Ca’ d’Oro is widely considered to be the most beautiful of all the palazzi that line the Grand Canal in Venice. Although its proper name is Palazzo Santa Sofia, it has long been referred to as Ca’ d’Oro (House of Gold or Golden Hosuse) because of the gold accents that originally adorned the façade. It is not only one of the most visually stunning of all the palazzi in Venice with its ornate façade, but also one of the oldest, having been constructed between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family. This particular family was extremely influential in the area, ultimately producing eight Doges (governors) between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. The Grand Canal Palazzo was designed by two architects: Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon. These style of these two men typifies that of Gothic Venetian art and design. A perfect example of this is the Porta della Carta (which they also designed), featuring a massive statue of the judgment of Solomon.
The façade of Ca’ d’Oro is certainly the most impressive of all this palace’s features, but there are less noticeable treasures to unearth as you explore the exterior and interior of this impressive construct. There are recessed, colonnaded archways that provide direct access into the palazzo from the Grand Canal. It is amazing to think that at one time the residents of this amazing palace could drift into their home from the Grand Canal of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The Palazzo Santa Sofia is so popular as a tourist attraction because it is widely held to be the most beautiful of all the palaces in a city with many such residences. There are a couple of buildings nearby that are constructed using similar architectural conventions, including the Palazzo Giustinian and Palazzo Barbaro.
There have been quite a few proprietors of this enviable residence over the years. Many Doges of Venice have occupied the home, as well as several aristocratic Italian families. The Grand Canal Palazzo has been relatively well maintained over the years by its owners, with the notable exception of a nineteenth-century ballet dancer who made the very questionable decision to remove the Gothic staircase and balconies that overlook the courtyard of Ca’ d’Oro. Everything was returned to order, however, when in 1922 Baron Giorgio Franchetti bequeathed the Palazzo Santa Sofia to the state. The baron had acquired the Grand Canal Palazzo in 1894 and after his death, the staircase as well as the balconies were restored.
Today when you visit Venice, you will have the option of seeing so many sights, that it may be difficult to decide exactly what to do. With places like St. Mark's Square, the Venice Guggenheim, and the Ponte di Rialto, you are guaranteed to have a full itinerary to be sure. You should strongly consider paying a visit to the Palazzo Santa Sofia, more commonly known as Ca’ d’Oro. It will be hard for you to miss if you spend any time trolling down the Grand Canal in one of the gondolas. It is easily one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, of all the palazzi in Venice.