Venice reveals 500-year-old landmark

Whoever believes tourists have already discovered everything there is to see in Venice is wrong: A 500-year-old palazzo on St. Mark's Square will be renovated and opened to the public for the first time.

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 traveler. 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.

British architect David Chipperfield is bringing his expertise in restoring historic buildings to a familiar, but perhaps overlooked, 500-year-old palazzo that forms part of the colonnaded perimeter of Venice's St. Mark's Square.

The project unveiled Tuesday is the initiative of the Italian insurer Generali, which made its Italian headquarters in the Procuratie Vecchie palace from 1832. The restoration involves 11,000 square meters over four floors and is to be completed by 2020. The restored building will be open to the public with events around Generali's new Human Safety Net initiative.

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The royal gardens on the Giudecca canal side of the Procuratie Nuove will also be renovated. Once the domain of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, popularly known as Sissi, they have long fallen into disuse.

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However, the gardens will not be restored to the splendor of Sissi's era, an age when her Moravian gardeners would transport vases and vases of rare begonias, geraniums and orchids from Vienna to Venice for the duration of her stay. Recreating Sissi's royal garden would be too costly; instead, the project will incorporate more trees and plants to shade and give respite to Venetians and tourists alike.

In addition, a bridge from the gardens through the southern-flanking Procuratie Nuove and into Piazza San Marco will be reopened after many years, giving the public new views on the city's most historic piazza.

fm/eg (AP, lonelyplanet)