Origin of the Name
The Scala Contarini del Bovolo literally means the ladder Contarini (a surname) of the snail. Standing before the palazzo, it’s not a stretch to see where the name originated. The steps were originally designed for the Contarini family, and the snail-like spiral of the steps is clear.
Ever since I had stumbled across pictures of the Scala Bovolo, I had wanted to find it while we were in Venice. It is mentioned in some guide books, but usually in a passing way, with only a sentence or two given to it.
To be fair, it is off the beaten path. Most visitors to come to Venice for a completely insufficient length of time (in my humble opinion), many for just a day or maybe two. It’s a city filled with people checking sights off their list. Because of that, I imagine the time it takes to track down this unique building just isn’t worth it to many.
I, however, and very glad I went, map in hand through the even tinier back streets of the San Marco area. Twisting, turning, winding up in the wrong campo, and backtracking to find the correct turn, and finally, finding Campo Manin, and the little turn into a small courtyard where the only thing of note is the Palazzo Cortarini del Bovolo.
To find it yourself, see the Google Map at the end of this piece.
The Palazzo was built in the 15th century for the Contarini family, with the exterior staircase spiraling 5 stories upward. If you are an Orson Welles fan, this is the staircase that was featured in his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.
The staircase itself is beautifully designed and spacious, and worth taking a look in it’s own right. Initially this was designed just to decorate the facade for an eminent Venetian family. To increase their popularity and prestige. And it’s pretty impressive looking, so I guess I can see where this would set your neighbors and community whispering, making the ‘right’ people envious of you.
But the views as you ascend the steps are an beautiful bonus that just gets better the higher you go. As you progress, there are the flowered windows, and then the tiled rooftops. At the top, a view across the whole of the San Marco area, with the domes of St. Marks Cathedral and the Campanile in the distance.
It’s worth the 5 story climb for this:
Check out the website of the Scala Contarini Del Bovolo for more information.
Click on this Map to Scala Contarini del Bovolo to navigate the Google Map:
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