Doge’s Palace private tour before it opens to the public and private closed-doors tour of St Mark’s Basilica and the crypt (not open to the public).

After a very romantic sunset cruise around the Grand Canal on Sunday, we woke up the next morning with two very special and privileged activities in our schedule. The day was really foggy, so some pictures do not fully capture the esplendor of the buildings, but at the same time, it made for a very special and moody day. Perfect to imagine Lord Byron making up stories about the Bridge of Sighs.

First, we accessed the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) before it opened to the public, so we could enjoy everything, from the courtyard to the golden stairs and all the rooms, including the bridge and the cells, by ourselves (and our guide, who kept giving us interesting history lessons and trivia throughout the visit). We even visited Anselm Kiefer’s exhibition in the Sala dello Scrutinio at the Palazzo Ducale, which had just opened two days ago (and it runs until October 29) as a wonderful prelude of The Venice Biennale.

Then, after a delicious seafood lunch onboard the ship, we went back out again to witness a very unique experience: the after hours, private, closed-doors visit to St Mark’s Basilica (officially Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, or Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), where they very dramatically turned the lights on for us one by one, giving its gold mosaics all the vibrancy and produce the full “God’s light” effect. We were even allowed to visit the crypt, not usually open to the public. Interestingly enough, I felt like I knew that crypt very well, as it was perfectly reproduced in one of the missions of the excellent videogame The Witcher III: Wild Hunt.

Almost overwhelmed with art and history, we went back to the ship to have dinner and sleep, still in awe.

Some photos here