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St. Mark's Basilica brings Italy tours to the next level

Venice's St. Mark's Basilica stands out as one of the highlights of a tour of Italy. One of the best examples of Eastern influence on Western architecture, the enormous church is among the most recognizable structures in Europe. While simply admiring St. Mark's from the outside and standing in its cavernous interior will be a memorable experience, you should make a point to visit its outdoor Loggia dei Cavalli.

The Loggia dei Cavalli is the balcony that sits in front of the basilica and offers one of the most breathtaking views of St. Mark's Square. Once you reach the balcony, which is at the end of a steep flight of stairs, you should be on the lookout for a number of famous landmarks. For instance, the clock tower Torre dell'Orologio, which dates back at least 500 years, is visible to your right, and to your left is a view of the Campanile, the bell tower.

While the panorama seen from the Loggia dei Cavalli is the eventual goal, the trip up there provides you with a closer look at the basilica's world famous artwork. For instance, you can get a close look at the many gold-plated Byzantine-era mosaics that decorate much of the interior.

The most iconic piece of artwork on the inside of St. Mark's Basilica is the Pala D'Oro, or Golden Alterpiece. Intricately designed, the Pala D'Oro, many consider it to be one of the most refined pieces of Byzantine art in the world, and with good reason. There are an estimated 2,000 precious gems included in the artwork, along with more than 250 enameled panels. The stunning piece will certainly leave a lasting impression once you wrap up your tour of Italy.

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