Palazzo Dario - History and Facts | History Hit

Palazzo Dario

Amy Irvine

31 May 2023
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / r Iain99 / CC BY-SA 3.0

About Palazzo Dario

The magnificent 14th-century Palazzo Dario with its stunning facade overlooks Venice‘s Grand Canal, and has been home to several famous figures, including Machiavelli and Casanova. However, this is not why the Palazzo Dario is renowned.

Dubbed the ‘Cursed Palace’, ‘The House of No Return’, and even ‘The House That Kills’, Palazzo Dario is actually considered one of the world’s most famous haunted houses. Nearly all those who have owned, lived or had anything to do with the building have met a sticky end, through murder, suicides, accident or bankruptcy.

History of Palazzo Dario

The palace was built in 1479 for aristocrat Giovanni Dario – Secretary of the Senate of the Republic of Venice – as a wedding dowry for his daughter Marietta, who was engaged to rich spice merchant Vincenzo Barbaro. Marietta and Vincenzo inherited the house in 1494. Vincenzo later went bankrupt and was stabbed to death, and Marietta killed herself soon after. Shortly afterwards, their son was killed in a fight in Crete.

Since then, more than 12 of the palace’s owners have died in mysterious circumstances – either by their own hand, through sudden illness, or in violent circumstances, most recently in 2002. Five other owners went bankrupt and three had severe accidents. Here are some of the stories:

  • After owning the house for 4 years, British scientist Radon Brown suffered financial difficulties and his romantic relationship with another man was discovered. This scandal affected him greatly, and in 1842 he committed suicide in the palace with his partner (a potential murder-suicide). American millionaire, Charles Briggs, shared a similar fate when, after purchasing the palazzo, he was accused of being gay and fled to Mexico, where his lover died by suicide.
  • Palazzo Dario then remained empty, but in 1964, Mario del Monaco (a famous operatic tenor) began negotiations about buying the property. On his way to sign the contract, he was involved in a serious car accident, prompting him to rethink his decision.
  • In the 1970s, Palazzo Dario was bought by the Count of Turin, Filippo Giordano delle Lanze. He was later murdered by his lover Raul Blasich, who then died a violent death after fleeing to London.
  • Christopher ‘Kit’ Lambert, manager of The Who, later bought the property, though apparently preferred to stay in a nearby hotel to escape the ghosts he claimed occupied the house (Palazzo Dario is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Gian Dario I Dandolo, whose family once owned the palace). Lambert died on 7 April 1981 of a cerebral haemorrhage after falling down some stairs.
  • The house was then bought by Venetian businessman Fabrizio Ferrari, who moved there with his sister Nicoletta. He later went bankrupt and Nicoletta died in a car accident.
  • In the late 1980s, industrialist Raul Gardini bought the place, aiming to give it to his daughter. After a series of economic setbacks and scandals, he also killed himself under suspicious circumstances in 1993.

Palazzo Dario today

In 2002, The Who’s original bass player, John Entwistle, suffered a heart attack a week after renting the property, and at the turn of the 21st century, Woody Allen debated buying Palazzo Dario, but changed his mind, allegedly after reading about all the strange and tragic deaths connected to the property. Today, the Palazzo Dario is owned by an American multinational, but (perhaps thankfully) no one lives there, and it is more of a tourist spot for passing gondolas and vaporettos.

Some speculate the bad luck is due to the property having been constructed on top of an old Templar cemetery, which, due to a settling of the foundation, makes the building visibly tilt to the right. Interestingly, an inscription on the facade of the palace reads ‘Urbis Genio Joannes Darius’ (‘Giovanni Dario to the Genius of the City’) – the anagram of this otherwise noble saying actually means ‘Sub ruina insidiosa genero’ (‘I bring treacherous ruins to those who live under this roof’).

Getting to Palazzo Dario

Overlooking Venice‘s Grand Canal, Palazzo Dario is located between the Palazzo Barbaro Wolkoff and the narrow Rio delle Torreselle in the Dorsoduro sestiere. The house can be viewed from across the Grand Canal opposite boat stop S. Maria del Giglio.

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