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  • on June 28, 2007 -
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Venice: Doge’s Palace

After St. Mark’s we headed to Doge’s (Duke’s) Palace for our Secret Itinerary tour. This needs to be booked in advance and sells out quickly (we booked directly with the palace over the phone to avoid mark-ups by ticket agencies). The Palace was the seat of Venice’s government for many centuries. The secret itinerary covers the third and fourth floors that other tourists and groups are not allowed to visit, including the various offices of the bureaucracy, prisons, attic. Our guide was excellent and as we walked through the palace rooms, explained what each was used for — where scribes made copies of official documents, where the Grand Chancellor collected and spent Venice’s money, and of course, the torture chamber and prison cells.

Doge’s Palace (right) and St. Mark’s bell tower, taken from the Vaporetto water bus

We also heard the story of Casanova’s imprisonment for over a year and his escape from the Palace, and how the largest room in the palace (made to seat 1500 people) was able to support its high, beautifully decorated ceiling with no columns for support. We even toured the attic above the giant room and saw the elaborate structure of supports (built by the ship-makers guild) holding the ceiling up. We learned about the Mouths of Truth, which were scattered through Venice almost like postboxes. Anyone was able to slip a letter into the mouth accusing someone else of crimes. These letters had to be signed since they were taken very seriously and if the charge was found to be false, the accuser could be put to death. Each mouth was for a specific crime — the one we saw in Doge’s Palace was for tax evasion. Two others were missing from the wall – they were destroyed by Napoleon since they were in the shape of Lions, the symbol of the Republic of Venice, which Napoleon conquered. After the secret tour, we were able to walk through the rest of the palace on our own. We found it very useful to have a guidebook (Frommer’s Portable Venice, from our local library) that contained information on the walking tour of Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.

No photography permitted inside the Doge’s Palace either for whatever reason.

Kathie in the Doge’s Palace courtyard, waiting for our tour to begin.

Mike in the Doge’s Palace courtyard after taking some photos

The Mouth of Truth for tax evasion.

The Bridge of Sighs, connecting the Doge’s Palace to the prison. Black & white conversion from color original.

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