Here’s a look at some of the legends tied to the most fascinating and mysterious places in Venice.
Venice is an incredible city, but it is also a very mysterious and fascinating place. The small winding streets, canals, majestic–and sometimes uninhabited– buildings coupled with the fog rising above the lagoon serve as the protagonists of the city’s Gothic and romantic fantasies. From Casanova to Moro and the treacherous Iago, numerous real and fictional literary figures have walked the narrow calle of La Serenissima. From disturbing encounters and ghosts to legends, magic and superstition, here’s a look seven of the most mysterious places in Venice that will be of particular interest to gothic novel enthusiasts.
1. The ghost of the Gardens of the Biennale
Not all ghosts are evil. Take, for instance, the friendly protective ghost memorialized in a statue alongside Garibaldi in the Gardens of the Biennale. An old man first encountered the ghost, saying he had been hit by a “red shadow”. After a series of investigations, the citizens discovered that he was Giuseppe Zolli, the redcoat who had promised to watch over Garibaldi forever. He disappeared after the statue was erected in 1921.
2. Campo dei Mori
The Square of the Moors is named for three Istrian stone statues depicting the Three Moors, brothers who were wealthy silk merchants. It is said that they are not statues, but that a sorceress they were trying to rip off was aware if their scheme and transformed them into stone. A fourth statue outside the square is said to be their servant.
3. Ca’ Dario, the cursed palazzo
A magnificent palace on the Grand Canal, the beautiful Ca’ Dario is burdened with a heavy curse. All its owners have been destined–at best–to end up bankrupt…at worst, to die a terrible death. This fate befell the palazzo’s first heirs as well as all subsequent owners such as Christopher “Kit” Lambert, the manager of The Who. His drug addiction worsened while he lived there which eventually led to his untimely death. Better to admire Ca’ Dario from afar and at most snap some photos, yes? Or, do like Monet, and paint it.
4. The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs has little to offer in terms of romance as its name does not refer to lovers who sighed while admiring the lagoon. The bridge connected the prison to the interrogation rooms of Doge’s Palace, so the sighs refer to those of the prisoners as glimpsed Venice for the final time before their incarceration.
5. Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo
This prestigious Cannaregio building beside the Fondamenta Gasparo Contarini is home to the Casino degli Spiriti (Casino of the Spirits), so-called for several reasons. Firstly, the noise of the waves slapping against the isolated building sounds like the howling of a ghost. Secondly, the tormented “spirits” for whom the casino is named frequented the building at the beginning of the 1500s: artists, writers and painters such as Giorgione, Titian, Sansovino and Luzzo. The latter was one of the most unhappy, having taken his own life to escape the pain of his unrequited love for Cecilia, the lover of Giorgione. These spirits have often been summoned during seances.
6.The Rialto Bridge
Literature dictates that the Devil not only never forgets, but also gets terribly upset when someone tries to cheat him. The architect who designed the Rialto Bridge tried to deceive the Devil who kept slowing down the construction process. So, he decided to make a deal. He granted him the soul of the first living being to cross the bridge and made a rooster cross it first. This naturally enraged the Devil who took revenge by tricking the architect’s pregnant wife into crossing the bridge with disastrous consequences. It is said that the ghost of the architect’s stillborn son wandered the Rialto for many years after.
7. The Pillars of Acre
One of the most esoteric places in Venice, the Pillars of Acre feature Egyptian-Syrian monograms that no one has been able to decipher. The mystery surrounding these inscriptions combined with the fact that the two columns–which were pillaged from the church of San Saba in Jerusalem–were placed randomly in St. Mark’s Square, has given rise to many rumors and legends. Some believe they are a portal that leads to another dimension while others interpret them as a Masonic symbol that refers to the Temple of Solomon.