Scala Contarini del Bovolo, Venice’s hidden treasure

Scala Contarini del Bovolo (c)
Scala Contarini del Bovolo (c)
Iconic, beautiful and... imperfect. Without a doubt, this is the characteristic that makes Scala Contarini del Bovolo a rare gem of Venetian architecture.

Hidden in a maze of ‘calli‘ and canals, just steps from Campo Manin, visitors will find an architectural gem featuring a combination of Renaissance, Gothic and Byzantine elements. The Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a historic building of unmatched beauty that also owes some of its charm to the intrigue surrounding its namesake staircase. According to historic records, it was commissioned by Pietro Contarini towards the end of 1400; however, there is still some uncertainty about the true identity of its creator. The most credible version attributes it to Giovanni Candi, referred to in historical records as a ‘marangon‘, meaning a carpenter and woodworker as opposed to an architect. This would explain the architectural inconsistencies of the building, which are quite noticeable when climbing the staircase.

Mysteries aside, those who are not afraid of heights can climb to the top of this 26m ‘bovolo‘ (snail-shell) stairwell, enclosed in a cylinder perforated like lace, to admire a rare view of the city. Amidst its rooftops, you will notice one of Venice‘s trademark architectural features: the ‘altane‘ (covered wooden roof terrace).

The loggia on the second floor of the Scala del Bovolo leads to the Sala of Palazzo Contarini, which hosts a display of paintings, sculptures and applied objet d‘art. The collection is modest but it offers the visitor an insightful glimpse into Venetian lifestyles from the 16th through 18th centuries.