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A Most Serene Republic

Free of the civil strife that plagued other nations, Venice emerged as the most legitimate Renaissance power, guaranteeing peace and glory for its subjects and distinguishing itself as the wisest of governments.

“Portrait of Doge Agostino Barbarigo”
Hall of the Great Council


Upon the death of Doge Agostino Barbarigo, the Inquisitors over the Dead Doge were created with power to arrest, imprison, and torture witnesses to any misdeeds of the late doge.


In “A Most Serene Republic”, you'll explore the glittering courtrooms and council halls of the Doge's Palace, Venice's political heart, to find out how this ingenious government really worked and discover the constitutional mechanisms and legislative procedures behind the Myth of Venice as it came to be extolled in Western political thought.  You'll also learn to decipher the huge, painted canvases that adorn the palace interiors to see how the city's ruling aristocracy envisioned the State and its role in the lives of its subjects.

Returning to the twilight of the Roman Empire, we'll first relive the invasion of the barbarian hordes as they sweep into the surrounding mainland and force the terrorized inhabitants to flee into the marshy wasteland along the shores of the fabled Seven Seas.  Here, the early refugees establish Venice's first, democratic government just as Byzantium conquers the mainland and creates the embryo of its future aristocracy.  Age-old rivalries then ignite and bitter trading disputes ensue.  Against a backdrop of violence and bloodshed, we'll witness the investiture of the first doge and learn how complex legal issues raised by the city's expanding commerce quickly began to erode his absolute power.  We'll then enter into the vast hall of the Great Council to see Venice evolve from turbulent Byzantine dukedom into serene, aristocratic republic.  Here and in the adjoining electoral hall and New Civil Quarantia courtroom we'll talk about the commissions that came to control the doge, about the elaborate electoral laws that prevented intrigue and fraud, and about the intricate appellate system and court procedures that truly ensured justice for all.  Climbing the Golden Staircase to the gilded halls of the Senate and the College, we'll learn why Venice came to captivate the political imagination of all of Europe and discover Venice's unique contributions to the development of modern constitutional theory.  We'll then enter into the chamber of the dreaded Council of Ten and a world of dissent where secret accusations became effective means to ensure collaboration and individual liberties bowed to the government's need to eliminate subversive activity.  In the Criminal Quarantia, we'll stop to learn about the institutional checks that kept judicial power from becoming a personal instrument in the hands of zealous magistrates before descending into the palace's dark prisons to learn the fate of those who disturbed the serenity of Venice.  Throughout the visit, we'll watch the government grow increasingly complex as more and more controls and magistrates are instituted to defend the State from its worst natural enemy: the ambitious and corruptible individual.


“Allegory of Vigilance” (detail)
Paolo Veronese
Hall of the College


For the turbulent states of Europe, Venice was the successful example of the unarmed city that advanced its interests and ensured peace by maintaining a balance of power with shrewd diplomacy and vigilance.



Approximately 4 hours


Doge's Palace (public halls)


  • The limits on power: from the Athenian Republic to the United States of America

  • Of courts and councils: interdependence and term limits

  • Institutionalizing virtue: personal liability in the electoral process

  • Criminal justice: individual punishment and public reparation

  • Judicial review: civil suits and the appellate process

  • Political justice: the limits on opposition

  • Of Church and State: Venice, Rome, and the Dutch Republic

  • The Aristotelian ideal: the many, the few, the one

  • The "Myth of Venice": the Venetian image in Florentine and English thought

  • The politics of art: State iconography and the republican ideal


The price indicated for this guided walking tour is intended to cover the costs of the Society's continued research initiatives and organization and is in compliance with the conditions concerning the activities of non-profit organizations as set forth in the Ministry of Finance Unified Code Article 148, paragraph 3 (T.U. Art. 148, comma 3).

  • Price: 320.00 (U.S. dollars) for two (2) persons.  Each additional adult costs $60.00.  Minors under the age of 18 cost $30.00 each.

    • Entry fee is not included

  • Special note: “A Most Serene Republic” is a highly specialized and technical itinerary delving into the organization and operation of the Venetian government and judiciary. It is specifically designed for students and aficionados of political science and jurisprudence and should not be mistaken for a general-interest tour of the Doge's Palace.  For general-interest tours, visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the audio tour available at the ticket office.


To help make this guided walking tour a culturally enriching and educational experience, these books are recommended.



Comments on
A Most Serene Republic


“An astonishing tale of conspiracy, feud, assassination, and politicking. The labyrinthine system of government with multiple councils providing checks and balances on each other is a fascinating study of human nature.”

Chris Carrigan and Tina Monk
Oxfordshire, United Kingdom


“The best guided tour we have ever taken in any country!  Venicescapes' tour of the Doge's Palace is exhaustively researched and perfectly organized.  The commentary transforms a beautiful but mute building into a fascinating, thousand-year story of a unique and enduring system of government.  Those interested in Constitutional Law will particularly enjoy hearing about the development of a system of checks and balances far more detailed and effective than those found today.  The perspectives of foreign political theorists on the Venetian government add further depth and invite the visitor to ask whether modern governments should try to learn from the Venetian experience.”

Hilary and Daniel Paskowitz
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


“The tour conveyed detailed and perceptive analyses of the complex, interlocking legal and political institutions that enabled Venice to successfully compete with and outlast empires larger than she.  We especially enjoyed the focus on the military, political, and legal history of the palace and the explanations of how Venice's unique republican government successfully prevented an over-concentration of power in the hands of a few corrupt.”

Robert and Clare Gordon
San Francisco, California


“A very rewarding afternoon!  The tour was extremely helpful to me in arriving at a clear, compelling picture of the core principles behind the Venetian governing system and understanding the direct connection between procedural minutiae and ultimate governing principle.  It made me see just how determined the Venetians were to devise a series of procedures which maximized incentives for the type of personal and collective responsibility which was the nobility's governing ideal.”

Dial Parrott
Glastonbury, Connecticut


“The most fascinating story imaginable! Not only did we learn a great deal about the complexity of the Venetian system of government and administration, but we found ourselves making observations about how the Venetians prevented three, four, or even five hundred years ago the misgovernment that modern administrations continue to grapple with.  This tour is for anyone with an interest in intrigue, power, and the human capacity for corruption!”

Amy Selwyn
London, United Kingdom



For further information about this unique guided walking tour, write to:

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