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A journey through more or less hidden places that hide unresolved mysteries
• The ghost of the gardens of the Biennale – Giardini della Biennale: Castello district
It is said that in 1921, near the statue of Garibaldi, placed in the gardens of the biennial in Venice, appeared a ghost in a red shirt that molested the passers-by with tugs and tripping.
It was then identified with Giuseppe Zolli, a Garibaldi soldier in 1838, who had sworn to look back at the Hero of the two Worlds even when he died.
So the Venetians decided to place, behind the statue of Garibaldi, a guard of the bronze body with the likeness of Zolli himself. From that day on the ghost did not reappear.
You can admire both statues today, already knowing the legendary story.
• The baker of San Marco – Basilica of San Marco
It seems that around 1507, the baker Piero Tasca, found a dead noble stabbed in the street and was blamed for that murder.
The poor baker was sentenced to death after confessing the crime, under torture, and was executed despite the guilty of murder being another person, who confessed only in articulo mortis a few weeks later.
From that scandalous miscarriage of justice the formula “Recordève del poaro fornareto” was born, with which the secretary of the Council of Ten, the maximum penal jurisdiction of Venice, warned the councilors before they pronounced every sentence, to thwart the dangers of an indicative trial although based on the confession of the accused, often extorted through the use of torture.
The legend was created to pass on the vision of a justice that always seeks the truth and does not hesitate to publicly admit the error committed in killing the furnace.
The grandeur of the Venetian government, which is not afraid to say that it has made a great mistake, thus becomes the emblem of the myth of the Republic.
For a long time two red lights were lit every night between two arches of the Basilica, in front of the point where there was the gallows, symbol of the perennial excuses of the city to that innocent victim.
• The accursed palace – Dorsoduro district
Unmistakable palace, located almost at the end of the Grand Canal, richly decorated with medallions of polychrome marble and Istrian stone. It was built by the Secretary of the Senate of the Republic of Venice Giovanni Dario, who commissioned the work to the architect Pietro Lombardo in 1479.
Its elegance and majesty, however, is opposed by the fame of a cursed palace. Since its construction all those who bought the house have been brutally killed, committed suicide or died from strange accidental causes. Between 1764 and 1993 there are at least 9 owners of Palazzo Dario who die in strange circumstances or suicides!
Various hypotheses have been advanced about this cursed house. Some claim that the palace was built on a Templar cemetery. Others think that Ca ‘Dario is negatively influenced by the talisman that pushes away the negativity placed on the water door of the side building.
It is also said that Ca ‘Dario is still inhabited by the spirits of the previous owners. The Venetians believe it, and how! Many keep away from the building.
Regardless of all these theories, those who have been told tell us that they have felt a strange sense of unease entering or even looking at it from the outside.
The anagram of the auspicious inscription in the palace “genius urbis joannes dario” in “sub ruina insidiosa genero” perhaps confirms the thesis of the curse?
• The beggar and the Levantine – Scuola di San Marco, Rio dei Mendicanti
Cesco Pizzigani was one of the most skilled Venetian stonemasons of the time. With his splendid hands he created some of the precious perspective games on the façade of the Scuola di San Marco that made it, already then, famous throughout Europe. A few years later, in 1501, a sudden illness caught the artist’s young wife, Fiorinda. Cesco did everything to heal her, he even sold his shop, but his wife died leaving her husband in misery.
Without a penny and desperate, Cesco found himself begging on the portal of the School that he had helped to build. Sometimes with an old nail he practiced his old art on the sides of the door, engraving the shapes of the ships that were not far away.
According to legend, his life was intertwined with a Levantine, a Jew who became Turkish, tormented by the inner conflict of being half Venetian and half Levantine and therefore badly accepted by both communities. He vented his frustration by beating his mother who endured the violent outbursts of his son, loving him more than his own person.
One evening, however, the situation precipitated and in a fit of rage the Levantine stabbed his mother and literally tore his heart from his chest.
Terrified by the gesture made, the young man fled, continuing to hold his heart in torment. On the first step of the bridge in front of the Scuola di San Marco he stumbled, fell and lost his mother’s heart. He heard a voice coming out of the organ saying: “My son, have you hurt yourself?”.
Released in hindsight the young man committed suicide by throwing himself in the waves in front of the cemetery. It is said that it is still possible to hear his sad lamentations in the silent field, while still looking for the mother’s heart to feel the warmth of her love during the cold winter nights.
And Cesco the artist? Well he saw the scene and decided to remember it in his own way: still today on the portal between the profiles of the ships you can still see a human figure wearing a turban on his head and holding a human heart in his hand. Legend or reality?
• The bocolo di San Marco
This legend is one of the two stories that gave rise to the centuries-old tradition of the bocolo (rosebud) that the Venetian give every April 25 to their beloved, wives, mothers and daughters.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the daughter of Doge Orso I Partecipazio, Maria, and a certain Tancredi, a young man of humble origins, were in love.
The Doge obviously did not approve of the report, and the girl advised the beloved to go and fight the Turks so as to make one forget their condition with the glory of the enterprises. Tancredi’s fame briefly went around the world, as the young man valiantly distinguished himself in war, but was mortally wounded and fell on a rose garden.
Before dying, he entrusted his friend Orlando with a rosebud dyed with the red of his blood so that he would give it to his beloved as an extreme pledge of love.
On April 25, the day after receiving the love message from her lover from Orlando, Maria was found dead in her bed with the bud on her chest.
Since then, on April 25th the Venetian tradition wants the same homage to be repeated by the Venetians expressing their love to their loved one.
• The enamored merchant – Palazzo Mastelli or Cammello, Campo dei Mori
This romantic legend originates from the strange bas-relief on the façade of the Mastelli palace, even though it is now simply identified as a camel’s house or, better, caxa del camélo. The bas-relief depicts a camel and its camel driver.
Legend has it that a rich oriental merchant, who left his homeland to go to Venice, carved a camel with a camel driver on the facade of his new Venetian residence so that his beloved, who had not accepted his marriage proposal, could easily recognize her: “So I leave with a broken heart and I will try to forget you, but if one day you finally want to join me in Venice, it will be enough to ask you where the house of the camel is”.
Apparently she has never presented herself at the rich merchant’s house.
The palace is linked to another further legend: it was originally the ancient residence of the merchants Rioba, Santi and Alfani, coming from Morea (Peloponnese) around 1112. They are still represented by the statues placed at the corners of the camp and in the foundations. Legend has it that the statues would be the same merchants, petrified because of their own dishonesty.
• The worn column of Palazzo Ducale – San Marco
Looking at the columns of the first loggia of the Palazzo Ducale, one can easily identify two of them in different colors where, according to tradition, the death sentences were read.
Between the columns, however, the last hope was offered to the condemned: on the side of the famous building that directly overlooks the sea, there is still a column that appears with the base all worn out.
Those who managed to turn around the same column without falling from the base and fall into the hands could have obtained grace. Seeing is believing.
• Watchmakers of the clock tower – Piazza San Marco
The history of the Clock Tower began in 1493, when the Venetian Lordship decided to replace the old hammer clock placed in the north-western corner of the Marcian Basilica.
The task was entrusted to a famous family of watchmakers in Reggio Emilia, the Rainieri, who created a true masterpiece of technical and engineering still working today. It is said that, when they finished the clock, the Maggior Consiglio ordered that Giancarlo Rainieri and his father Gianpaolo be blinded so that they could never replicate the work a similar one.
The clock was so complex and delicate that it was decided to build a tower at the entrance to the Mercerie.
Even today in May, on the day of the Sensa (Ascension), you can see the three mechanical Magi Kings preceded by an angel who, at every hour, march past the image of the Virgin bowing.
• The legend of Saint Helena
Finally we tell you the legend of the birth of the toponym Sant’Elena, which refers to the eastern part of Venice, where the remains of the Saint, the mother of Constantine, rest today.
Sant’Elena is the tail of that fish that the islands that make up Venice form watching them from above. The area, consisting of two islands, is part of the Castello district despite the numbering does not follow that of the rest of the district and is independent for each street.
Legend has it that the ship carrying the remains of the Saint from Constantinople ran aground on the shoals near the island of Olivolo in the area of S. Pietro di Castello.
The crew tried to disengage the ship in every way possible but there was no way to move it even a millimeter. It was decided to unload all the merchandise in the nearby island, including the urn containing the remains of the Saint, in order to lighten the load and simplify the operations.
Once lightened, in fact, the ship began to float, was then carried over the dry and recharged with all goods. As soon as the urn was brought on board, the ship was again blocked.
Only after returning the urn to the island did the ship resume sailing. The sailors interpreted this phenomenon as the unshakable will of the saint to rest on that island, then uninhabited.
And so it was: the urn was left on the island and the ship resumed its navigation. Today the Saint, who has been moved several times over the centuries, rests again on the island to which she gave the name.
Venezia Certosa Marina, the ideal landing place to discover the mysteries of Venice!
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