In the poetic scenery of Venice, where every building seems to be dressed up for the carnival, the bell tower in Piazza San Marco is the only skyscraper. Piercing the sky with its austere and simplistic look, is in dissonance with the rest of the setting. Compared with the bells and whistles of Saint Mark’s facade, it looks totally out of place, even blocking the view with its brick like colors in a square enclosed with white walls.

But locals are enamored of this Venetian symbol and its tragic past, that made it crumble to the consternation of the entire city. It was in 1902, when the four centuries than tower begin to show cracks, than obvious structural problems. And it was suddenly just a pile of rubble, to the desolation of the helpless Italians gathered around. The tower with a pyramid on top was for so long part of the visual contour of the city on the lagoon, that they promised to rebuild it.

The current shape is a reproduction of the previous and is still undergoing serious consolidation. It was meant for a practical purpose, overseeing the city against fires or attacks, and signaling to the approaching ships during the night and storms. Of course, it also hosts the bells of San Marco Basilica.

For tourists, of course, the campanile is an opportunity not to be refused to get a 360 degrees view over Venice. Thankfully, it is now featured with an elevator, that gets you effortless to the room with colonnades where the bells are. Above that cut out level there is another row of red bricks, than the pointed green roof in the shape of a square pyramid. An finally, the gilded statue of St Gabriel, that also acts as a weather vane. In total, almost 100 meters in height.

The greatest surprise when seeing Venice from this height is that the canals, that form an incredible labyrinth from ground level, magically disappear. The only water you see is the closest canal and the distant waters around the curious city. The rest of the “water streets” become invisible, and the town look as compact as any other city. Of course, a historic city, with beautiful crimson tile roofs everywhere around. The exception are the five domes of Cathedral San Marco, with their cement like color, composing together a cross.

In the old days, the Venetians could identify the sound of each bells, decoding the signal for good or bad news. Now tourists are the only ones who enjoy the benefits of this campanile, to explore the rooftops of Doge’s Palace, the agitation of tiny people and doves in Plaza San Marco, or the flow of gondolas on the green waters of channels.
The square tower has become part of defining elements of Venetian Gothic, being called this was everywhere it is encountered. For instance, in one of the largest public squares in Barcelona there are two such Venetian towers, left from a world exhibition in 1929. The two Venetian towers in Plaza d’Espana are a relatively faithful replica of the one in Italy, by their height is only 47 m, almost half of the original.

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The Campanile of Saint Mark, the place to get panoramic views over Venice, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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