Exploring the Mysterious History of Venice’s Cursed Building
Inside Venice’s Cursed Building, Unveiling the Mysteries
Venice is a city that whispers ancient stories to those who love to listen.
The passage of time beats a different rhythm in calli and canals, according to the deep breath of the glorious past.
Art dances on its waters and in an eternal harmony the Serenissima welcomes those who wish to get lost on a journey of discovery.
The city is rich in buildings that keep the signs of the passage of Time.
Ca’ Dario is one of those places steeped in history and legends.
Suspended over the waters of the Grand Canal, with its fascinating façade and its history wrapped in a palpable mystery, Ca’ Dario is one of the most intriguing buildings in Venice.
An architectural jewel created by the architect Pietro Lombardo who designed it in the Venetian flowered Gothic style, a style in which Gothic, Byzantine and Oriental themes intertwine with a totally new approach to architecture.
Inclined for a subsidence of the foundations, its asymmetric façade is a masterpiece of style. Just 10 meters long (a gondola parked below would be one meter longer), it reflects itself on the Grand Canal in all its slender magnificence.
It does not look like an architectural work but a painting: eighty circles of stones and polychrome marble set like jewels in the Istria marble.
A dedication is engraved on the basenm of the building: “VRBIS GENIO JOANNES DARIVS” (Giovanni Dario, the savior of the town)
“VRBIS GENIO JOANNES DARIVS ” (Giovanni Dario the town's savior)
It’s beauty hides a dark fame created by the recurrence over the centuries of a negative fate on anyone who has owned it or lived in it.
The list of disasters is long and dramatic.
Suicides, family tragedies and economic failures: there seems to be a single fatal trend that strikes relentlessly.
Although there is a complacency in perpetuating the belief that the palace brings misfortune and tragedy to those who lives in it, the cyclical nature of unfortunate events only confirms the legend.
The reason of Ca’ Dario’s curse is unknown.
Some say it is due to its irregular shape that would create an energy imbalance.
Others say it is linked to its proximity to the place where Doge Marino Faliero was killed, guilty of having attempted a coup in 1355.
Whatever the truth, Ca’ Dario remains one of the most interesting buildings in Venice, for several reasons, not only for the macabre myth that feeds its charisma.
Very rare are the cases in which the history of a building is identified in such a total and absolute way with a person as it is in the case of Ca’ Dario in Venice.
Ca' Dario, picture by Carlo Naya, 1860
John Ruskin, who loved Byzantine and Gothic Venice, was particularly impressed by Ca’ Dario. He speaks about it in his “Le Pietre di Venezia” of 1853 and the façade so rich in details becomes the subject of his watercolors.
In 1908 Monet painted Ca’ Dario in a series of paintings that reproduce the same subject illuminated by a different sunlight according to the moment of the day.
Gabriele D’Annunzio who had lived in the red house on the other side of the Grand Canal (the same that had also hosted the sculptor Canova) mentions him in “Notturno” and also in “The flame” giving perhaps the closest description to the intimate reality of the building:
“(…) precious discs of porphyry and serpentine that make the house of Dario tilted like a decrepit courtesan under the pomp of her jewelry (…)”
The Vate lived there, almost in front of the Grand Canal, in the magnificent red house (which was also Canova’s study) from 1915 to 1918.
From there he also observed Palazzo Barbaro Wolkoff, just to the left of Ca’ Dario, on the top floor of which Eleonora Duse used to stay.
Tracing the History of Palazzo Dario in Venice
The story of Ca’ Dario is a fascinating and mysterious story.
The Palace (Ca‘ stands for Casada, family, and indicates the most important palaces in Venice) was commissioned in 1487 by Giovanni Dario, merchant and diplomat of the Republic of Venice known for concluding the peace with Sultan Mehmet II, a treaty that ended the war against the Turks.
Given as a dowry to his daughter Marietta who married the spice merchant Vincenzo Barbaro, it is said that immediately brought a series of family and economic misfortunes.
Marietta, shocked by the events and the mourning, committed suicide by jumping into the Grand Canal.
Since then the Venetians have anagrammated the inscription of the base transforming it in SVB RVINA INSIDIOUS SON-IN-LAW (“I generate under an insidious ruin”) giving rise to the cloud of mystery that still surrounds it.
The belief that the palace is located above a Templar cemetery is still alive even if not proven.
Owned by the Barbaro family until the 19th century, it was sold to Arbit Abdoll, an Armenian gemstone trader. Bankruptcy caught him as for the next buyer, the British Historian Rawdon Brown.
Purchased in 1896 by Countess Isabelle Gontran de la Baume-Pluvinel, an active protagonist of the Venetian jet-set of the early 1900s, it became a meeting point for Venetian and French artists among whom Henri de Régnier stands out.
A dedicated plaque in the garden commemorates his stay at the Palace.
In this ancient house of the Dario family
Henri de Régnier
in the venetian way lived and wrote
The French poet stayed there between 1899 and 1901: he had to interrupt his stay in Venice after his wife’s attempted suicides and due to an illness that led him to death.
“But tonight, this whisper, is for me but the sleeping sorceress’ breath and the vivid sigh of her beauty.
I only know one thing on this beautiful September night, and that is that this silence, this moonlight, this palace, this suspended terrace, which I do not yet call altana, all this is Venice, and I am happy”.
(Henri de Régnier, “L’altana ou la vie vénitienne”)
Dramatic is the story of Count Charles Briggs, American billionaire who, legend tells, committed suicide with his lover after raising a sex scandal in the lagoon.
You have to get to 1970 to hold the thread of suspense and feed the black legend of the Cursed Building.
The Count of Turin Filippo Giordano delle Lanze bought the palace and was murdered inside it by a Croatian sailor who was in turn killed immediately after the escape.
Christopher “Kit” Lambert, manager of the band The Who soon became owner of the Palace and…
drugs addiction and economic problems hit him! He died falling down the stairs.
In 2002 the bassist of the same group, John Entwistle, rented it for a week’s vacation in Venice.
He had a heart attack. And died!
Even the Venetian businessman Fabrizio Ferrari could not escape the curse of Ca’ Dario that hit both him and his sister.
As happened to the financier Raul Gardini, who was involved in the Tangentopoli scandal and committed suicide in 1993.
After the death of Gardini it was difficult to sell the building even if it seems the film director Woody Allen had been tempted by the idea.
Maybe the rumors about bad luck made him give up?
There’s no way to find out.
Gardini’s daughter, Elisabetta, sold Ca’ Dario in 2006 to an American company that wants to remain anonymous on behalf of an unknown buyer who has commissioned the restoration.
Article in the Venice newspaper on the crime of Count Filippo Giordano
Discover the Location of Venice’s Cursed Building
Located at number 353 in the Dorsoduro district, at the entrance to the Rio delle Torreselle, overlooking Campiello Barbaro at the back, it rises slenderly to three floors and at the top stand out the conical chimneys in typical Venetian style which are among the few original examples of the time have survived intact to this day.
In the details of Bellini’s paintings “Miracle of the Cross at the San Lorenzo Bridge” and Carpaccio’s “Miracle of the Cross at the Rialto Bridge”, you can see the conical chimneys and roof terraces, altane, typical of Venice.
The combination of Gothic and Moorish elements makes the interiors of Ca’ Dario a fascinating and unique place. A large atrium with a marble wellhead leads to a finely decorated marble staircase that leads to the main floors.
The whole atmosphere is fairy-tale and enchanted, so much so that the Palace has often been the venue for events and private parties.
It is not possible to visit the Palace, but the excellent publication by the publisher Franco Maria Ricci represents a unique opportunity to appreciate all the beauty of the interiors of Ca’ Dario: «Mito e storia di Giovanni Dario e del suo palazzo tra Oriente e Venezia»