Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo or Palazzo Contarini Minelli dal Bovolo, is a small palace located in the sestiere of San Marco. This tourist attraction is located near Piazza Manin and is the palace of the Contarini di San Paternian family.
The structure is supposed to date back to the 300s but has been renovated more than once. The main attraction of this palace is an elegant spiral staircase with a plethora of arches. The staircase was designed in 1499 by a carpenter and architect named Giovanni Candi. The family hired a second architect, Giorgio Spavento, to add the staircase to the original structure. The spiral staircase is compared to a snail's shell, hence the name of the palace, 'snail house'. Due to the beauty of the spiral staircase, the Contarini family was nicknamed "dal Bovolo" by the Venetians. Bovolo means snail in Venetian. The Scala Contarini del Bovolo is to all intents and purposes an attraction of Venice.
Architectural elements from the early Renaissance period blend with building techniques from the Gothic-Byzantine period, producing a harmony of forms, with a typical Venetian character. The monument is unique in its kind. The exterior of the Contarini palace has two facades, the simple one of rio San Luca and the refined one of corte del Maltese. From the dome of the belvedere you can have a splendid and unusual view of Venice: the roofs of Venice, the bell tower and the domes of St. Mark's. At the base of the spiral tower there are two small courtyards and several well balustrades, making the visit even more interesting.
In 1803 Palazzo Contarini became a hotel under the management of Arnoldo Marseille, a Maltese citizen. The Venetians renamed this hotel, and the Palazzo Contarini, "dal Maltese". Rumour has it that writer Hugo Pratt was inspired by Arnoldo Marseille's life to create his famous character Corto Maltese. Many Corto Maltese stories are set in Venice.
Today the palace is under the custody of the Sant'Apollonia Association.
The Contarini del Bovolo palace with its staircase is an attraction often "skipped" by "hit and run" tourists. If you are passing through Venice but don't have much time, we recommend that you take at least one souvenir photo of the eccentric spiral staircase.