Scala Contarini del Bovolo: Venice Hidden Beauty

The hidden location of Scala Contarini del Bovolo means that most visitors to the beautiful Venice don’t seek it out. But if you love architecture, or want a non-crowded over-the-rooftops view of Venice, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo will be a rewarding find!

Scala Contarini del Bovolo exterior photo Hidden Gem of Venice Italy

Scala Contarini del Bovolo:  Origin of the Name

The Scala Contarini del Bovolo was my favorite off the beaten path find while in Venice, Italy.  The name 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, as the steps spiral up five stories high.

Interior shot of Scala Contarini

Finding Scala del Contarini:

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 a few guide books, but usually in a passing way, with only a sentence or two given to it.

To be fair, it is truly a Venice hidden gem, well off the beaten path.  Most visitors 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, but hidden, building just isn’t worth it to many.

If your decision on where to stay in Venice leads you near the Pizza San Marco area the Scala Contarini del Bovolo will be closer for you, but not necessarily easy to find.  Map in hand I wove through the tiny back streets of the San Marco area.  Twisting and turning, I wound up in the wrong campo and had to backtrack.  Finally I found the correct turn and Campo Manin, and then the turn into a small courtyard where the only thing of note is the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.

To find it yourself, see the Google Map at the end of this piece.

Beautiful architecture of the interior

The History of Scala Contarini del Bovolo:

The Palazzo was built in the 15th century for the Contarini family.  The Contarinis had no less than eight members become Doge, or leader of the republic of Venice. They were a seriously powerful family.  Along with such prestige, the extended Contarini family had homes of prestige on the Grand Canal to show off their wealth.  Then, they also had this “little” home tucked away in a corner of nowhere.  In order to give the home a touch of its on prestige, Giorgio Spavento was contracted to design the exterior staircase spiraling 5 stories upward.  The staircase itself is beautifully designed and spacious, and worth taking a look in it’s own right.

While this may not have been the most prominent of the Contarini family homes, the design does stand out.  It’s easy to see where this would set your neighbors and community whispering, making the ‘right’ people envious of you.

Fun tidbit about the Scala Contarini del Bovolo: If you are an Orson Welles fan, this is the staircase that was featured in his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo view through the arches of the steps


The Views from the Scala Contarini:

The views as you ascend the steps are a 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.

View of windows in the Courtyard as seen from the steps
View from the Scala of nearby shuttered windows with window boxes
Scala Contarini del Bovolo exterior photo Hidden Gem Top Secret Sights Venice Italy
View from the top of the Scala Bovolo, through the arches, of rooftops of Venice with Basilica San Marco and the Campanile in the distance.

It’s worth the 5 story climb for this:

The View from the Top!
View from the top of the Scala Bovolo of rooftops of Venice with Basilica San Marco and the Campanile in the distance.

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:



If you are looking for more beautiful corners and little known facts about Venice, check out theses posts:


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Scala Contarini del Bovolo Hidden Gem Venice Ital

21 thoughts on “Scala Contarini del Bovolo: Venice Hidden Beauty

  1. I’ve taken photos of this from the clock tower but never knew what it was! Man, I never knew you could go up it. It looks so cool! I guess it’s something to do next time 🙂

    1. I usually try to do the same. The Campanile in Venice is the usual choice, but it is right in St. Mark’s Square, and there is often quite the line. Plus, you are actually standing right under the bells, so it can be loud if they go off while you are there. This was so quiet! There was only 1 other person there the same time as me. Totally different experience.

    1. Completely agree! I’m a bit architecture obsessed when it comes to travel. So much so, that my daughter is quick to define herself as more ‘interested in nature, instead of buildings like Mom’ is. 😀 So this just really was a great find for me.

    1. 😀 I’m the same way! I think I may wind up with one whole post dedicated to windows with shutters/windowboxes in Venice. I took soooo many pictures of those.

  2. Oh wow! I never knew this existed Meg, thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been to Venice a few times now and always just wander aimlessly through the back streets but never knew it was possible to climb these stairs! Such a great view from the top!

    1. I spent two afternoons wandering the back alleys and streets when we were there this time. Venice is one of those cities I could visit time and again just for that. <3

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