The tour starts at 1045h (10:45am) at the exchange office ‘YEX’ at the Clock Tower in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). You will be led by an expert guide and the languages spoken on the tour will vary according to the day of the week.
You will visit the Doges Palace (Palazzo Ducale), once the residence of the Doge, the Chief Magistrate and leader of the Venetian Republic. Your tour includes a ‘Skip the Line’ ticket to the Palace which means you don’t have to waste time queuing. It also includes an audio receiver which amplifies the commentary by your guide so that you can hear everything clearly.
Built in Gothic style, the Palace dates from the 14th century. You will see the magnificent Grand Council Chamber (or Sala del Maggior Consiglio) where up to 2000 members of the aristocracy could meet at one time. Designed to impress, this monumental hall is covered in sumptuous decoration and contains the world’s largest oil painting, ‘Paradise’ by the renowned master Tintoretto and his son Domenico.
Climb the beautiful Golden Staircase (Scala d'Oro), with its gleaming golden stucco, to view the rooms once used by the Doge. Today, these are unfurnished thanks to looting by Napoleon's army, but you can still see the glorious ceilings and imposing stone fireplaces.
Enter the Hall of the Council of the Ten, former meeting place of the most feared Tribunal of the Venetian Republic. Those found guilty by this court would be thrown into the grim Palace Prisons. View these prisons and hear the story of one of the most famous inmates, the adventurer and womanizer Giacomo Casanova, who made a brilliant escape from the upper floor.
And of course you will see the renowned Bridge of Sighs, which connects the Old Prisons in the Doge’s Palace with the New Prisons beyond the Palazzo River.
Your tour also includes ‘Skip the Line’ entry to the majestic Basilica San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica), the greatest of Venice’s monuments. Built in the 9th century, this huge Basilica (or Cathedral) is one of the world’s best examples of Byzantine architecture.
Marvel at the stunning golden ceiling mosaics telling the story of the Gospels over an expanse of 8,000 square meters. View the incredible San Marco Treasury – a vast assemblage of gold, silver, glass and other precious materials. Many of these were brought back from conquests in the Holy Land when Venice was at the height of its power.
But save your greatest admiration for the Basilica’s most precious possession – the eye-popping Pala d'Oro, an exquisite altar screen made from hundreds of pieces of enamel stuck onto gold leaf and enriched with all kinds of gems: sapphires, garnets, pearls, emeralds, amethysts, rubies, agate and topaz.
Your tour of the Doge’s Palace and Basilica will take around 2 hours and you will then enjoy a return trip by private boat to Murano Island. Here you can visit a factory to see Murano’s famous glass being made.
The excursion to Murano takes around 2 hours. At the end, you will be dropped close to St Mark’s Square.