The Skip the Line: Venice Walking Tour with St Mark’s Basilica is a tour of amazing contrasts. The first part covers the most important attractions in Venice around the bustling Piazza San Marco. In the second, you negotiate the labyrinth of alleyways and bridges over the canals to quiet secluded places and beautiful squares (campos) free from crowds. The route ends at the famous Rialto Bridge next to the Grand Canal.
Starting outside the Doges’ Palace, the seat of the Republic’s power until 1797, the tour moves through the Piazzetta with its two soaring granite columns marking the gateway to the city, then stops in front of the Torre dell’Oriologio (the Clock Tower). Here you see the two famous Moor statues hammering the hours on the great bell in front of the towering Campanile di San Marco, 324 feet high and providing a panoramic view over the city.
Skipping the Line means avoiding the queues to enter the St Mark’s Basilica, one of the most ornate and magnificent buildings in the world, housing the body of St Mark, recovered from Alexandria by Venetian traders. The sheer magnificence of the interior is overwhelming with glittering mosaic ceilings and opulence beyond imagination. The undulating floors are, however, a constant reminder of the constant threat of flooding and the devastation it can bring.
From here, however, you experience a different Venice as the tour weaves its way to Campo Santa Maria Formosa, one of the oldest churches in Venice and is surrounded by beautifully ornate 13th and 16th century buildings, which are now hotels. The crowds disappear and you follow a series of bridges and canals with gondolas gliding by until you reach the beautiful Santi Giovanni e Paolo, one of the Venetians’ favourite churches often abbreviated to ‘San Zanipolo’. Around it is a beautiful campo often filled with young families.
The final part of the journey takes you deep beneath the city’s buildings where you see the courtyard where Venice’s greatest explorer, Marco Polo, lived before you rejoin the main route to the Rialto Bridge and the crowded thoroughfares again. This is definitely a journey of two halves combining regal splendour with quiet and reflective solitude.