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A patrician family originally from Rome that did not have the good fortune to elect any doge, but can count primary ecclesiastical personalities among its descendants.

The members of the family stood out for their commendable humanistic education, little inclined to political affairs but interested in commerce, exploration, science and theater.

The dynasty, whose members said they had illustrious Roman descendants with the surname Balbo, expanded into Liguria, Piedmont, Milan, Ravenna, Chiari, Aquileia and Venice.

In Venice there were two existing stocks: one, coming from Aquileia in the 8th century, whose coat of arms depicts a rampant weasel (called sweet in Veneto) and the other, coming from Ravenna in 897, whose emblem shows a red field crossed from a band (called Trezza in Veneto), half blue and half golden.

After the coup d'etat that went down in history as the Serrata del Maggior Consiglio, in 1297 the families authorized to be part of the Maggior Consiglio were selected and Balbi was one of the lucky ones.

The Balbi dalla Trezza expanded considerably in Venice taking place in San Silvestro, San Gallo, San Pantalon, Sant'Anzolo, Eremite, Incurabili, San Simeon Piccolo, San Giacomo dall'Orio, Santo Stefano, Santa Maria Formosa and other areas in the lagoon .

Nicolò Balbi, descendant of the most famous owner of Palazzo Balbi, was one of the 40 patricians who in 1340 participated in electing the doge Andrea Dandolo, a learned person who culturally awakened Venice.

Bernardo Balbi, born around 1493, nicknamed by the Banco, obtained - by inheritance from his father Alvise - a bank of money changers in Rialto; he married Elena Corner and among his children, Giacomo, joined the daughter of Francesco Barbaro, an Italian humanist, politician and diplomat, in the service of the Republic of Venice. Eustacchio Barbaro, known as stai, another son of Bernardo, was Lord of one of the Compagnie della Calza and for this reason he was charged with directing the prestigious wedding celebrations between Giacomo Foscari, son of Doge Francesco, and Lucrezia Contarini da San Barbara.

The most famous Nicolò Balbi, the founder of Palazzo Balbi, was born on 9 October 1540 and during his life he was Podestà and Captain of Mestre (1569); on May 15, 1572 he married Chiara Barbaro. Their marriage left no descendants but a precise and detailed will allowed the lineage not to die out.

Gerolamo Balbi (16th century) was a bishop and a man of science, taught astronomy at the University of Paris and wrote an in-depth text on the celestial and terrestrial spheres.

Gasparo Balbi between 1579 and 1588 traveled to the Indies and dedicated a publication on his explorations to Teodoro Balbi, consul of Aleppo and later commander in Lepanto. He tried twice to be elected Doge and professed himself "jeweler" for his expeditions, trying to follow in the footsteps of the famous Marco Polo.

Giambattista Balbi in the seventeenth century was set designer and choreographer at the Nuovissimo di San Giovanni e Paolo and was not the only one of the family to deal with the theater: this is the case of Filippo and Alvise Balbi who, after a certain period of free use of a room minor inside the theater in San Giovanni Grisostomo, they obtained the possibility of erecting a theater in Mestre near the Canal Salso. This theater would have made it possible to entertain and cheer up the holidays on the mainland of Venetian families.

 

Filippo dei Balbi of "Campo Rusolo", born in 1775, was an expert miniaturist and discovered a method to remove the frescoes: he saved, among others, a canvas by Paolo Veronese that he had painted in Villa Soranzo, built by Sanmichieli, in Treville in the near Castelfranco Veneto. Due to his skills, including in the field of mechanics and physics, in 1815 he was appointed a member of the Academy of Venice and remained a member until his death (1845).

Marco and Nicolò Balbi were convicted of two similar crimes: the first for having entered the convent of the Holy Spirit and attempting to intertwine amorous relations with two nuns (1491) while the second for having performed sexual acts in a corner of the church with the Novice del Broglio (1678). The woman never came out of prison again while Nicolò was banished from the city; after two years, with the help of his family, the young man managed to return to Venice but a few months later he took his own life by throwing himself out of a window and drowning. Considering the scandal that caused Nicolò's return home, some believed that the suicide may have been induced or even provoked.

Church of San Zulian: destroyed by the devastating fire of 1105 - which razed a large part of Venice to the ground - it was rebuilt thanks to the economic intervention of the Balbi. Considering the precarious conditions of the place of worship, and at the behest of the Ravenna doctor Tommaso Rangone, it was extensively remodeled in the 16th century and the facade was cared for by Jacopo Sansovino and Alessandro Vittoria.

Balbi Theater in Mestre: it was built near the Salso Canal by Filippo and Alvise Balbi in 1777, based on a project by Bernardino Maccaruzzi. The stage could be lowered to allow for dancing parties, the stalls consisted of 99 boxes on four rows, perfect acoustics, in the atrium shops and behind the theater an inn. When the Balbi family did not obtain permission to use the smaller halls for gambling, the enormous expenses for the shows caused major financial problems for the family, who first had to close (1798) and then demolish the theater (1811). It was the first theater built in Mestre, at the time the holiday resort of the Venetian nobles; subsequently, a new attempt was made in 1840 while only the Toniolo Theater managed to arrive intact to the present day.

Palazzo Balbi: built by the architect and sculptor Alessandro Vittoria between 1582 and 1590 by the will of Nicolò Balbi, it represents one of the very first Baroque palaces in Venice. Every first Sunday in September, on the occasion of the Historical Regatta, the residence is transformed into a backdrop to the machina, the stage that is set up to host the authorities and reward the winners of the competition.

 

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