The Palazzo Ducale is without doubt one of the top must-visit attractions in Venice; once the residence of the Doge and the seat of government, it’s a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, full of vast stately rooms, monumental staircases and ornate painted hallways that conjure up the former magnificence of the Venetian Republic.
But to really get to grips with the history of this remarkable building, we highly recommend booking a place on the “Doge’s Hidden Treasures” tour, which takes you far from the usual visitor route, and allows you to discover some of the most hidden corners of the Palace, rich with history, secrets and intrigue.
Led by one of the museum’s expert guides, you’ll start your tour with a brief introduction to the Palace in the main courtyard, before heading upstairs to the Loggiato – a sweeping terrace overlooking St Mark’s Square, where the Doge would have appeared before his people during public events. From here, you’ll continue to the Renaissance Loggia Foscara to discover a glittering collection of State Treasures conserved in the Palace coffers, before exploring a series of ornately decorated chambers that once served as the Doge’s Private Apartments. Next, as you climb a steep staircase leading to his private chapel, you’ll encounter an extremely rare fresco depicting St Christopher, painted by the great Renaissance master Titian in 1523-4.
Finally, your visit will culminate with a chance to admire the exquisitely decorated Chiesetta and Antichiesetta, which have recently been restored to their former glory following a lengthy conservation campaign. Here, along with a series of beautiful trompe-l’oeil murals, you’ll find a sublime statue of the Virgin and Child by Jacopo Sansovino, as well as the original models that Sebastiano Ricci used for the second arch of the Basilica di San Marco, depicting The Translation of the Body of St Mark.
Places on the daily tours are limited and often get booked up far in advance, so be sure to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.