As the principal public space in Venice, Piazza San Marco is the social, political and religious centre of the city. It is also the tourist centre of Venice and plays hosts to crowds of tourists.
At the eastern end, the imposing presence of the Church of Saint Mark dominates the square. The spectacular marble decoration, grand arches and sculptures provide a focal point as the building presides over the entire piazza.
The buildings to the side of the square were built in the 16th century for the procurators of Saint Mark, officers of state at a time when the Republic of Venice was a great trading nation and major political force.
The square is now a major tourist attractionwith shops and restaurants surrounding the square. Cafffe Quadri and Caffe Florian are two of the most famous. During the Austrian occupation of Venice in the 19th century, the Austrians would patronise Caffe Quadri while the Venetians preferred Caffe Florian on the other side of the piazza.
Luggage, including backpacks, may not be taken into the Basilica. It may be deposited for freeÂ at Ateneo San Basso, Piazzetta dei Leoncini.
The image above is by Canaletto, painted in 1720.