Palazzo Bembo is located on the Canal Grande, a few steps away from the Rialto bridge. It was built by the noble family of Bembo in the fifteenth century. Although it was remodelled several times over the centuries, externally it still maintains the original structure. The Palazzo’s red façade combines old Venetian elements with influences from the Byzantine and is considered an example of the Venetian-Byzantine or -Gothic style, a style of architecture that originated in 14th century Venice with the confluence of Byzantine styles from Constantinople, Arab influences from Moorish Spain and early Gothic forms from mainland Italy. Palazzo Bembo’s 17th-century restoration, taking influences from that period with polychromy, three-partitioned façades and loggias. The building is on the San Marco side of the Canal Grande, wedged in between Rio di San Salvador and Calle Bembo.

Palazzo Bembo is the birthplace of Pietro Bembo (1470-1547), a Venetian scholar, poet, literary theorist, and cardinal. He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium. His writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch. Bembo's ideas were also decisive in the formation of the most important secular musical form of the 16th century, the madrigal.

Today, after years of neglect, Palazzo Bembo is finding back to its original atmosphere. It is becoming the home again of the arts, culture and education. Under a new ownership, the decision has been made to restore Palazzo Bembo and to make room for exhibitions in cooperation with la Biennale di Venezia and with the hosting of two exhibitions in 2011 and several world-class exhibitions in 2012. The exhibitions in Palazzo Bembo are organised by the Dutch Non-profit organisation GAA Foundation.

In the file at the very top of this page, one can find a PDF with extended information about Palazzo Bembo in Italian.


The noble Bembo family were among the ancient families of the Venetian aristocracy and sought refuge in the lagoon at the time of the barbarian invasions, fleeing from Bologna. They were later present when the first doge was created in the year 697. Celebrated throughout the centuries, the family boasts saints, theologians, and military heroes. Pietro Bembo, elected cardinal in 1539, was from the branch of the family that owned the palace Ca Bembo, on the Riva del Carbon at the Canal Grande in Venice and appears to have been born in the same house as Giovanni Bembo who defeated the Uskok pirates and was elected doge in 1615.

Bernardo Bembo (*1433- 1519) 
was a prominent statesman, ambassador,  of the republic Venezia and the father of the famous humanist Pietro Bembo.

Pietro Bembo
 (*1470 - 1547) poet, and cardinal. BIOGRAPHY

He was an influential figure in the development of the Italian language, specifically Tuscan, as a literary medium, and his writings assisted in the 16th-century revival of interest in the works of Petrarch. Pietro Bembo's ideas were also decisive in the formation of the most important secular musical form of the 16th century, the madrigal.

 Painting by Giovanni Bellini 1505-1509

Pietro Bembo was born in Venice to an aristocratic family. His father was an ambassador for the Venetian state, and while still a boy Pietro was able to accompany him on many of his travels; one of the places he visited was Florence, there acquiring a love for the Tuscan form of Italian, a love which was to prove so important in literary and musical history. He studied Greek for two years under the Greek scholar Lascaris at Messina, and afterwards went to the University of Padua. Further travels included two years (1497-1499) spent at the Este court in Ferrara, under the reign of Ercole d'Este I then a significant literary and musical centre. While there he met Ariosto and commenced writing his first work, Gli Asolani, a dialogue on the subject of courtly love. The poems in this book were reminiscent of Boccaccio and Petrarch, and were widely set to music in the 16th century. Bembo himself preferred his poetry to be performed by a female singer accompanied by a lute, a wish which was granted to him when he met Isabella d'Este in 1505 and sent her a copy of his book. 

In 1502 and 1503 he was again in Ferrara, and had a love affair with the notorious Lucrezia Borgia, who was the wife of Alfonso d'Este. He left around the time of Josquin des Prez's hire by Ercole I d'Este as composer to the chapel, and in time to avoid the plague which decimated the city in 1505, claiming the life of renowned composer Jacob Obrecht. 

Between 1506 and 1512 he lived in Urbino, and it was here that Bembo began to write his most influential work, a prose treatise on writing poetry in Italian, Prose della volgar lingua, although it was not to be published until much later. In 1513 Bembo accompanied Giulio de' Medici to Rome, where he was soon after appointed secretary to Leo X.

 Painting by Tiziano 1539-1540

Years later, ill and bored, Bembo left Rome for Padua. Pietro Bembo was active in education in Padua, and his great achievement was to have helped create a common language for Italy through the revival of medieval Tuscany in his poetry and prose. On the pontiff's death in 1521 he retired, with impaired health, to Padua with Morosina, the young sister of a Vatican courtesan.  To guarantee a living he took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience in the aristocratic order of St John of Jerusalem, and then started a family. He lived there for a number of years, during which he continued to write, and in 1525 finally published his famous Prose della volgar lingua.

 In 1529 he accepted the office of historiographer to Venice, his native city, and shortly afterwards was appointed librarian of St Mark's. After Morosina's death, Pope Paul III in 1539 made him a cardinal, and Bembo went back to Rome. An open mind, coupled with the staunch support of the established church during the troubled years of the reformation, made him an asset to the papal curia. While in Rome he continued to write and revise his earlier work, in addition to studying theology and classical history; he received as reward the bishoprics of Gubbio and Bergamo. At the time of his accidental death in Rome in 1547 he was considered a likely successor to Paul III. 



 Painting by Tiziano 1545-1546

Pietro Bembo, as a writer, attempted to restore some of the legendary "affect" that ancient Greek had on its hearers, but in Tuscan Italian instead. He held as his model, and as the highest example of poetic expression ever achieved in Italian, the work of Petrarch and Boccaccio, two 14th century writers he assisted in bringing back into fashion. In the Prose della volgar lingua he set Petrarch up as the perfect model, and discussed verse composition in detail, including rhyme, stress, the sounds of words, balance, and variety.  In Bembo's theory, the specific placement of words in a poem, with strict attention to their consonants and vowels, their rhythm, their position within lines long and short, could produce emotions ranging from sweetness and grace to gravity and grief in a listener. This work was of decisive importance in the development of the Italian madrigal, the most famous secular musical form of the 16th century, as it was these poems, carefully constructed (or, in the case of Petrarch, analyzed) according to Bembo's ideas, which were to be the primary texts for the music. Other works by Bembo include a History of Venice from 1487 to 1513 (published in 1551), as well as dialogues, poems, and essays. His early Gli Asolani explains and recommends Platonic affection, somewhat ironically considering his affair with Lucrezia Borgia, married at the time to his employer. His edition of Petrarch's Italian Poems, published by Aldus in 1501, and the Terzerime, which Aldus published in 1502, were also influential. The typeface Bembo is named after him. 

Giovanni Bembo (*1543-1618) 

He was the 92nd Doge of Venice, reigning from his election on December 2 1615 until his death. His reign is notable for Venetian victories during the War of Gradisca (1617) and for the Bedmar Plot (1618), in which the Spanish ambassador to Venice, attempted unsuccessfully to destabilise the Most Serene Republic.

Giovanni was the son of Augustine Bembo and Chiara Del Basso. Giovanni Bembo's mother provided Bembo with a large inheritance, which he divided with one brother. Bembo was enrolled in the crew of a galley at age 12, and he remained aboard ship for sixteen years. He fought in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), showing great courage in spite of repeated wounds. Following his good showing in the Battle of Lepanto, Giovanni Bembo was appointed provveditore. He served with distinction and went on to become savio, consigliere, and Procurator of San Marco in turn. On December 2, 1615, Giovanni Bembo, a moderate member of the vecchie faction was elected as Doge. 1617-18 saw the Spanish Ambassador to Venice, attempt to destabilise Venice by sowing discord, which would allow Spanish troops to march into Venice and seize control of the city.  Giovanni Bembo participated in the councils called to stop the Spanish, he died while the threat was still current, on March 16, 1618.



The origins of Bembo Font Family date back to the late fifteenth century, when artisans like Aldus Manutius and Francesco Griffo were creating work critical to the evolution of contemporary roman typography. One of the first Old Style typefaces, the original Bembo font was cut by Griffo, and used by Manutius in 1495 to print Cardinal Bembo's tract, 'De Aetna'.

The twentieth-century Old Style font, produced in 1929, was closely based on Francesco Griffo's designs, which had no italics. Companion italics for the Bembo font were created from the work of Renaissance writing master Giovanni Tagliente. Bembo Font Family is a beautiful text face with classic style, and is very suitable for books, magazines, invitations, and other text applications.