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Because of its long and glorious past, Venice's architecture is varied and fascinating. From the Byzantine, the Baroque, and the Gothic to the Neo-Classical, many of Venice's most distinct facades carry an a Byzantine or near-Eastern influence, as seen in the shape of the windows on one of Venice's best known palazze, Ca' d'Oro, and the Doge's Palace in San Marco. A trip down Venice's Grand Canal--by gondola or vaporetto--is the perfect opportunity to see the facades of these renowned palaces in all their glory. Many palaces are accessible to the public and worth checking out for their lavish interiors. Some, like the Palazzo Grassi and the Palazzo Venier del Leoni are now museums--the latter now commonly known as the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
Venice's historical connection to the Byzantine world is readily seen in some of its older architecture, most notably in the Basilica San Marco. The domes, walls, and floors of the basilica are covered with breathtakingly beautiful and detailed golden mosaics. The island of Torcello in Venice's lagoon (accessible by vaporetto) also possesses another Byzantine treasure, the Basilica di Santa Maria dell'Assunta, a cathedral that is the oldest building in the lagoon (built in 639 A.D.) and contains mosaics crafted by artisans from Constantinople. Another magnificent Byzantine church is seen on the island of Murano, the Basilica dei Santi Maria e Donato.
It goes without saying that the aforementioned Doge's Palace is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture; its foundations are as old as the ninth century, and construction on the building continued into the fourteenth century. It is a must see.
Venice's churches also encompass a wide range of architectural styles. Santa Maria della Salute marks the entrance to the Grand Canal with its imposing Baroque dome against the skyline. Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is austerely Gothic and imposing, its plain facade masking many artistic treasures within (Titian's Assumption of the Virgin, a monument to the artist, and the neo-Classical tomb of sculptor Antonio Canova). The Church of San Salvatore is a marvelous example of Renaissance style (as is Santa Maria dei Miracoli), whereas the Church on the tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore are coolly Classic, in the style of ancient Rome.
There are possibly 8 surviving buildings designed by Andrea Palladio (1508 - 1580) in Venice compared with 21 in the city of Vicenza and no fewer than 31 scattered throughout the Veneto as far east as the Palazzo Pretorio in Cividale del Friuli and as far west as the Villa Serego-Innocenti at Santa Sophia di Pedemonte west of Verona.
1557 Designs for San Pietro in Castello but supervison of construction passed to other hands
1560 - 63 The Refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore
1560 Monastery of S. Maria della Carita - modified in 1807 to be the Accademia di Belle Arti
1562 San Francesco della Vigna (Facade only), rest of church designed by Sansovino in 1534
1564 San Lucia, demolished to make way for the Railway Station
1564 Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (not completed until after Palladio's death in 1580)
1570 Scuola dei Mercanti (now the church hall of Madonna dell'Orto ) has been attributed to Palladio
1576 Il Redentore (Not consecrated until 1592)
1577 - 80 S. Maria della Presentazione (Le Zitelle) (Completed in 1586)
Palladio's design for a Rialto Bridge (Built 1588-92) were rejected, as were designs by Michelangelo, Vignola,and Sansovino, in favour of a design by the relatively unknown Antonio da Ponte.