EVERY BEAT OF THEIR ART: Magical history tour showcases The Venetian’s art, architecture
It’s easy, while enjoying The Venetian’s new art tour, to pretend you’ve been magically transported from a resort on the Las Vegas Strip to a famously canalled Italian city on the Adriatic Sea.
One minute, you’re standing on the (replicated) balcony of the Doge’s Palace, appreciating its distinctive Gothic architecture. The next, you’re gazing up at the (replicated) Campanile tower — where, in Venice, Galileo demonstrated his new telescope in 1609 — its majestic spire stretching into the clear winter sky.
Then there’s Marco.
Marco Ferrini, that is — your guide for this afternoon’s 90-minute tour. Originally from Italy, Marco has worked as a gondolier on The Venetian’s Grand Canal for 19 years. He comes armed with boundless enthusiasm, a boisterous laugh and a seemingly endless supply of fun facts. [Scroll down for a gallery of images by Las Vegas News Bureau photographer Sam Morris.]
Venetian gondolas date back to the year 1094.
The Venetian was inspired by a honeymoon trip founder Sheldon Adelson took with his wife, Miriam.
Creating the lush, hand-painted murals that line the ceiling in The Venetian’s Grand Hall required the services of 300 painters.
The three-dimensional pattern on the floor in The Venetian’s Grand Colonnade replicates the floor of the Church of Santa Maria del Rosario in Venice.
Maps of Venice look like one fish eating another fish.
Marco’s also an expert on The Venetian lobby’s hidden breast art. More on that in a minute.
The Venetian launched its twice-daily tour in 2019 — the property’s 20th anniversary — to teach visitors about the Italian-inspired property’s history, art and architecture.
“We wanted to show how the property stands out from others,” says Marco.
Highlights of the tour (along with those mentioned above) include:
The “Acqua di Cristallo” water sculpture, by Samuel G. Bocchicchio, that stands in the lobby of The Palazzo, The Venetian’s adjacent younger-sister property. The 36-foot-tall sculpture features three translucent women made of solid acrylic polymer.
Laura Kimpton’s oft-photographed, 36-foot-long LOVE installation, the letters L-O-V-E sculpted from red steel stamped with bird shapes, arranged in the waterfall atrium that serves as dividing line between The Palazzo and The Venetian. (The piece was originally displayed at the Life is Beautiful festival.)
St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal — where Marco pauses to say “Ciao!” to some of his fellow gondoliers, busy rowing tourists along the quarter-mile indoor canal while serenading them with traditional Italian love songs.
Outside, replicas of the facades of the Ca d’Oro and the Palazzo Contarini, St. Mark’s Clock Tower, the Rialto Bridge (the Vegas version features a moving walkway), and the Bridge of Sighs, which was used in Venice, Marco says, to connect the courthouse to the prison. (“We haven’t replicated the prison, thankfully,” he says.)
The magnificent columns of San Marco and San Teodoro, standing out front of The Venetian.
A Strip-side plaque commemorating the Rat Pack, along with footprints of the five legendary Las Vegas performers – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. (“I think it’s safe to say Peter Lawford had the biggest feet,” says Marco. “Just the important stuff on the tour.”)
In The Venetian’s lobby, the tour begins to wind down. Marco stops at “The Armillary Sphere,” a golden sculpture by Toland Grinnell that has sat beneath a frescoed ceiling since the resort’s opening. Grinnell, Marco explains, is known for hiding things in his work. In 2014, The Venetian discovered that the breasts of one of the sculpture’s mermaids pop open, exposing two painted views of Venice. (One headline at the time dubbed the discovery a “treasure chest.”)
As Marco tells it, when Grinnell was contacted about the hidden artwork, the artist said: “It only took you 14 years to find.’”
Before he bids arrivederci, Marco talks about how he hopes The Venetian continues to offer the new tour for years to come. He’d be happy to keep leading it.
“We have amazing things to show people here,” he says. “I’d like to show the world.”
If You Go:
The Venetian’s 90-minute art tour begins at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily in The Palazzo lobby. Tickets are $39.99 and include a souvenir gift bag. They can be purchased at concierge desks, the box office and gondola ticketing booths. For more information, visit: venetian.com.