The Contarini Staircase, a paradisiac view of Venice
In the “Divine Comedy”, Virgil says goodbye to Dante and puts him in the hands of Beatrice on the top of the Purgatory’s mountain, just before the pilgrim-poet reaches the Eartlhly Paradise.
Dante describes the scene by saying, “When we had run / O’er all the ladder to its topmost round, / As there we stood, on me the Mantuan fix’d / His eyes, and thus he spake: ‘Both fires, my son, / The temporal and eternal, thou hast seen, / And art arriv’d, where of itself my ken / No further reaches’” (“Purgatory” XXVII, 124-129). Virgil will be at his side for a little while longer, but is getting ready to stop talking to his “pupil” forever.
Try to remember these verses as you reach the top of the Contarini Staircase and take in the wonderful, breathtaking view of Venice.
Built at the end of the 15th century by will of the Venetian nobleman Pietro Contarini, the gorgeous spiral staircase – “bòvolo” in the lagoon’s dialect, hence the name “Contarini del Bovolo” – winds up 26 meters, inside a cylindrical tower with seemingly infinite round arches.
At the top of the stairs, recite one more tercet from the same canto, in which Virgil tells Dante, “Lo! the sun, that darts / His beam upon thy forehead! lo! the herb, / The arboreta and flowers, which of itself / This land pours forth profuse!”
Finally, let the scenery leave you completely speechless with its beauty.