Scala Contarini del Bovolo

The Scala Contarini del Bovolo is another of the lesser known Venice attractions - lost in the maze of streets and canals, one has to make an extra effort to locate what is really just a glorified staircase. Certainly one of the most unassuming Venice attractions, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo still happens to be one of the city's most interesting finds. Even though it is, technically, a palace, it's hard to tell now - the only remains of its storied past are the fading frescoes that bow under the staircase's many arches. For a city so enamored with the finer things in life, it's a wonder that the rest of the palace is not as carefully renovated as the one aspect that brings tourists to the Scala Contarini del Bovolo - its immense and winding outer staircase.

The name derives from the Italian word for snail (Bovolo) and the man who commissioned it - Pietro Contarini. Built in 1499 along a barely traveled side street near Campo Manin, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo remains one of the most charming architectural displays in a city full of such things, boasting a fascinating combination of early Renaissance and Byzantine forms. The crystal white arches look like something out of a romance novel and the staircase leads to a landing overlooking the city - the bell towers, tiled roofs and a handful of other Venice attractions are splayed out before you. The domes of Saint Mark stand regally in the distance, and the quaint roofs of one of Venice's smaller residential areas offer a nice contrast to the ornate official buildings and churches that are spread throughout the rest of the city.

As you'd expect, since it is one of the more endearing and less-visited Venice Italy attractions - it is a bit of a chore to find. If you can navigate your way to the Ponte Rialto, you've got a head start. From there, follow the signs to Campo Manin and you're most of the way there - asking for help is certainly no shame when in Venice (as any seasoned traveler to Italy knows, it's a lot harder than getting around Rome or Florence), especially since the Scala Contarini del Bovolo is basically stuck in a back alley. Also make sure that you stop by the staircase in the afternoon, unless you're with a party of 20 or more, you can only climb the stairs between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.

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