The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Twentieth Century Venice

When it comes to books about Venice, Italy there are hundreds to choose from, but if you’re looking for inspiration and the story of one of the Grand Canal’s most well known palazzos, then “The Unfinished Palazzo” by Judith Mackrell should certainly be added to your reading list.

Published earlier this year to great acclaim, this absorbing and highly entertaining book reveals the colourful history of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, one of the most iconic buildings on the Grand Canal, through the lives of three of its most eccentric female residents.

The Palazzo Venier die Leoni, on the Grand Canal in Venice, was commissioned in 1750 as a testimony to the power and wealth of the Venier family, the building languished incomplete and decaying until it was acquired and transformed over the course of the twentieth century by each of these remarkable women, who in turn used it as a stage for their unconventional lives.

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Twentieth Century Venice
The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice

The first, Luisa Casati, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino, was a muse and lover of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who was notorious throughout Europe for her legendary belle époque parties.

The second and equally notorious was British socialite Doris Castlerosse, the first wife of Viscount Castlerosse, who hosted film stars and royalty during the interwar years at the Palazzo. Born Jessie Dorris Delevingne in the suburbs of London she is the Aunt of models Poppy and Cara Delevingne.

The third, and perhaps most well known, was New York heiress and art collector Peggy Guggenheim, who transformed the palazzo into not only one of Venice’s most beloved and visited buildings, but one of the greatest museums in the world, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Thoroughly-researched, gloriously gossipy and full of intriguing anecdotal details, this compelling book is bound to appeal to both Venice experts and new-comers alike. We know the perfect spot in which to read it: The Salon Peggy at Palazetto Salute.  With views across the Grand Canal to the Palazzo Venier, what could be better!

The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice’ by Judith Mackrell is published by Thames & Hudson (£19.95)