I mentioned before that our planning for Venice was less than spectacular (which, as long time readers of this blog know is completely out of character for me). The one thing we did plan, however, was The Doge’s Hidden Treasures Tour. We purchased our tickets (required) a couple of weeks beforehand and planned to take the tour our first full day there. Except for feedback on TripAdvisor, we had no idea what to expect. I should probably admit that Alan and I aren’t exactly huge museum people. We like art well enough (in fact, I very nearly had enough credits in college to have a second minor in Art History), but we don’t really enjoy the zombie shuffle from one room to the next and all the people crowded around a painting. Also, for me, most museums are usually stifling hot and after too long I get dizzy and feel like throwing up (thank you broken thyroid!).
Doge’s Palace Hidden Treasures Tour
Following the extensive conservative restoration work that has restored the original splendour of its interior, the evocative rooms of the Chiesetta and Antichiesetta del Doge will be the fulcrum of a new, fascinating artistic-historical tour to discover The Doge’s Hidden Treasures in the Doge’s Palace. The new itinerary unfolds in the Doge’s private rooms in the wing of the Doge’s Palace adjacent to the Basilica. After entering near the Porta della Carta with its lavish sculptures and marble decorations, visitors go up to the Loggiato, which is where the ruler of the Most Serene Republic would appear during public events. From this vantage point visitors can admire the entire area of Saint Mark’s with the buildings from different periods and in different styles that still mark the boundary. From there one continues to the Loggia Foscara, a Renaissance addition to the original Gothic arrangement of the Doge’s Palace. Inside are the coffers where the State Treasures are conserved. From here the itinerary continues to the hanging Terrace and, going through part of the Doge’s Apartment – where he enjoyed his private life with his family, the scudieri and servants’ quarters, we continue up a steep staircase that is embellished with a picture by Titian of Saint Christopher, up to the Chiesetta and the Antichiesetta, frescoed in the mid eighteenth century by Jacopo Guarana and Gerolamo and Agostino Mengozzi Colonna. In this brightly lit room, enlarged by the tromp l’oil of the wall frescoes, is a sculpture of Virgin with Child and Angels by Jacopo Sansovino. The models that Sebastiano Ricci used for the second arch of the Basilica with The Translation of the Body of Saint Mark are conserved in the Antichiesetta.
I think the real benefit of this tour isn’t necessarily getting to see these hidden treasures – although seeing a pristine Titian fresco was certainly worthwhile – but rather the expert guide who talked us through the history of Venice and the role the Doge’s played during the rise of Venice out of the Ottoman Empire and as a major player in Italian politics. Once we left her company I felt sort of cut adrift in a huge museum that while laid out very thoughtfully didn’t have a whole lot of information to be consumed. I guess we could have gone back downstairs and picked up an audio tour guide but the last time we had one of those (at the toy museum in Nuremberg) we found it told us about things we weren’t necessarily interested in. That’s not to say the museum doesn’t have very detailed information available for visitors to consume. It does. But it’s one placard in multiple languages that is surrounded by several people at the same time (in one room a couple was making out in front of it, making it completely useless to those of us who were looking for details about the room we were in – when several of us tried to get them to move on, they completely ignored us).
There’s another tour we didn’t do but several people I know have done it and say it was a really great way to experience the Palace. Like the Hidden Treasures tour this one requires reservations in advance.
The Secret Itinerary through the Doge’s Palace covers the rooms and chambers where the delicate work of some of the most important bodies in the Venetian administration was carried out. These spaces offer an interesting insight into and acknowledgement of the civil and political history of the Venice Republic, its public organisations, and its institutional bodies deputed to government and justice.
Now, supposedly if you buy either of these special tours you get to cut in front of the quite sizable line to get into the Palace. Technically speaking, I’m not sure how this works. To bypass the hordes and get access you need to have a ticket with a swipe embedded in it. Having a piece of paper – or an email in our case – wasn’t enough for the lady to let us through. So … we jumped the line and walked straight up to the front of the line to buy tickets and presented our email. A few people were annoyed with us, but I don’t know what else we should have done. No official members of staff seemed fazed by our line jumping – especially once I showed her the email confirmation – so while I wouldn’t advise everyone to go this route, I don’t know what else you could do if you have these special tour tickets. Because that line? It was hours, and this was in winter on a terribly rainy afternoon.
BUY TICKETS HERE: DOGE’S PALACE SECRET ITINERIES