Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Discover the secret world inside the Doge’s Palace. Learn about this fascinating history.

If you’re visiting Venice, you’ll certainly want to spend some time in one of the most popular areas. While I do enjoy wandering to the lesser known spots, sometimes you have to see the famous tourist traps. There’s a reason why they are so beloved, and usually it’s because there’s something really cool there. In this case, one of the most crowded places is St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), home to a few prominent attractions. There’s St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile, the Bridge of Sighs, and Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale). While it would be fun to merely marvel at the intricate architecture, I prefer to learn more about the history of a place when I travel. The best way to learn is by taking a tour with an expert. This person can teach you about the background of a historical site, and hopefully even tell a few memorable stories. If you enjoy exploring what’s beyond the surface, you should take the Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries Tour.

Booking the Tour

A regular ticket to the Doge’s Palace will allow you to walk around many public rooms in the building that are quite enchanting. On the Secret Itineraries tour, a guide will go into detail about some of the private rooms and chambers where many important administrative duties were carried out behind the scenes. Though you could hardly tell from the bright and shiny exterior of the courtyard, the palace has a dark past. There are musty prisons, hidden passageways, secret rooms, and torture chambers. These areas of the palace are only available to those who purchase a Secret Itineraries ticket in advance. I highly recommend that you don’t wait too long to book your ticket as they do sell out. There are English tours three times daily (9:55, 10:45, 11:35) and the tour lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes. After the tour is over, guests are free to explore the rest of the palace for as long as they’d like. As the tour is pre-booked, it’s a great way to avoid huge line-ups. We booked our tickets online in advance without any issues and brought our receipt to a desk near the front entrance. From there, we were allowed straight into the property where we walked around the courtyard until our tour officially started. Tickets are €20,50 for adults and €14,50 for children/youth/seniors.

Bridge of Sighs

Before entering Doge’s Palace, we caught some glimpses of the famous landmark, the Bridge of Sighs.

Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is an enclosed bridge that was constructed in 1600. It passes over the Rio di Palazzo, connecting the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace to the New Prison. These small glimpses of Venice through the tiny windows along the bridge were the prisoners’ last views of the outside world as they were moved to their jail cells.

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

The Palace Courtyard

Before the tour started, we walked around the courtyard, admiring the grandiose arches and detailed statues.

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries Tour

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. She provided us with a detailed account of Venice’s judicial and political history, and how that related to the spaces around the palace. The Doge of Venice was the supreme magistrate and leader of Venice for over 1000 years. Doges were appointed to hold their positions for life. Typically, an elderly man was purposely chosen so he wouldn’t hold the position for too long.

We learned that the true power of the Venetian Republic was not fully revealed in the extravagantly decorated public rooms. The important decisions were decided in tiny offices and secret rooms hidden down narrow passageways. There was a secret service that worked in the palace to seek out troubled citizens. This included 10 judges and a special council of three. Anyone could accuse someone else of a wrongdoing by writing it on a paper and slipping it through the stonework slots (decorated as a lion’s mouth) on the sides of the palace walls. These accusations were investigated and many individuals were brought to trial. However, a person who accused someone who wasn’t guilty could face harsh penalties themselves. Those who were found guilty of crimes could be held as prisoners at the palace, faced exile, could be tortured, or even executed publicly in the square.

The Old Prison

Our first stop was the Old Prison on the ground floor. In the 12th century, there were a few holding cells; however, many more were built in the 13th and 14th centuries to occupy the whole ground floor. These were not very comfortable places to live. The cells were exposed to many elements, including extreme heat, cold, and flooding. They were dark and did not have proper ventilation. These spaces became known as the Pozzi (the Wells). The walls are covered in graffiti scrawled by former prisoners.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour

Chamber of the Secret Chancellery

The full council was responsible for organizing the work of the Senate. The Chamber of the Secret Chancellery is lined with wooden lockers that contained secret documents. The locker doors are decorated with coats-of-arms for each chancellor from 1268 and on.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Torture Chamber

Also known as the Chamber of Torment, prisoners were brought here to be interrogated by the judges. The inmate would be hung by the rope with his arms tied behind his back. These practices of torture were gradually stopped in the 17th century.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Piombi

The Piombi (The Leads) were forerunners to the New Prison. These were special cells beneath the roof of Doge’s Palace, reserved for special cases being looked at by the Council of Ten. These cells offered much better living quarters than those in the Old Prison and often housed prisoners of a higher status. The most famous prisoner was Giacomo Casanova and he was held captive in the Piombi. Casanova was an Italian author, adventurer, and famous womanizer. He was sentenced to five years in the Piombi without a trial. Although he was closely guarded, Casanova escaped his prison cell after being confined there for one year. Allegedly, Casanova made friends with an imprisoned monk in a neighboring cell. They communicated with each other by exchanging books back and forth. Casanova sent the monk a pointed instrument hidden within a book and beneath a platter of food. The monk cut a hole in the ceiling, connecting both of their cells. Together, they were able to escape. Many historians are skeptical of Casanova’s story. They think that he simply bribed his way out of prison, and constructed this elaborate heroic tale after the fact.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice
In the doorway of Casanova’s jail cell

 

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Attic

Our tour group ventured up to the attic of Doge’s Palace, which also housed many weapons. We browsed the armory and even caught a peek at the rafters above the Hall of the Great Council.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Chamber of the Inquisitors

In order to protect state secrets, three inquisitors were chosen: two were picked from the Council of Ten, and the third was selected from the district councillors who waited on the Doge. They were all sworn to secrecy, no matter what information they discovered. The inquisitors were allowed to obtain this information by any means possible, even torture. The room has a secret entrance behind a wooden wardrobe. The passageway behind the wardrobe leads directly to the Chamber of the Council of Ten. The room was very elaborately decorated, with elaborately designed walls and ornately painted ceilings that date back to the 1500s.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice
Secret Doorway…Behind There!

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Chamber of the Three Heads

These three judges were picked each month from the Council of Ten. They were responsible for overseeing court cases and ensuring that the rulings were swiftly carried out.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Public Spaces on the 1st and 2nd Floors

Our tour came to an end when we reached the public spaces of the palace. These larger rooms on the first and second floors are accessible to anyone who purchases a regular ticket to the Doge’s Palace. Access to these areas comes with a Secret Itineraries tour ticket. We bid our insightful tour guide farewell and ventured out on our own, just the two of us. It’s quite amazing to witness the highly detailed paintings completely covering the walls and ceilings. Behind those lavish embellishments are many stories and secrets that will always remain a mystery.

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Secret Itineraries Doge's Palace Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice
Looking outside the palace windows

 

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice
Walking across the Bridge of Sighs

 

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour Venice

Summary

We thought this tour was very interesting and led by a highly educated guide. It was well worth the price of admission and it was really fun being able to view secluded places with a small group. Not really into history? You might not enjoy it. If you find yourself with a few days in Venice and you adore learning about what’s beyond the surface, I would book this tour!

Be sure to book in advance – all of the info is available here.

 

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Doge\'s Palace 45.433704, 12.340389 Doge\'s Palace Secret Itineraries TourPalazzo Ducale, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy (Directions)

Doge's Palace Secret Itineraries Tour in Venice, Italy

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10 Responses

  1. Hung Thai
    | Reply

    Incredibly beautiful and historic place. I wish I had a better camera and photography skills when we visited Doge’s Palace in 2014. All our pictures turned out so dark, but I guess I can relive my memories through your pictures though. Thanks!

  2. Jessica
    | Reply

    That’s an interesting and cool tour. Something to add whenever I am in Venice (which I’ve been wishing for). The Chamber of the Secret Chancellery amazes me, keeping all those details in a genuine place.

  3. Tracie Howe
    | Reply

    Venice has such incredible views outside that you don’t often see the interiors of the fascinating city. I wish I had spent more time exploring buildings like the Doge’s Palace. What an intriguing place! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Gemma
    | Reply

    Europe does lavish buildings well! Is that where the term Casanova came from? Unique trip, thanks for sharing it, will pin for when I get back to Italy.

  5. Karla | karlaroundtheworld
    | Reply

    Venice was nice but I missed out on the tour. Sometimes though I feel, it is better to get one so you know more history about the place compared to just seeing how picturesque it is. I learned my lesson now. Tour guide it is.

  6. Trisha Velarmino
    | Reply

    BEAUTIFUL pictures from you guys! The architectural craftsmanship is impeccable. You guys seem to have throughly enjoyed Venice. It’s a great romantic city perfect for travelling couples. I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the palace! I’m not that accustomed to taking tours but this seems like a wonderful idea!

  7. Marta Cunha Grilo
    | Reply

    Didn’t visit that when I was there! Guess I have to come back to discover this place!

  8. Cendrine Marrouat
    | Reply

    I was in Venice two years ago but didn’t have time to visit the palace. These photos are simply stunning! Thank you!

  9. connie
    | Reply

    Well written article. My daughter and I are going to Italy this summer!! We have booked some tours in each city we visit. What kind of camera did you use? You have some beautiful picture.

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