Ghost Stories from Venice

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In the second installment of the Ghost Stories from… series, we turn to beautiful Venice, Italy. This magical city, occupying a cluster of islands in the Venice Lagoon, captivates with its canals, history and charm. My daughter, grandson and I loved exploring this amazing city.

Haunting is another word that describes Venice. Like most cities, Venice has its dark side too. Wandering the narrow streets after sunset, especially when the fog rolls in, sends a chill down the spine that isn’t entirely caused by the weather.

The city’s long history is filled with stories of rebellions, conquests and death. It’s not surprising that energy lingers there. Check out these ghost stories from Venice, for a peek at the city’s mysterious side.

Ghost Stories from Venice title meme

Ghost Stories from Venice

Water is a great conductor of electricity and also of supernatural energy. Hauntings and water seem to go together. Whether from deep dark pools, rivers or even the moisture that accumulates within the walls of a house, water often amplifies ghostly activity. With its lagoon and 150 canals, water literally surrounds Venice and flows through it. And because the city is slowly sinking into the lagoon, many buildings and cathedrals have flooded subfloors and crypts.

No wonder Venice is not only one of the most uniquely beautiful cities in the world, but also one of the most haunted.

As you explore Venice, keep these locations and ghost stories in mind.

Ca’ Dario

Also known as Palazzo Dario, or Dario Palace, this house is also dubbed “the house that kills”.

Giovanni Dario, a local official, built the gothic palace on the Grand Canal in the late 1400s. After financial ruin and death, his daughter Marietta and her husband inherited the house. The husband died soon after, murdered, and Marietta committed suicide by throwing herself into the Grand Canal. Their son died a short time later in an ambush.

Over the centuries the palace continues to change hands. The owners have all been murdered, committed suicide, suffered horrible accidents or illnesses or experienced disastrous financial ruin.

Even leasing the palace comes with risks. In 2002 bass player John Entwistle died of a heart attack a week after renting the palace for a vacation.

A US company purchased Ca’ Dario in 2006, on behalf of a wealthy American woman. It’s currently undergoing renovations. Would you stay there? I would not!

Ghost Stories from Venice Ca Dario
Ghost Stories from Venice – Ca’ Dario, the house that kills.

Ghost of the Venice Bell Ringer

There once lived a man who rang the bells in the bell tower, or campanile, on St. Mark’s Square. Because he was quite tall, a Venetian scientist offered the bell ringer a large sum of money for his skeleton, after death.

Spurred on by greed, the tall man accepted the cash in exchange for giving his skeleton to the scientist. With this unexpected wealth, he promptly drank himself into an early grave.

After death, the bell ringer apparently regretted the deal he made. His ghost haunts Bressana Court where he begs visitors for money so that he can buy back his skeleton.

The actual skeleton of the man resides in Venice’s Natural History Museum. The skeleton shows that the man was indeed very tall. It is also said that the skeleton creeps out of the museum at night to ring the twelve bells of St. Mark’s Campanile.

Ghost Stories from Venice clock tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – the ghost of the bell ringer

The Bride Ghost of Venice

Those who walk Venice at night risk running into the ghost of a young bride.

Tosca, a beautiful but poor young woman from Treviso, was betrothed to a wealthy, older nobleman. However, she fell in love with a young hunter and the pair ran away to Venice. The jilted groom tracked down the couple and killed the hunter. He cut off Tosca’s ring finger, declaring that no man would wed her if he didn’t.

Tosca took her own life on September 22, 1379. Her ghost, wearing a wedding dress, wanders Venice after dark, searching for her missing finger.

Ghost Stories from Venice bell tower
Ghost Stories from Venice – watch for the Bride Ghost wandering Venice after dark

The Serpent of Punta della Dogana

Ghosts aren’t the only supernatural inhabitants of Venice. Punta della Dogana is the triangular shaped land mass jutting out between the Grand Canal and The Guidecca Canal.

Allegedly, a cousin of Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster inhabits the swirling waters just off the tip of Punta della Dogana. This beast’s body resembles a large, dark colored snake while the head looks horse-like.  It hides in a hollow beneath the land.

Fishermen swear that the sea serpent appears out of the dark waters on moonless nights, earning it the nickname “the black water monster”. One witness, in 1933, claims he saw the serpent rise above the surface to catch and eat a sea gull in a single gobble.

Ghost Stories from Venice grand canal
Ghost Stories from Venice – the domed buildings in this photo are on the Punta della Dogana

Poveglia Island

Known as one of the most haunted places in the world, Poveglia Island, located between Venice and Lido, originally served as a port. During the bubonic plaque, the small island became Venice’s dumping ground for dying and dead Venetians. Over the centuries, anytime an epidemic came along, the infected went to Poveglia. Most remained there until they died. The dead were buried in huge mass graves.

In 1922 Venice established an asylum on the island as a place to hide the city’s mentally ill and seriously ill citizens. Sadly, one of the asylum doctors performed cruel experiments on patients, in the island bell tower. He met his death by falling from that very tower. Some claim the ghosts of his victims pushed him. The story goes that he actually survived the fall, but a mist surrounded him and swallowed him up, finishing him off.

More than 160,000 deaths reportedly occurred on Poveglia, earning it the name of “the island of no return.” Visitors are no longer allowed on the island. Past visitors, including paranormal researchers, call it the final restless place of thousands of diseased and insane people who died there.

Ghost Stories from Venice Poveglia Island
Ghost Stories from Venice – Poveglia Island, one of the most haunted places in the world

October Ghost Story Series

You can check out last week’s Ghost Stories from Dublin, the first post in this month long series. Next week, watch for a local ghost tale from my own city. I’ll be checking out the famous Joplin Spook Light.

Have you ever had an ghostly encounter?

Share your stories in the comments below.

Ghost Stories from Venice
Ghost Stories from Venice

When in Venice, check out this walking ghost tour.

 


 

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The Bridge of Sighs

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Ponte dei Sospiri…the Bridge of Sighs…just saying the name evokes emotions.

This bridge is one of many such structures that spans Venice’s canals. There are, in fact, 400 plus bridges crossing more than 150 canals in this unique city. Venice, Italy is a collection of tiny islands, connected by canals.

The oft photographed Bridge of Sighs draws a multitude of visitors each year. I enjoyed experiencing the beautiful and sorrowful covered bridge on a visit to Venice in 2017.

Discover the history of this iconic structure and learn how it received its name.

The Bridge of Sighs title meme

The History of the Bridge of Sighs

Built by Antonio Contin between 1600 and 1603, the Bridge of Sighs spans Rio di Palazzo. This baroque style, marble and Istrian stone bridge connects the inquisitor’s offices in the Doge’s Palace to the “New Prison”, a building designed specifically for detention.

Doge (Italian word for duke) Marino Grimani, whose family coat-of-arms occupies the center of the facade, commissioned the bridge.

While Ponte dei Sospiri attracts couples, who enjoy sharing a kiss near the covered bridge, it’s not romantic sighs that begat the name.

The name arose because prisoners stopped on the bridge and sighed at their last glimpse of beautiful Venice before entering the prison. The damp, cold, challenging conditions of the small cells often resulted in the deaths of the prisoners.

Peering out through the stone lattice windows, those escaping sighs surely carried regret, fear and grief.

The Bridge of Sighs closeup
The stone latticed windows in the Bridge of Sighs.

Stories About the Bridge of Sighs

Back to those romantic couples. The tale told is that if a couple kisses beneath the bridge, while riding in a gondola, their love will endure throughout eternity and they will know happiness. Some versions add that the couple must kiss at sunset, while drifting under the bridge, as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile ring out. As you can imagine, this is a busy route for gondolas.

The exterior of the bridge’s arch is adorned with faces on each side. A Venetian lion graces the middle, while ten other faces express anger or sadness. These grim faces supposedly scare evil spirits away. One happy face stands out. It is thought to represent the bridge’s guardian.

The bridge design is intentional, matching the style of the two buildings it connects. The Doge’s Palace, a huge, elegant palace overlooking St Mark’s Square, was the primary residence of the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, and the location of the city prison. The palace occupies the site of a former fortress that burned in the 10th century.

The Bridge of Sighs remains the only covered bridge in the entire city. Its passageway is topped by stone, with four windows looking out toward the San Giorgio Maggiore Island and the Lagoon. Very little light passes through the windows to brighten the dim, cool interior.

The Bridge of Sighs canal
The covered bridge spanning the canal.

Visiting the Bridge of Sighs

Views of the bridge are limited. See one of Venice’s most famous landmarks from these vantage points.

  • Admire the bridge from one of two nearby bridges. The Ponte della Paglia is located near the Doge’s Palace, as you stand with your back to the lagoon. The other bridge is the Ponte della Canonica at the other end of the canal.
  •  Enjoy a gondola ride that travels beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
  • Take a tour of the Doge’s Palace. The Bridge of Sighs is included in the tour and you get to walk across it and view the prison located on the other side.

Otherwise, the bridge is not open to the public. While it can be viewed from gondolas and the above mentioned bridges, the only opportunity to step inside the bridge is via the palace tour.

The Doge’s Palace is gorgeous and well worth a visit.

The Bridge of Sighs Doges Palace
A room in the Doge’s Palace.

My Experience Crossing the Bridge

My daughter, grandson and I were part of a travel group touring Italy. Our group enjoyed wandering through the Doge’s Palace with a guide. From an interior room, I got my first up close peek at the covered bridge and snapped a photo.

As we quietly entered the Bridge of Sighs, the energy within settled thickly around my head, shoulders and upper back, sending tingles down my spine.

It’s difficult to see much through the windows, however I paused there to reflect. Over the centuries, many, many prisoners walked this bridge and paused to sigh with despair. The bridge interior is actually divided by a wall down its middle, creating two corridors. That way, prisoners coming into the prison or going back to the courtroom for trial did not meet.

The atmosphere within the bridge felt very heavy to me, weighed down by those breathy final sighs. Sadness tinged with the fear of uncertainty surrounded me. The prison cells in the attached building were just as gloomy.

I’m grateful for the redemption of the bridge through its exterior beauty and the promise of romance beneath its splendid arch.

Have you visited the Bridge of Sighs in Venice? I intend to explore this unique city again one day!

The Bridge of Sighs faces

 

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Lions of Venice

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Venice is a magical city, with its lagoon, canals and bridges. I realized a lifelong dream when I visited in 2017 with my grandson and daughter. One of the things I noticed as I wandered around the city was the abundance of lions. The more I looked, the more of the majestic beasts I saw. In fact, the lions of Venice are everywhere, carved in stone, gracing archways and serving as knockers on doors.

The lion symbolizes courage, power and strength, all important attributes for the Venentians. The winged lion, so predominant in Venice, also represents the city’s patron saint, Mark.

Check out some of the stories around the Lions of Venice, in this Tales from Italy post, and a few of my photos capturing them throughout the city.

Lions of Venice title meme

The Lion of St Mark

According to early traditions, each of the evangelists who authored a gospel in the Bible is represented by a winged creature. The winged lion represents Mark. Many of the Venetian lions scattered throughout the city, therefore, display wings and hold an open book beneath a paw. Sometimes the head is wreathed in a halo.

The ancient winged sculpture, atop one of two tall pillars in Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square), in Venice, has come to symbolize the city as well.

A long history accompanies that bronze statue. Originally created in 300 BC, the winged lion came to Venice in the 12th century. Over the centuries, many repairs occurred around the sculpture’s core. The lion even left Venice for a time, during Napoleon’s conquest of the Venetian Republic in 1797. Badly damaged, it returned after Napoleon’s downfall.

Today the lion presides over the square, and the city, a symbol of strength. The flag of Venice carries the image and a golden lion is given as the prize at the yearly Venice International Film Festival.

Lions of Venice pillars
Lions of Venice – the two pillars in Saint Mark’s Square
Lions of Venice flag
Lions of Venice – gold lion on a red background forms the Venetian flag

Haunted Lions

Near the Arsenal, stone lions stand guard. As part of their plunder, the seated lion arrived in Venice in 1687, after the Venetians battled the Ottomans. Runes decorate the lion’s marble flanks causing the locals to believe that the lion possessed magical powers.

According to the story, in November 1719, after a mighty storm, the torn bodies of two sailors showed up near the lions. A short time later, after another storm, a third body appeared, bearing wounds created by wild animals.

During the next storm, officials hid nearby and watched as a merchant with the reputation of a sorcerer laid his hands on the runes and brought the stone lions to life. He sent the beasts after another victim, however when an official stabbed the merchant with a sword, the lions turned back into statues.

One of the statues continued to roar however. An official cut off the head, to silence it. And indeed, one of the statues obviously wears a head not original to the sculpture. Beware these statues, during stormy nights in November!

Lions of Venice arsenal
Lions of Venice – haunted statues in front of the arsenal

The Lions of Saint Mark’s Square

Although lions adorn buildings, arches and towers all over Venice, one of the best places to spot them is in the city’s huge piazza. Considered one of the finest squares in the world, Saint Mark’s is surrounded on three sides by public buildings. The fourth side is occupied by Saint Mark’s Basilica, the magnificent former chapel of the Doges and the equally impressive palace. Both feature lions, outside and inside.

 

Lions of Venice St Marks Basilica
Lions of Venice – golden lion on Saint Mark’s Basilica
Lions of Venice palace
Lions of Venice – a carved lion over the palace entrance

The brick bell tower for the basilica, called the campanile, is so tall that ships used it to guide them home. Look up high for the lion. This one wears a golden halo.

And the impressive clock tower, built between 1496 and 1499, features a mosaic of gold stars glittering against a blue background. The Lion of Saint Mark was added in 1755.  Two bronze Moors strike the bell to mark the hours. I caught the Moors in action. See the video at the end of the post.

Lions of Venice tower
Lions of Venice – bell tower in the square
Lions of Venice clock bell tower
Lions of Venice – clock tower

And, don’t leave the piazza without getting a selfie with the red lions. Located next to Saint Mark’s Basilica is a little square called Piazzetta dei Leoncini. It is home to two lions sculpted in the eighteenth century from Verona marble. These sturdy lions practically beg for children and the young at heart to climb astride. My grandson and I settled for standing beside one.

Lions of Venice - red marble
Lions of Venice – red marble lions

Lions, Lions Everywhere

Truly, lions lurk everywhere in Venice. Our hotel, a 13th century former palace located next to Saint Mark’s Square, boasted a lion door knocker and doorbell. A carved lion face peered out from the building adjacent to our hotel.

Door Knocker in Venice
Lions of Venice – door knocker
Palazzo Selvadego doorbell
Lions of Venice – our hotel doorbell

In fact, carved lion faces abound in Venice. Some of them resemble mailboxes with open mouths . In the past, a citizen could secretly accuse someone of a crime by writing his name on a slip of paper and placing it in the lion’s mouth. Special magistrates collected the accusations and acted on them.

A stern lion’s face even peers down from the sadly beautiful Bridge of Sighs.

Lions of Venice bridge of sighs
Lions of Venice – bridge of sighs with lion’s head in the middle

Lions of Venice

The lions on display in Venice contribute to its magical atmosphere. It’s fun to look for them and see the variety of sculptures, carvings and paintings. Searching for lions makes a great scavenger hunt for kids and adults. Many of them have ancient stories associated with them.

Have you been to this beautiful city? Did you notice the lions of Venice?

 


 

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.