Lonely Planet Writer

Venice will reveal 500-year-old secrets with new renovation

With 60,000 visitors flocking to the city of Venice every day, it may seem like there’s nothing left to discover for the seasoned traveller. Now a major restoration in Piazza San Marco – or St Mark’s Square – will open up one of the city’s most famous buildings for the first time in 500 years.

The view along Procuratie Vecchie towards Basilica di San Marco and Campanile at dusk. Photo by Eye Ubiquitous

Built in the 1530s, the Procuratie Vecchie is the oldest of the three connected buildings that make up the Procuratie and stretches 500 feet to the north of the famous square. While the stone arches have long been a landmark for visitors, now a restoration means you’ll soon be able to explore the inside of the building.

Once renovated, the inside of the four-storey building will be used as a space for events like art exhibitions and seminars and will also house a centre to help people in need, including refugees. A secret passageway leading from the square to the Royal Gardens will be opened to the public and the gardens themselves will be restored as a public park with new features. Hidden courtyards will be opened up and the top of the building will also give visitors a fresh perspective on the city’s lagoon.

The new restoration will open up Procuratie Vecchie to the public. Photo by David Zimmerman

The historical building has been used as offices for insurance company Assicurazioni Generali for the last 185 years and, after finding new headquarters, they are financing the project. A representative for the company said “the idea is to create something in Venice that doesn’t rely on tourism. It will open up new vistas.”

Award-winning architect David Chipperfield will be designing the restoration and called it “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.”

All material brought to and from the building will have to travel via Venice’s famous canals but the end result should be worth the effort. It is hoped the doors of the Procuratie Vecchie will be open by 2020.