The Courtyard and the Loggias
Facing the San Marco basilica, the courtyard of the Doge's Palace is a grand space offering even grander views. The north side of the courtyard is shut off by the junction between the palace and St. Mark's Basilica, with the latter originally used as the Doge's chapel. Two well heads dating to the mid 16th century feature in the middle of the courtyard. Back when the Doge's Palace was used as the Doge's residence, members of the Senate gathered in the Senator's Courtyard, to the right of the Giants' Staircase, for government meetings. Since 1567, the Giant's Staircase is guarded on either side by Sansovino's colossal statues of Mars and Neptune, representing Venice's power by sea and land. Leading to the upper floors from the Gold Staircase, you'll walk past two plaques of supreme importance. The first one dates back to 1362 and has Gothic lettering dating from the papacy of Urban V. The other plaque stands at the Giants' Staircase and celebrates French King Henri III's visit to Venice in 1574.