"To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius."
So said the 19th century Russian writer Alexander Herzen.
He was speaking of Venice - the Italian city that stretches across 117 islands where many of the buildings lining the canals were once home to noble Venetian families.
But a number of piano nobile properties - apartments on the principal floor of a palace or large house - are on the market.
One of those is in Palazzo da Mula, located in one of the best sections of the Grand Canal, according to a listing by Sotheby's International Realty. Dating back to the start of the 14th century, the building is one of the oldest on the Grand Canal. But the "second piano nobile" for sale, so called because it was the second built in the palace, was added at the beginning of the 15th century.
The five-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment is being advertised as price on request, suggesting it will not be cheap. But anyone who buys it will be purchasing an important piece of Venetian history. The Da Mula family, who built the palazzo and owned it for almost 600 years, were one of the most respected in Venice. Originally from Rome, the Da Mulas were consistent in their support for the watery city when the Italian capital and Venice were at loggerheads, according to the listing.
However, evidence of their Roman roots can be found in the central courtyard. The property can be accessed from the street or the watergate on the Grand Canal, and has its own mooring. At the entrance there is an original well, which provides further evidence of the family's status as, in general, no one was allowed their own in a bid to prevent the spread of disease.
The apartment can be accessed by a staircase or a lift and is arranged in a "classical style" with a spacious central salon, which features frescoes and opens out to a large balcony with views of the Grand Canal.
In addition to the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen and breakfast room there are also three further smaller salons, which all overlook the Grand Canal.
The fabric on the walls of one of the salons is the only example of its kind outside the Ducal Palace, a Unesco World Heritage site, which is said to be one of the most important monuments in Italy.
* source: Sotheby's International Realty