In the fifteenth century, the building, formerly owned by the Lion family, then the Vernier family, was the home of the great mercenary captain Pandolfo Malatesta, lord of Rimini and patron of the arts, who took refuge here after being excommunicated and sentenced to be burnt at the stake for his excessive greed.
The palace in the past was also home to the luckless Francesco da Bussone, known as the Count of Carmagnola, accused of treason and executed between the two columns in St. Mark’s Square.
Originally, the front of the palace faced the Grand Canal, occupying the space that is now the garden. The structure of the palace was the typical Venetian tripartite architecture of the fifteenth century, with direct access from the canal and the white marble façade interspersed with arched windows, decorated with elegant balustrades in Istrian stone.
In the golden age of the eighteenth century, the salons on the piano nobile of the palace hosted the social and cultural life of the city’s aristocratic elite, who, to the notes of Vivaldi played by string quartets, gathered to dance, play cards and converse.
Throughout the centuries, the building has always been one of the most exclusive and spectacular in the city, so much so that in 1819 it even appeared in the tourist guidebook entitled ‘Forestiero Istruito nelle cose più pregevoli e curiose antiche e moderne della città di Venezia’ (translated, the title means ‘For foreigners that they may learn of the most splendid and curious ancient and modern things of the city of Venice’).
However, in a fire that broke out in in 1845, the façade of the palace facing the Grand Canal was destroyed, leaving space for the current ‘garden on the water’, while the salon and the portion of the building that housed the casinò were saved.