The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo was built for the Contarini family during the 15th century, the same powerful family for whom Ca' d'Oro was built. Perhaps to make up for the fact that this palazzo stands at the end of a small alley instead of on a more prominent spot facing the Grand Canal, it was given a completely unique design. It's mostly famous for its multiple arches and spiral staircase - in fact, the word "Bovolo", like "colimaçon" in French, stands for both "snail" and "spiral". The staircase used to be open to visitors but the building is currently closed for renovation, with no opening date in sight. However, that didn't seem to stop people from braving the risk of getting lost in the area's little streets to catch a glimpse of this rather interesting-looking palace.
Tucked away in a narrow passageway, a courtyard opens up to reveal this five story exterior spiral staircase from 1499. It's not too easy to find but once you're in Campo Manin, look for and follow the arrow along with the word "BOVOLO" and you'll find it.
This palace is famous for its spiral staircase that has many arches. We stayed in an apartment right next to the same and my dad was surprised to see the number of visitors who came up the staircase paying 3 euros to do the same!
I wasn't sure whether this should have gone in my off the beaten track tips, as it took me quite a while to find- and when I did, it was closed for restoration work. Not sure if this is completed yet.
Well, the time trying to find it was worth it, as I came across plenty of campos and shops that I might have missed otherwise.
Off Campo Manin, and following the yellow signs, I came into a small courtyard, and there was this elusive tower with its' external staircase. These were a feature of Venetian houses in the 16th century - designed to save space in the internal rooms.
This tower is dated around 1499, and is quite a flamboyant example of arches and loggias, resembling an ornate 5 storey helter skelter. It was the work of Giovanni Candi.
The owner Pietro Contarini, had enlarged his palace, with a loggia on leach floor. The staircase, made of red brick and Istrian stone, links these together, in an attractive and practical way. It is thought to resemble the tower of Pisa.
These staircases are known as scale a chicciola (snail stairs)
Bovolo means snail shell in the Venetian dialect.
At the foot of the tower is a fenced off garden, containing well heads, dating back to medieval times. Apparently this is a popular place for the local moggies to congregate. I spotted the healthy well fed specimen (in my photo below), napping on a window sill.
I'm not sure when the tower will be open again - according to my guide book, the view from the top isn't extensive- (for a better view of Venice and beyond, the Camponille is the place to head for - though you can't see any canals!) but gives an interesting local outlook.
Even better than the campanile in P. San Marco, catch the vaporetto from San Marco to Isola St Giorgio Maggiore, and view from this churches tower-half the price, less crowded, and views for miles around.
Normally open April - Oct daily 10.00 - 18.00 Nov - March Sat- Sun 10.00 - 16.00
Admission 3 euros
A small palace dates from the 15th century and best known for the external spiral staircase with a plethora of arches, known as the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
Palacio que data del siglo XV y conocido por la escalera de caracol exterior con gran numero de arcos llamda Scala Contarini del Bovolo.
Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a real treasure, hidden at the interior of a small courtyard, situaded in the heart of Venice. It is a splendid winding staircase, adorning the side of Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a short walk from Campo Manin. Scala del Bovolo owes its name to the Italian word "bovolo", meaning "snail shell".It was built in 1499 and represents Early Renaissance with Gothic-Byzantine building techniques. The line of the staircase is followed by a parapet, fascinatingly mixing little columns and arcades and giving the tourist the satisfaction of seeing such a unique Venetian monument.
The nice palace Contarini Minelli dal Bovolo is famous for its winding-stairs, the scala del bovolo. It was built in 1499 on by Giovanni Candi and Its name is derived from the venetian word for a snail-shell, bovolo. Even the branch of the Contarini that inhabited the palace was named after that singular architectural solution.
In the main building you can see the half arches of fourth order, which are visible at the stairway corridors.
The main facade with five-light loggias of fifth order on thin columns is towards the Rio di San Luca.
Numerous "vere di pozzo" (well-heads) from the 13th to 15th century are collected at the stairway base and clearly show the development of this essential part of a venetian palace. At least one of them has the Contarini coat of arms.
The most unique of Venice's palazzi, the 15th century Palazzo Contarini is tucked away in a little alley that is hard to find. You need an excellent map to be able to reach it. What makes this palazzo unique is its spiral arched staircase. I only saw the palazzo at night from the exterior, but visitors are permitted to climb up the staircase for scenic views of Venice's rooftops.
Isn't this beautiful? The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo was built in the 16th century by a wealthy man who wanted to make his Palazzo stand out from the rest. There was no room to build it by the Grand Canal, so it was a little out of the way. How could he make people notice it? By putting the staircase on the outside!
It is open to the public for a couple of euros and probably gives great views across Venice, but unfortunately the ticket kiosk was closed when we visited so we couldn't go in. Another thing to do when we next visit!
I should have put it on the Off the Path Tips, 'cause not many tourists know about it...you can also go inside and up the 121 stairs.
I've been told that at the time it was built, it wasn't allowed to build towers, so it was presented as "stairs" only...on the top there is a great view over Venice roofs.
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