Now reunited, we headed over to the administrative office of the nearby Museum Correr, where we would get the pre-paid tickets (and meet our tourguide) for our 3pm tour of St. Mark's clocktower.
Walking to Clocktower Tour
About eight of us in total walked over, with our tourguide, back across the Piazza towards the clocktower. Known as St. Mark's Clocktower, it is an obvious and interesting point of interest in Piazza San Marco, sporting a multi-faceted display with celestial symbols, digits, numerals, and figurines. Positioned at the northeast corner, the clocktower was built so that it could be seen from the ships at sea when they approached Venice. This allowed mariners to easily see the time.
The entrance to the tower was very nondescript: a narrow little wooden-panelled door in the street that runs under the tower. Slipping us all in one-by-one, we climbed a narrow spiral staircase to the first main floor.
Weight-room and former dining room
Until recently, the clocktower was manned by a succession of families descended from the first clock-master, and apparently they lived in the rooms in and around the clock's mechanisms. In the case of the dining room, the space was shared with weights, which came down through holes in the ceiling.
It wasn't until the final major restoration (in the late 1990s) that the family dynasty that managed the clock finally ended. The major refurbishment of the clock, done by the swiss watchmaker Piaget, automated many systems and allowed it to run without human intervention. And so, we were able to take this tour we were on without having to wander through what was effectively someone's house.
Our tourguide led us upward through the levels of the tower - the level with the weights, the level with the main clock mechanism, the level with the "digital" barrels, and finally, the top, out onto the roof with the twin bronze moor statues, poised to strike the large exposed bell at the next hour mark.
In addition to viewing the external attributes of the clocktower up close, we were also treated to a great above-the-rooftops view of Venice, as well as a unique view down onto Piazza San Marco.
We were ushered back down the stairs before the striking of the hour (apparently it is museum policy to not have visitors near the bell when it is being struck). Once back down on terra firma, we re-crossed the Piazza San Marco and returned to the Correr Museum (Our clocktower tour tickets also permitted us to visit the museum, so we decided to take advantage of that).
We spent about an hour visiting the Correr Museum, specifically, the newly opened Imperial Rooms section. These were chambers dating from the Napoleonic and Hapsburg periods (early to mid 1800s), and they contained many beautiful neoclassical and napoleonic-styled elements.
Italians also have two-headed birds
We finished our visit to the Correr Museum shortly after five, and began the long walk back across the city to our apartment. The main streets leading out of the San Marco district were thick with people, and remained so until well after we crossed over the Grand Canal at the Rialto bridge. Gradually, though, the streets became quieter as we neared the Dorsoduro district.
Main Street Venice = busy