‘No other place on earth has created, more than Venice, such a conspiration of enthusiasm’ – Guy de Maupassant
I want us to take a bit of altitude, and a bit of distance with the common attractions that Venice has to offer.
La Scala del Bovolo may be in your travel guide, but it is so well hidden that you will have trouble finding it. It makes it even more special! You won’t find many tourists there, which is a good thing because, you don’t want to feel nudged and pushed in such a high staircase (particularly with a fear of heights, believe me…).
The staircase is part of a Palace called il Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. It is to be found not very far away from the Rialto Bridge. You need to find il Campo Manin, which is a square ornamented with a gigantic statue of Daniele Manin overpowering the Venetian lion (a really humble statue) The Manins were a prominent family in the North-East of Italy. Originally a Jewish family of bankers, they settled in Venice where they gained more and more power. Their raise led them to have Ludovico Manin elected Doge (the last one…not sure he was a lucky draw…).
After the era of Doges, the Republic of Venice had a status quo during Napoleon’s empire, and passed later on in the hands of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, after an uprising against the Austrians, Daniele Manin (remember, the statue?) became the first and last President (quite a family feature) of what was called La Repubblica di San Marco which lasted a year and a half. In 1849, Venice went back to being Austrian.This story is just a small sample of the confusion that was reigning in Venice in the 19th century. By its location and its reputation, it had always been a city coveted by powerful leaders. Venice found its stability in 1866 when it was finally unified to the Kingdom of Italy.
Back to our sheep! You remember that you are here for La Scala, uh? So, once on the Manin square, you will find a small indication board for the Scala. Follow straight, and here you are:
The entry ticket varies according to what you want to see. You can simply pay to go up the staircase and admire the view (the full price is 6 euros). There is also another room called la Sala del Tintoretto, but really, if you are not interested in paintings, do not pay more to visit this room. It is basically eight paintings hanging on four walls…
The staircase was built under the command of one Pietro Contarini in the 15th century. I hear you ask, ‘why?’. Well, it is imposing, it is beautiful, it makes you fly over Venice’s rooftops: it means that it is all about power. The Scala was meant to show how affluent, rich and powerful the Contarini family was. The term ‘Bovolo’ comes from the venezian word for ‘snail’, and it is meant to echo the spiral form of the staircase. It is often taken as an example of pure Venezian architecture.
I think it is one of my favourite spots in Venice. I had the impression it was set in another world altogether. When you arrive, you are not far away from all the main attractions, but you feel disconnected from them! I almost felt like Harry Potter when he first discovered Diagon Alley (without the owls, the wand makers and the cauldrons’ sellers, obviously!). And admire the panoramic view!
If you are lucky enough to have a good light, you will take the most beautiful pictures of your Venezian sojourn there (and therefore be able to impress all your jealous friends!).
I let you discover the view by yourself. Let’s meet at the vaporetto afterwards? I have a surprise!
I M Gullivering.