One of Venice’s most iconic landmarks has opened its doors to the public for the first time in 500 years after a restoration project by a British architect, revealing its Renaisaance-era architecture and stunning gilt ceilings.
The imposing Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark’s Square is one of the Italian city’s most recognised facades, forming the colonnaded perimeter of the piazza and boasting an incredible 52 arches.
But despite being photographed by millions of tourists who descend on the Floating City every year, its interiors had been closed off to the public for centuries.
Now, following Sir David Chipperfield’s five-year renovation project, the 150-yard-long building has finally begun welcoming tourists – who can also enjoy spectacular views from its roof terraces.
The partly abandoned site has been transformed into a high-tech exhibition centre with new staircases and its Renaissance-era wooden beams restored.
The top-floor exhibition area will welcome tourists and visitors every day except Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the entire third floor has been taken up by the Human Safety Net Foundation, a non-profit which helps disadvantaged families, refugees and children in 23 countries.
Emma Ursich, the foundation’s director, said that the stunning palace was an appropriate location because the procurators of St Mark who once occupied the building had responsibility for the city’s widows, orphans and destitute.
She told the Times: ‘It’s a nice homage to the history and to the identity of this building that we have the home of the Human Safety Net here, which works around social inclusion.’
The new site also features a cafe and an auditorium.
The project is the brainchild of the Italian insurer Generali, which had its national headquarters in the palace from 1832.
The restoration involved 11,000 square meters over four floors but the facade remained untouched.
Chipperfield, who also led the rebuilding of the Neues Museum in Berlin, previously told The Times: ‘This was a private world and it is a pleasure to turn it into a public place.’
The Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark’s Square (pictured) is one of the Italian city’s most recognised facades, forming the colonnaded perimeter of the piazza
The partly abandoned site has been transformed into a high-tech exhibition centre with new staircases and its Renaissance-era wooden beams restored. (Pictured: A view shows a room with original frescoes in the Procuratie Vecchie)
Stunning frescoes adorn the ceilings and walls of the newly-opened Procuratie Vecchie
An exterior view of the Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark’s square, reopened to the public after 500 years, in Venice, Italy, on April 8 2022
Following Sir David Chipperfield’s five-year renovation project, the 150-yard-long building has finally begun welcoming tourists – who can also enjoy spectacular views from its roof terraces. (Pictured: Mr Chipperfield inside the Vecchie)
An artistic installation of ‘The Human Safety Net’ in one of the exhibition rooms of the Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark’s square
The Procuratie Vecchie building (pictured left), is one of the most relevant works of 16th century Italian Renaissance architecture
The stunning and incredibly tall entrance hall of the Procuratie Vecchie building after its restoration
An art installation in the exhibition space inside the newly-reopened Vecchie landmark
Rows of red seats fill the auditorium of David Chipperfield’s renovated Procuratie Vecchie that has reopened after restoration in Venice
The main facade of the Vecchie (pictured) has 52 arches on the ground level and 300 windows above and was a common meeting place for Venetians
A visitor walks in the Procuratie Vecchie building after its restoration
The building was previously occupied by Venice’s nine procurators, drawn from the city’s richest families.
They lived and worked in the Procuratie and took care of the basilica while also providing charitable assistance to the poor and managing residents’ wills.
They represented the elite of Venetian society and their office was second only to the doge.
Alberto Torsello, the building’s site manager, said in February: ‘They were part of that rigid control over Venetians that made Venice so successful, and the fact they lived overlooking the most important square in the city symbolised that control.’
The first building was completed in 1532 before a second twin facade on the other side of the square was added in the same century.
The second building would later house the renowned Caffe Florian which served Enlightenment intelligentsia and famous writers and artists such as Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Lord Byron and Goethe.
In Venice, the famed Piazza San Marco (pictured) has welcomed the restoration of the Procuratie Vecchie (seen left), one of the most relevant works of 16th century
Views from the terrace of the Vecchie – opened for the first time to the public in 500 years
One of the public rooms of the Procuratie Vecchie in St Mark’s square, boasting a modern and sleek design
Visitors view an interactive exhibition during a press preview in the Procuratie Vecchie building after its restoration, on March 30
People stand on a terrace atop the Procuratie Vecchie building, taking in stunning views of the Piazza below
Visitors don face masks as they walk up the stairway in the Procuratie Vecchie building after its restoration
A visitor views an interactive permanent exhibition in the Procuratie Vecchie building
An interior view of David Chipperfield’s renovated Procuratie Vecchie that has reopened after restoration in Venice
A visitor reads a book in peace in a public reading room inside the Procuratie Vecchie building after its five-year restoration
Chandeliers and frescoes adorn one of the rooms inside the Vecchie landmark
A view of a terrace of David Chipperfield’s renovated Procuratie Vecchie – which has never been open to the public
One of the conference rooms inside the Vecchie following a five-year restoration project
Visitors climb the stairs of the newly-reopened Vecchie building, which has not welcomed the public in more than 500 years
The main facade has 52 arches on the ground level and 300 windows above and was a common meeting place for Venetians.
During the period of French occupation under Napoleon, the Procuratie was turned into an official royal residence and a church and a section of the building were demolished.
It was later occupied by Generali before they departed in 1989 and since then the building has been mostly deserted.
But the insurance company returned to revamp St Mark’s Square, creating a roof terrace, 200-seat auditorium and big screens for exhibitions.
On the first floor, chandeliers and frescoes from the 19th century have been restored where the company’s former management offices were located.
While tourists may take the collective Procuratie for granted, Chipperfield says the three interconnected buildings that form it are admired by architects for ‘the sort of ruthlessness of a building that is that long, that makes a square.’
Marble skirting on the ground floor will protect the rooms from flood waters in the lowest area of Venice which goes underwater when tides rise by 90cm.