Bay side of Ca’d’Zan façade of the living room on the western elevation and marble terrace

A Venetian Gothic Renaissance Revival Mansion. The personal estate of John and Mabel Ringling.

The Ringlings were lovers of the Venetian aesthetic and chose the site overlooking Sarasota Bay for its vista, which reminded them of the lagoon of their favorite city. The name of the residence is Venetian for House of John. [“Cà d’ Zan Mansion”. The Ringling]

It was truly an amazing site to see. If you are ever near Sarasota, Florida, I encourage you to take the time to tour these grounds! There you’ll be able to tour the Barnum and Bailey Circus Museum, the Ca’d’Zan, Mabel Ringling’s Rose Garden, the Botanical Gardens, Dwarf Gardens and An art museum curated by Mr. & Mrs. Ringling themselves with famous paintings from Italy! They loved art! Statues are placed throughout the property as well. They were bronze replicas of Greek mythological gods and other popular sculptures one would find in Rome. It is very cheap to get in and tour. Monday’s are free except the Ca’d’Zan. Children are admitted at a child’s price up to age 17!

Mabels Rose Garden

What lured me to this place was the fact that I love the circus and have always wanted to go to a Barnum and Bailey’s Circus and have never got to go. Which by the way, they sometimes do circus shows there. Unfortunately the next one wasn’t until the end of the month when I would be gone. So sad, I know. The other fact was the whole place looks like you are in Italy!!! So that’s a no brainer there! Give me all of Italy I can get! And the beauty of the Ca’d’Zan. I honestly wore my husband and nephew who went with me out. They gave up on walking the grounds with me and sat down in the foyer of the art museum until I got done! LOL!

So, let’s go to the mansion first: Ca’d’Zan, or House of John. You will be able to tour the first floor of the Ca’d’Zan if you go in the summer. If you go in the winter months the above floors are open to tour. One of my favorite parts of the inside of the house were the cypress wood coffered ceilings in the grand room and the stained glass windows.

Grand Room
From the movie Great Expectations

Fun fact: The 1998 film Great Expectations had portions filmed at Ca’ d’Zan.

Cypress Ceilings

Just like the other mansions, it was heavily gilded with ornate furniture, dark woods, golden trimmings and dark patterned fabrics. The building started going up in 1924 and was finished in 1926 and cost 1.5 million dollars. It was very regal in design.

Architectural details of the house were influenced mainly by the Venetian Doge’s Palace, Ca’ d’ Oro and the Grunwald Hotel. John and Mabel collected items from those areas of their international travels and placed them throughout the home.

The kitchen was more simpler the Butler’s pantry and Kitchen were all together. 1900’s era cooking stove, porcelain sink, and ice box were all on the first floor. The room services lit up instead of ringing a bell. It entailed a lot of modern features like The Elms of Newport with the technology of the day.

Upon exiting the outside the Ca’d’Zan, it directly faces the Sarasota Bay. Man is it Grand!! Marble tile patterns walkways, stained glass windows, pink sandstone walls and the moorish inlays.

I was in heaven y’all!

Me on the bayside of the Ca’d’Zan.
Stained glass doors overlooking the bay.

We then went to the Art museum where there is an enormous well manicured courtyard inspired by Italian Renaissance villas that showcased reproductions of Greek and Roman sculptures some mythological and some historical.

Read more about them here:

Statue of Apollo

Inside is Italian art that mainly consists of religious subject matter. Many of the Virgin Mary and Jesus by famous artists. The majority of the 13th through 17th Century paintings are all original! You can see the aging on them and I loved it!! With one of my favorite Renaissance artists being Rembrandt, of course I would love these paintings! The dark, rich color tones these artists used make them so rich and detailed- I mean they painted every leaf, the bark on the trees, the shadows- everything looks so realistic. They were truly amazing artist from that time period!

Late Gothic and Renaissance Art in Northern Europe (1350-1550)

Some of the religious paintings were purchased from the Gothic Room in The Marble House in RI when they had to sell off some art pieces from the estate. Thank you John Ringling for preserving these masterpieces! (The Gothic room is featured in the Marble House blog).

The Prophet Elisha and the Rich Woman of Shunem, c. 1650, Pier Francesco Mola

One wing of the museum features modern art exhibits. My nephew who is going to a university to study computer science in the fall really enjoyed some of that art. They had a suspension bridge set that was really cool once he explained it to me. I had no clue what I was looking at until then. 😂

Modern Art Wall

As we left, we crossed over to the dwarf gardens, reminiscent of 18th and 19th century German and Italian gardens. These little guys and gals were nestled along the enormous banyan trees which gave some great shade from the Florida sun.

Dwarf Gardens

So next time you are in Florida and you want to go on an escape to Italy here’s your chance!

Go for it! The locals highly recommended it to me when I asked if I should go there. It’s an experience you’ll be thankful you did!

Statue in Mabel Ringling’s Gardens