Scala Contarini del Bovolo is a true hidden gem of Venice. The Contarini Palace and its famous spiral staircase are stunning architectural landmarks. This 15th-century site is a quick but worthy stop for anyone coming to Venice. The Palace was to display the wealth and prestige of the Contarini family. Today, it's one of the well-preserved Venice attractions.
People come for the dazzling architecture and the unique view opening up from the rooftop. Because of its beauty and ambiance, it was the filming location for Orson Welles' Othello. Even the painter Jacopo de Barbari featured Scala Contarini del Bovolo in his art. You can find the painting in the nearby Museo Correr.
Getting to the museum
Take a look at the Venice map, and you'll find Scala Contarini del Bovolo in no time. This landmark stands in San Marco, the most popular sestiere in Venice. The reference point is Piazza Manin, but you'll have to navigate a few small streets to find it. You can arrive with a vaporetto. The closest stop would be Rialto. Since only a few people can visit without creating crowds, booking your ticket in advance is best.
History of the museum
The original structure dates back to the 300s. But today's Scala Contarini del Bovolo got its look in the 15th century. It's a spectacular example of the early Renaissance, with elements from the Gothic-Byzantine period. The Contarini Palace has two facades - the simpler one facing Rio San Luca and the refined one of Corte del Maltese. The glorious staircase functioned as the private entrance to the Palace. Giovanni Candi designed it in 1499, and the architect Giorgio Spavento added the staircase to the building. The nickname of the Palace and the family comes from the staircase. It resembles the snail's shell or "bovolo" in Venetian.
In 1803, the Palace became a hotel managed by Arnoldo Marseille. That's when the Venetians renamed it "dal Maltese." Rumour has it that Hugo Pratt created his famous character Corto Maltese based on Arnoldo Marseille's life. Many of the Corto Maltese stories happen in Venice. Recently, the site has been the seat of a charity organization.
Why you should visit
Deciding to skip Scala Contarini del Bovolo would be a crucial mistake. The building, inspired by the Pisa Tower, is a must-see attraction. Made of red bricks and white stone, the staircase has eighty steps and is 28 meters high. After climbing it, you'll get a unique view of Venice. You'll enjoy the orange-red rooftops, the St Mark's Basilica, and its bell tower. Although you won't get a glimpse of the Grand Canal, the view is exceptional. The Palace has a gallery with works by the finest Venetian artists of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Look out for the sketch of Tintoretto's Paradise, the full version of which covers the entire wall in a room of the Doge's Palace.
Things to do in the area
In this area, you'll find the best Venice attractions and the finest churches and museums. You can use our interactive Venice map to navigate better and plan your Venice itinerary. One place you can't miss is the famous St Mark's Basilica, located only a few minutes from Scala Contarini del Bovolo. To see the best among Venice museums, visit the Doge's Palace. The ticket to Palazzo Ducale covers the entrance to the National Archeological Museum and the Marciana Library.
Museo Fortuny is less than 5 minutes away from the Contarini Palace. If you walk a bit further in the direction of Dorsoduro, you'll find the Music Museum and Teatro La Fenice. There are a few well-known Venice churches at arm's length in this area. They are San Moisè, Santa Maria Formosa, San Zaccaria, and Chiesa della Pietà. We have covered them all and recommend seeing at least one during your stay in Venice.