Designed by Baldassare Longhena in the 17th century, this gigantic palace was completed nearly 100 years later by Giorgio Massari and became the last home of English poet Robert Browning (1812–89). Stand on the bridge by the Grand Canal entrance to spot the plaque with Browning's poetic excerpt, "Open my heart and you will see graved inside of it, Italy..." on the left side of the palace. The spectacular centerpiece is the eye-popping Grand Ballroom, which has
hosted some of the grandest parties in the city's history, from its 18th-century heyday to the 1969 Bal Fantastica (a Save Venice charity event that attracted every notable of the day, from Elizabeth Taylor to Aristotle Onassis) to its balls recreated for Heath Ledger's 2005 Casanova film. Today the upper floors of the Ca' Rezzonico are home to the especially delightful Museo del Settecento (Museum of Venice in the 1700s). Its main floor successfully retains the appearance of a magnificent Venetian palazzo, decorated with period furniture and tapestries in gilded salons, as well as Tiepolo ceiling frescoes and oil paintings. Upper floors contain a fine collection of paintings by 18th-century Venetian artists, including the famous genre and Pucinella frescoes by Giabattista Tiepolo's son, Giandomenico, moved here from the Villa di Zianigo. There's even a restored apothecary, complete with powders and potions.
Mar 20, 2006
If you have even the slightest appreciation for a magnificently preserved Venetian Palazzo and stunning works of art, this is the place to come. It is mind-boggling, and unlike other locales, was not terribly crowded on the day of my visit in August. Take the self-paced audio tour and give yourself plenty of time. I sent my wife and daughters on their way after two hours (they wanted to go to the Lido and sun bathe), stayed another hour and a half,
finishing my reverie with a great glass of Pino Grigio in the Palace's cafe on the main floor. The docents and museum staff are quite justifiably proud of their collection, and display it with great affection and civic pride. My visit is now a pleasant memory of historic Venice, frequently reinforced by the pages of photographs in the beautiful book I bought in the gift shop. Don't miss it!