One of Venice’s most iconic landmarks is open to the public for the first time in 500 yearsSasha Brady

History is made as a Renaissance-era landmark in Venice is now open to the public for the first time.

Visitors to Venice will now be able to enter the Procuratie Vecchie after it opened to the public for the first time in its history on April 13 following an extensive five-year renovation project.

The building stretches the entire length of the north side of the Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s Square and is arguably one of the most famous and most photographed buildings in Venice. 

Italian insurance company Geraldi and the NGO, Human Safety Net, occupy the second and parts of the third floor of the building but now visitors will be able to access the top floor where a permanent exhibition space has been installed after David Chipperfield Architects in Milan was called in to breathe new life into the iconic building.

Designers installed new spaces and opened up passageways and rooms that could be enjoyed by the public too.

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The public reading room © AFP / Getty Images

What can visitors see in Procuratie Vecchie?

The restoration created public reading rooms, exhibition and event spaces, a cafe that retains the building’s original wooden beams with terraces that look straight towards St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile (bell tower). There’s also a new rooftop pavilion that provides  some of the best vantage points of Venice, with views extending over the city skyline to the lagoon beyond.

Architects have also thrown open a hidden passageway that runs between the Piazza San Marco and the Napoleonic-era Royal Gardens. The gardens on the banks of the Grand Canal were abandoned for years and in a sorry state before being restored and transformed into a public park as part of the Procuratie Vecchie project.

Elsewhere in the building, visitors can look out for the original Venetian terrazzo flooring, ceilings, plasterwork, and frescoes that were restored during the renovation. 

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The original frescoes in the Procuratie Vecchie building after its restoration © AFP / Getty Images

Procuratie Vecchie’s history

Built in the 12th century, the Procuratie Vecchie was the seat of the Procurators of St Mark who were responsible for the management of the assets of the church. Destroyed by a fire in 1512 and rebuilt in 1538 for politicians and royalty, it is Venice’s longest building and its most iconic thanks due to its location on Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon once referred to as “the drawing room of Europe”.

In a statement, architect Sir David Chipperfield said: “this is a building with a monumental presence in a monumental square which the whole world loves. It is part of the only big civic space in Venice. It’s got an amazingly theatrical presence.”

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From the sunken terraces of the new rooftop pavilion, visitors can enjoy views of the city’s skyline © Getty Images/Collection Mix: Sub

How to visit Procuratie Vecchie

The top floor is open for visits every day except Tuesday. Entry is free but you may be charged to access exhibitions or concerts. For more information, see Procuratie Vecchie’s website

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