Strange Places and Mysteries in Venice
Venice is a wonderful place for strange and mysterious traditions, places and characters from the past. Here is a collection of the most interesting ones connected with places of interest around the city.
The small square of St Mark’s
What is called the Piazzetta or small square, looks out on the lagoon between two columns. The two columns honour respectively, St Teodoro, Venice’s first patron, and St Mark, who became patron saint after his remains were, as legend has it, stolen and brought to the city. Originally it is believed there were three columns but the third was lost overboard on the trip to Venice from Constantinople. It is a mystery and most certainly a stroke of genius,how the columns came to be set by builder, Nicolo’ Baratteri who was also responsible for the Rialto Bridge.
Around 1507, the baker Piero Tasca, found a stabbed body in the street. After torture he was forced to admit to a murder he never committed and was put to death in front of the south side of the Basilica. Not long after his innocence was discovered. From that day two red candles are lit all night, every night between two Basilica arches where the gallows had been set up. It is an eternal reminder and a gesture of penitence from the city for that innocent victim.
The Clock Tower
The Republic was said to have gorged out the eyes of the man who created the clock tower found in St Mark’s so that he would never be able to create another for any other city. In May, on the day of the Ascension, the figures of the three wise kings, preceded by an angel, mechanically appear every hour before a figure of the Virgin Mary and bow to her.
In the first ‘loggia’ in the Ducal Palace, there are a set of columns that look out over the lagoon of which two are of a different colour. According to tradition, it was here that death sentences were read out. A second chance however was given to anyone who could pass around one of the entire columns holding up the portico on the ground floor below without losing his balance and falling onto the road. This column shows, even today, a worn part of the marble pavement where people have made the attempt. It is an almost impossible feat. Try for yourselves.
The Biennale Gardens
In 1921, near Garibaldi’s statue in the gardens, a ghost appeared in a red shirt. It attacked passersby tripping people up and shaking them roughly. The ghost was recognised as one Giuseppe Zolli, 1838, who was a fervent Garibaldi follone and had sworn to protect his leader in life as in death. It was decided to commission a bronze statue of Zolli to put behind Garibaldi’s statue. From that day the ghost stopped appearing.
Palace Dario is a beautiful palace on the Grand Canal not far from the Salute church. It is finely decorated with many coloured marbles and Istrian stone. It was built for Giovanni Dario, originally from Dalmatia, in 1487 and designed by Pietro Lombardo. From its very earliest beginnings thought, the building has been deemed cursed because its owners have all, even up until recent times, have seen cruel deaths. Inscribed on a part of the building, is a message in Latin: "genio urbis joannes dario" in " sub ruina insidiosa genero" that maybe well confirm the curse theory?
The hunchback of Rialto
In the square in front of the St Giacomo of Rialto church, there is a strange little marble staircase supported by bent over figure. He is called the ‘hunchback of Rialto’. From this stone figure the laws of the Republic were read.
Mastrelli Palace or The Camel
The palace is located in Cannaregio in one of the prettiest parts of Venice. It was the home of merchants Rioba, Santi and Alfani, who all came from Morea in the Peloponese around the year 1112. They are featured in the statues placed in the corner of the square and waterfront here the palace. A legend says that the merchants are trapped inside the statues having been turned to stone for their dishonest business dealings.
The waterfront called the Schiavoni and the Listoni
The Schiavoni waterfront runs from St Mark’s Square all the way along the lagoon waterfront. It is a famous promenade for Venetians. The paving stone for walking is called a ‘listone’ And derives from the famous pathway that once ran through the middle of St Stefano Campo (Square) which was once covered in grass. The square, from the 16th century, was also a great meeting place for Venetians and a way for the city to socialise, court and be seen.
The cemetery is made up two islands linked together – that of St Michele and St Cristoforo della Pace. On 7th December 1807 a Napoleonic decree named the island of San Cristoforo a municipal cemetery. It is the final resting place of many famous names including Igor Stravinsky who finished his Fourth Symphony in the city, the poet Ezra Pound who published ‘A Lume Spento’, his first collection of poems, in Venice and Josif Brodskij who received a Nobel for literature and who dedicated one of his most touching books, “ Fondamenta degli Incurabili ” to the city.