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Venice > Sightseeing > Ca' Foscari tours

Ca' Foscari Tours

Università Ca' Foscari - Ca' Foscari University

Ca' Foscari view of Grand Canal

ABOVE: A view of the Grand Canal from Ca' Foscari.

Ca' Foscari is one of the most important palazzi in Venice. The historic building was once the home of Francesco Foscari, a doge of the Serene Republic of Venice who acquired the Venetian Gothic palace in 1452, hired an architect to reconstruct it, and died just five days after moving into his new home in 1457.

Today, Ca' Foscari is the administrative seat of Ca' Foscari University, an educational institution that was founded in 1868 and now has 19,000 students in faculties scattered around Venice.

 The building was renovated under the direction of the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa in the mid-1930s and restored again from 2004 to 2006, when sections of the original floors and ceilings were uncovered and preserved for viewing.

Ca' Foscari and Grand Canal

ABOVE: The Ca' Foscari tour includes dramatic views of the Grand Canal fom the 15th Century palazzo's water entrance. (In the photo above, Barbara Cavalieri shares anecdotes about the palace with her two tour guests.)

Free guided tours for the general public

Ca' Foscari University entranceIn 2009, Ca' Foscari University began offering guided tours of its historic palazzo headquarters in Italian, English, and Italian sign language.

Ca' Giustinian staircaseThe free tour is a narrated walk through the courtyards of Ca' Foscari and the neighboring palace of Ca' Giustinian, visits to several important rooms in Ca' Foscari, and sweeping views of the Grand Canal from the palace's water entrance.

It also includes a visit to Ca' Dolfin, which houses the university's Great Hall.

The tour is offered on most Saturdays, and there's no need to book ahead: Just show up 10 minutes before the scheduled time.

(Alternatively, families and other small groups can request special tours at any time during the unversity's business hours.)

For more information, including currently scheduled tour times, visit the Ca' Foscari Tour page at the Universit� Ca' Foscari Web site.

More Ca' Foscari photos:

Ca' Foscari University

Ca' Foscari's land entrance is on the Calle Foscari, a few streets east of Campo S. Margherita in Dorsoduro.

Ca' Foscari Renaissance facade

Ca Foscari University protest banner

The palazzo's courtyard façade is from the Renaissance--unlike the Grand Canal side of the building and the original courtyard wall, which are from the Venetian Gothic period. (The protest banner at right is a modern addition.)

Venice fire department

Venice fireboats

From a grilled gate in the palace courtyard, you can look across the Rio di Ca' Foscari at Venice's main fire station, where fireboats are housed in vaulted slips.

Ca' Giustinian courtyard

The Ca' Foscari tour includes a visit to the courtyard of Ca' Giustinian, the Venetian Gothic-style palazzo next door, which is used by the university for administrative functions and special exhibits.

Note the staircase in the photo above: In earlier times, all Venetian palaces had outside staircases.

Ca' Giustinian wellhead

Ca' Giustinian cistern holes

The well in the courtyard of Ca' Giustinian isn't really a well--it's the top of a huge cistern beneath the courtyard's bricks.

Until modern utilities came to Venice, palazzi and public squares around the city had cisterns where rainwater was filtered and stored. Rainwater entered the cisterns through small drainage holes (inset photo).

Ca' Giustinian staircase

The exterior staircase behind the cistern dates back to the 15th Century. It was restored in the early 20th Century.

Helen D'Abernon inscription

Venice cigarette

An inscription on a column pays tribute to Helen D'Abernon, a British expat who, while renting an apartment in Ca' Giustinian, raised funds to restore the historic staircase. Her contribution might have been lost to history if it hadn't been for a university professor's smoking habit (shown in a photo dramatization above). Your Ca' Foscari tour guide will be happy to tell the story.

Ca' Foscari dog

Don't be surprised if you see a small dog wandering around the courtyards of Ca' Foscari and Ca' Giustinian: It's neither a university mascot nor a stray; it belongs to the caretaker, who lives on the premises.

After you've toured the courtyards, you'll go inside Ca' Foscari and head for the water entrance, which is off limits to ordinary visitors but is included in the guided tour.

Ca' Foscari Grand Canal water gate

This picture was taken with a fisheye lens on the canal side of the water entrance.

Ca' Foscari and Ca' Giustinian on the Grand Canal

A wooden walkway leads to Ca' Giustinian next door. This is where the university rector and distinguished guests arrive for special events at Ca' Foscari.

As you stand at the palazzo's water entrance, you'll have one of the best canal views in Venice.

Ca' Foscari is located at a bend in the Grand Canal, and the panoramic view extends from Rialto to Accademia. (Thanks to its superb location, Ca' Foscari is equipped with a floating stage each year for the Regata Storica, a rowing competition that dates back to the 13th Century.)

Ca' Foscari Aula Baratto view

Ca' Foscari floor under glass

Back inside the building, you'll be taken upstairs to several important rooms in the palace, where you can see a restored ceiling, a floor that was uncovered during the 2004-2006 restoration, and a small auditorium--the Aula Magna Mario Baratto--from the Carlo Scarpa restoration of 1935.

During our tour, a conference was taking place in the auditorium. Nevertheless, we were able to view the room and its artworks through a glass wall, and we observed the Italian love affair with telefonini: In the middle of a lecture, well-dressed academics of both sexes kept wandering out of the Aula Magna Mario Baratto to take calls on their mobile phones.

Great Hall, Ca' Foscari University

This photo shows the Aula Magna Silvio Trentin (a.k.a. the university's Great Hall) in Ca' Dolfin.

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden has written about Venice, Italy since 1996. He covered Venice and European travel at for 4-1/2 years before launching Europe for Visitors (including Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl Imboden in 2001.

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Photos 1,  22, 24 courtesy of Ca' Foscari University.