Those dreaming of owning a piece of Venetian history would struggle to find better than Ca’ Dario, a spectacular 15th-century palazzo in the heart of Venice that combines typical Venetian architecture with Renaissance-era elements and fairy tale interiors and was immortalised by Claude Monet and John Ruskin.
“Opportunities like this don’t come along often,” agrees Arnaldo Fusello of Views on Venice, a Savills associate. “It’s rare to find whole buildings for sale in the city, especially on the Grand Canal. Most historic buildings have been divided into apartments, but Ca’ Dario is a complete house.”
The palazzo sits in the sought-after Dorsoduro neighbourhood, just minutes from the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It was built in the late 15th century by Giovanni Dario, a diplomat who had helped broker a seemingly impossible peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire. With his resulting fortune, he commissioned the celebrated architect Pietro Lombardo to design a house, complete with the inscription URBIS GENIO IOANNES DARIUS – ‘Giovanni Dario to the genius of the city’ – carved into the marble façade.
Ownership passed through generations of Dario’s family before the house was sold in the early 19th century to a series of foreign owners, first an Armenian diamond merchant, then the English historical scholar Rawdon Lubbock Brown, who spent most of his life in Venice. One of Brown’s visitors was the Victorian art critic and visionary John Ruskin, who featured the distinctive marble-encrusted oculi – or wall ‘eyes’ – overlooking the Grand Canal in his 1851 work The Stones of Venice.
Other famous visitors include the French poet Henri de Régnier, a guest of the then owner, the Countess de la Baume-Pluvinel, at the turn of the 20th century. An inscription to him can still be seen on the garden wall. The Countess was responsible for major renovations to Ca’ Dario, including restoring the marble façade and adding a stone staircase, chimneys, ornate majolica stoves and the beautiful carved panels in the second-floor dining room.
Today, the layout is much as it would have been 500 years ago, with two piani nobili, or principal floors. The first features a Moorish-style fountain installed by Dario and restored to working order by the Countess, and the Sala Maometto, named for the sultan with whom Dario negotiated the 1479 peace treaty. The second piano nobile includes the Sala Rosa (Pink Drawing Room), the smaller Salotto Giallo (Yellow Drawing Room), and the Sala da Pranzo (dining room), which feature luxurious hand-woven Bevilacqua soft furnishings and spectacular antique Murano chandeliers.
“Most of the rooms are untouched and original, but the structure, roof and façade have recently been restored,” says Fusello. “It has taken many years to bring the marble back to its original splendour. The façade is one of the most astonishing and peculiar in Venice – the richness of the detail is unique.
“Ca’ Dario has everything a true lover of Venice is looking for – a standalone building with a private garden, water gate, roof terrace and Grand Canal view. I can imagine it becoming an art museum, or it would make a unique residential property. More like owning a Canaletto painting than a house.”
Details and contact
Contact Arnaldo Fusello