life-terms, though their power was limited over the years as functions were given to other officials or committees. In 1796 Venice was occupied by Napoleon’s troops and the Republic of Venice and the rule of the Doges came to an end. Although early Doges sometimes tried to ensure that their seat would pass to a son or relative after their death, later rules meant that the Doge couldn’t use his powers to promote family members. That being said, the small size of the Venetian aristocracy meant that Doges usually came from a handful of inter-related families. Today Venice has a mayor, chosen by popular election, and the mayor’s office is in the city hall, not in the Doge’s Palace.
What’s there to see in the Doge’s Palace?On the first floor, you’ll see the Museo dell’Opera, which was the construction office of the Doge’s Palace - the palace has been undergoing works to extend, rebuild, or preserve it since the Middle Ages and the workers were instructed from the Opera. You can also visit the internal courtyard and loggias on the upper floor, where you can also explore some of the rooms in the Doge’s apartments, before visiting the palace’s prisons and armory. Throughout you’ll see the detailed architecture, works of art by Tintoretto and Titian, and intricately painted ceilings. On your way to the prisons, you’ll also get a chance to walk over the famous Bridge of Sighs.
What’s the Bridge of Sighs?The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) is the bridge which connects the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison on the other side of the Rio de Palazzo. It was built in the year 1600 and was designed to allow prisoners to be easily brought to and from the palace where they would be interrogated, tried, and sentenced. The name was popularized by the English poet Lord Byron, who used the term in his poetry. It’s based on legends that prisoners on their way to serve their sentences would look out of the bridge’s windows and sigh at their final glimpse of the beautiful city they’d never see again.
How long should I plan for my visit?If you’re planning to take the Secret Itineraries tour, it takes about 75 minutes. It covers rooms which aren’t included in the general exhibitions, so you should then allow 1 to 2 hours to explore the main exhibition areas as well. If you’re only intending to see the main rooms then 1 to 2 hours should be plenty of time to see everything.