One of my dearest friends is getting ready to go on her first ever trip to Italy.
I wanted to share with her some of the wealth of information I have on Italy, from years of traveling there and from being completely in love with the country. I started writing down ideas and notes for her so that she wouldn’t forget any of it, and then other people started asking for copies.
In the end I decided to put some of my notes into blogposts so that I can hopefully share the magic of Italy with more people.
This post is part of a larger story on Venice. If you landed here independently of that post, click here to read it – you’ll find some great tips for traveling in and experiencing the absolute magnificence of beautiful Venice.
|the exquisite Ca’ D’Oro, Venice
Everytime I’m in Venice I end up making my way to the fabulous Ca’ D’Oro in Cannaregio.
Literally translated it means house of gold.
The Grand Canal is lined with spectacular buildings, each with an intriguing story, and to me, this is one of the best.
Ca’ d’ Oro is one of the canal’s most flamboyant examples of Venetian Gothic. In 1420, during an era when Venice was the trade capital of the world, perhaps the richest city in the world, merchant Marino Contarini commissioned the renovation of this grand palazzo, with it’s pinnacles, marble and gothic tracery, influenced by the Doge’s Palace. (as only the Doge could have a “palace” the other palazzi or palaces are referred to as a casa, or house, which is then abbreviated to Ca’)
The home’s original name is Santa Sophia, and came to him via marriage.
Renovation is thought to have started around 1421 and completed around 1431. In an egoist display of affluence the facade was decorated with the most expensive pigments available – ultramarine, vermillion and gold leaf.
When the sun would hit the facade there would be an explosion of gold radiating across the canal.
If you look at Ca’ D’Oro from the opposite bank (near the Rialto) you can only imagine how sensational this must have been!
Contadini died in 1441, after which St Sophia/Ca’ D’Oro began slipping into decline.
Stripped of it’s golden facade the palazzo changed hands many times, eventually becoming semi derelict.
|Ca’ D’Oro, via www.trekearth.com
It’s worst moment came at the hands of a Russian in 1847. Prince Troubetskoy bought the house for his mistress Maria Taglioni, and then promptly ripped off the marble facade, tore out the open staircase, sold the original wellhead, and otherwise desecrated this incredible property.
Art critic John Ruskin watched in horror, and tried to sketch as much of it as possible before it was too late.
Rescue came in the form of Baron Franchetti, an avid art collector, who bought and restored the property, including the staircase and the well, and then filled it with his treasures.
In 1916 he donated it to the state, full of his collections of paintings, sculptures, rare coins, and now it is an art museum.
|View of the facade of Ca’D’Oro from the Vaporetto stop
From the ground floor you can look inside and see how these palazzi functioned. The bottom level was used for warehousing, but also had a lovely courtyard from which the staircase lead to the 2nd and 3rd floors where the living happened.
|The well in the courtyard at Ca’D’oro
|Mosaic floors and tiled walls in the courtyard of Ca’ D’Oro. These floors get flooded every year.
Both of these upper floors have covered loggias from which you can get a wonderful view of the canal.
If you go in the morning you can watch the daily business of the canal’s delivery traffic – remember everything gets from point A to point B in Venice by boat.
With 90% of the tourist traffic staying in the vicinity of Piazza san Marco, you can walk freely and unimpeded through Ca D’Oro, at times having a private viewing of the incredible art collection.
The mosaic floors are noteworthy, and art buffs should make a point of visiting the painting of San Sebastian by Andrea Mantegna, which was painted toward the end of the artist’s life.
|Andrea Mantegna’s Saint Sebastian, Ca’ D’Oro, Venice
Walk up the alleyway beside Ca’ D’Oro you will arrive at Strada Nuova, a charming street full of restaurants and bars, (a great place to stop for a spritz and some cicheti on your way to the train station if you are just spending the day in Venice).
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