With direct views from the luxurious Visentini apartment at Palazzo Molin, in a tiny secluded courtyard, sits the Scala Contarini del Bovolo – one of the most breathtakingly beautiful buildings in Venice. It’s notoriously difficult to find, tucked away in a maze of winding alleyways, but it’s well worth seeking out.
The Scala is a spectacular spiral staircase, attached to the facade of the adjacent Palazzo Paternian. A perfect synthesis of Renaissance, Gothic and Venetian-Byzantine architectural styles, it has a fairytale appearance, soaring 26 metres up to the sky and capped with a domed cupola. Inspired by the famous Tower of Pisa, it was commissioned in the late 15th century by the wealthy patrician Pietro Contarini – at a time when Venetians were forbidden from building towers on their houses, in order to prevent the risk of plotting against the Republic. Rather than serving any practical purpose, the grand staircase was intended to reflect the Contarini family’s wealthii and power over the city of Venice; its ostentatious spiral design was so impressive that it earned the family the nickname ‘Contarini del Bovolo’, after the Venetian word for ‘snail shell’.
Until recently, the Scala was closed to the public, visible only through the gaps in its garden fence. However, after many years of restoration it was finally opened to the public in 2016, allowing visitors to climb the steps to its circular fourth-floor loggia and enjoy a 360 degree view across Venice’s terracotta rooftops.
The entrance ticket also includes access to an interesting little display of artworks from the IRE Collection, including a rare oil sketch for Tintoretto’s ‘Paradiso’ in the Palazzo Ducale, as well as paintings by Francesco Guardi and Sebastiano Ricci.
PLUS: VENINI IN VENICE
Of all the names associated with Venetian glass, Paolo Venini is perhaps the best known – yet he was neither a glass-worker by training, nor a Venetian by birth. A lawyer from Milan, he arrived in Venice in 1921 at the age of 26, and in 1925, together with the Venetian antiques dealer Giacomo Cappellin and painter Vittorio Zecchin, he founded a glassworks on the island of Murano that totally revolutionised the Venice glass scene. Until that point, Murano had been largely immune to outside design influences, and by 1925 its once world-famous industry was beginning to decline. Venini however embraced new trends in the fields of art and architecture, and by commissioning talented international artists to collaborate with his furnace, he breathed new life into the Murano glass industry once more. Renowned for their modern shapes, experimental techniques and vivid colours, his glassworks became highly fashionable around the globe, and to this day Venini remains one of the world’s most respected and collectable glass brands. We are delighted to have partnered with Venini for the interiors of our exclusive apartments at Palazzo Moro, which feature a carefully curated selection of the brand’s most stylish and innovative designs.