Apparteneva al ramo Donà delle Rose e alla cerchia degli uomini nuovi, detti giovani, che si erano affacciati al governo della città per ridar vita al matrimonio con il mare che aveva reso grande Venezia, sviluppando il commercio con il Levante in ogni modo possibile e rimanendo nello stesso tempo in una posizione strettamente difensiva per terra.

Fu in ogni senso uno dei più grandi uomini politici della Repubblica.

Aveva 70 anni (era nato il 12 febbraio 1536), aveva studiato filosofia, viaggiato molto, era stato bailo a Costantinopoli,  procuratore di S. Marco de citra dal 26 luglio 1591, e come tale, in un’ambasceria a Roma, aveva avuto un battibecco assurto a leggenda con il cardinale Camillo Borghese, il futuro papa Paolo V (1605-1621): «Se fossi papa scomunicherei i Veneziani» gli fece il cardinale, al che il procuratore Donà rispose: «Se fossi doge riderei della scomunica».

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