The Piazza San Marco is the “living testimony of Venice's links with Byzantium," writes Time Out, describing the legend of Venetian merchants smuggling St Mark’s body out of Egypt hidden in a barrel of pork fat. You can see the horrified officials recoiling from the contaminated hamper in the second portal mosaic from the right, while in the far-left portal, Venetian merchants hot-foot the stolen body into the cathedral. It actually took the best Byzantine artisans over 800 years to finish the golden basilica, enshrining “both the relic and Venice’s trading prowess in one unmistakable monument.”
Go now, and go often. In the morning, the façade dazzles as the sun strikes the golden mosaic and in the evening, when the tourists go home, locals gather for the evening Mass. “Life has revolved around this piazza since the days of the Republic, when it was a market as well as the centre of civic and religious life,” explains Barbara Radcliffe Rogers at Planetware. “Considered one of the finest squares in the world and certainly Venice's prime attraction, it is surrounded on three sides by the stately arcades of public buildings and on the fourth, by Basilica di San Marco's riot of domes and arches and the soaring St. Mark's campanile.” And if you find the lines waiting to enter the basilica seem intimidating, “you can skip these by joining a tour.” No obstruction mars the vast stone-paved expanse of St. Mark's Square, says Radcliffe Rogers, “where the only traffic is Venetians, tourists, and the ever-present pigeons.”
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