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The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
Palazzo Contarini is one of Venice's most famous palaces because of its grand Tower's originality with its superb helicoidal staircase shaped like a propeller.

The Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is already unique and beautiful to see from the outside.

So it is necessary to visit it and have the pleasure of climbing its famous staircase to admire from its top one of Venice's roofs' most beautiful views, the dome of the basilica of San Marco and its campanile.

Gothic and Renaissance: Two different facades

This late Veneto-Gothic palace has two different facades:

One of them overlooks Calle del Bovolo with its incredible Tower and the famous staircase; the other overlooks the Rio de San Luca-Rossini, where you can see it from the Verona Bridge.

Yet they were identical at the origin of the construction of the palace!

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini Bovolo Palace
After its construction, the Palazzo owners, Senators Giovanni Battista, Nicolò, Pietro and Marco Contarini, decided to modify the facade on the garden side by adding a tower loggia.

Pisa's famous Tower's structure inspired the Bovolo's Tower with its columns and arches that spiral up to the top, but whose style proclaims the Renaissance.

1499: Construction of the Staircase Tower of the Contarini del Bovolo Palace

In 1499 the Contarini entrusted the modification of their palace to Giovanni Candi.

“Sticking” an outer tower with its access galleries to the different floors while managing to give an impression of overall harmony was undoubtedly not easy to conceive given the difference in height that existed between the storeys, the lower ones reaching the double size of those at the top.

Although this Tower's construction with its loggias has many defects concerning the rules of art, the Bovolo is still and still standing more than five centuries later, so that the Contarini del Bovolo has become one of the most famous Venetian palaces in the world.

The Contarini del Bovolo Tower: The Snail Tower

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
At the time of its construction, this Tower, with its spectacular spiral staircase, was not an architectural novelty.

As early as the 13th century, there were spiral staircases in Venice: they were located inside the houses as service stairs.

This staircase occupies less space than a conventional staircase, which represented a considerable advantage because the density of construction in Venice was such that the slightest square metre was precious.

Because of the staircase, the Contarini change its name!

And yet, the Palazzo Contarini tower became a celebrity in Venice from the end of its construction! A celebrity immediately nicknamed “Il Bovolo” by the Venetians, which means “the Snail”.

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
A nickname so well adapted that the Venetians attributed it to the palace and its owners, to the Contarini family.

Thus, as for the palazzo, the Contarini became for everyone, the “Contarini del Bovolo”!

And as if that were not enough, the Calle and the Corte leading to the Palazzo Tower were also renamed “Calle del Bovolo” and “Corte del Bovolo”.

A Superb View of Venice from the Palace Tower

At 28 metres high, from the top of the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo Tower, you enjoy a breathtaking view of the domes of St. Mark's Basilica as well as its magnificent bell tower.

You can also see the impressive mass of the top of the Doge's Palace.

Contarini del Bovolo Staircase: 28 metres high, 5 Floors, 80 Steps and a Gazebo

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
The Bovolo staircase was built in the Renaissance time in its architecture and style, although there is still the Veneto-Gothic style of the first Venetian loggias.

This facade illustrates the transition from Gothic to Renaissance.

This superb helical staircase owes in part its beauty to the contrasts of colours between its warm terracotta bricks and the whiteness of the Istrian stone of its columns, railings and arches.

In this beautiful cylindrical Tower of 28 metres high, the only closed parts correspond to the steps themselves. Everything else is open to the garden, thanks to the beautiful rounded arches resting on small columns connected by white Istrian stone balustrades.

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
The spiral staircase del Bovolo rises over five floors connected to the rest of the palace by its five adjacent brick and Istrian stone loggias.

At the top of the Tower is a nice open space decorated with arcades and topped by a dome.

There you will enjoy a magnificent view of St. Mark's Basilica.

Contarini del Bovolo Staircase: Steps, Arches and Columns

The construction is impressive: each step is made up of a single block of stone that starts from the propeller's centre to be housed in the Tower's outer wall's bricks.

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
Looking at the Tower from the street, one can see the end of each of the white stone steps that flush out between the yellow-brown bricks.

Another notable feature: Each Istrian white stone column is placed on the stone block of each step, making the whole aesthetically even more homogeneous and harmonious and more robust at the architectural level.

The columns are topped with Gothic capitals that support round, creeping or ascending arches.

Each arch is positioned precisely above that one of the lower floor, strengthening the Tower's visual harmony.

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
The white Istrian stone balustrades form beautifully curved diagonals running from the top to bottom of the Tower to emphasize the staircase's spiral shape.

Finally, on each floor, the loggias connect the palace to the Tower using the same aesthetic principles with three arches per landing, identical from the top to bottom of the facade and perfectly aligned with each other.

The coherence of the whole is perfect.

Congratulations, Mr Giovanni Candi!

The Wells of the Garden of Contarini del Bovolo Palace

The Contarini del Bovolo Palace and its Helicoidal Staircase in Venice in Italy
Contarini del Bovolo Palace
Apart from the central well, the many beautiful wells in Istrian stone adorning the garden were installed here by the foundation that manages the palace.

These wells are very original, especially the two cylindrical ones dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries.

Interior of the Contarin Bovoilo Palace: 17th and 18th-century paintings

After admiring the staircase and enjoying its panoramic views, you can also enter the palace rooms where paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries are exhibited.

Contarini del Bovolo Palace 7€  Information » 

video of the Contarini del Bovolo Palace in Venice


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