La Bussola - Free Tours of Venice

12 Feb

Contarini del Bovolo Spiral Staircase.

A few days ago one of most hidden gems of Venice was reopened to the public: the Scala Contarini del Bovolo. But who were the Contarinis?

Very much like streets, family names or surnames in Venice also repeat themselves. Obviously not just in Venice, but in Italy we have 60.000 families with Rossi surname. But in Venice it can get extremely complicated: let’s start at the beginning.

Francesco Foscari, the doge who was punched.

Francesco Foscari, the doge who was punched.

Back in 8th century, twelve families elected the first Doge. From that moment on those twelve families has become the most noble of all. Through centuries they have expanded their roots: for example, the House of Contarini was one of those twelve families. By 1500 almost 10% of all Venetian nobility had last name Contarini. And obviously to be distinguished amongst them, people started to come up with nicknames to identify each single branch. As you can imagine, the nicknames associated with a family wasn’t about their best moral qualities and virtues, so we didn’t have Contarini the Smart and the Merciful, we had Contarini dal Naso, Contarini dalla Porta di Ferro, Contarini dagli Scrigni, dal Zaffo and dal Bovolo.

Contarini dal Naso means of the Nose: the story has it that Andrea Contarini punched a Doge on the nose. Sadly, Doge got offended and Andrea was publicly executed on Saint Mark’s Square.

Contarini dalla Porta di Ferro, or the Iron Door, were famous, out of all other qualities, for their huge iron door.

Inner court of the Palazzo Contarini dalla Porta di Ferro

Contarini dalla Porta di Ferro’s iron door entrance

Contarini dagli Scrigni were more lucky, because it means treasure chests, that is because they were known for their wealth, and dal Zaffo comes from this family’s possessions in Jaffa, the ancient Tel Aviv.

Contarini dal Bovolo wasn’t actually their original name. They were firstly called San Paternian because of parish in which was their palace. In the 15th century they renovated the building, adding a magnificent external spiral staircase, called in venetian Bovolo which originally means snail. And this is exactly what we wanted to talk to you about: recently, restoration of Scala Contarini del Bovolo was completed and we are incredibly excited to invite you to visit it! You can climb the staircase all the way to the top where you can find the most breathtaking view of all Venice 360° around you. Don’t forget to take your cameras!

Sadly, there is very little information about opening hours online, that’s why we checked it out for you: everyday from 10 am to 1.30 pm, and from 2 pm to 6 pm, last admission 5.30 pm, closed on Mondays. Full admission costs 5€.

We would like to thank one of La Bussola’s first followers, Pamela Gallicchio, for great pictures she took at the Scala Contarini del Bovolo.

Exterior of the spiral Contarini dal Bovolo Staircase

Exterior of the spiral Contarini dal Bovolo Staircase


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