Category Archives: Italy

Ghostly Goings-on and Mysterious Happenings in Haunted Venice

 

 This is a guest post by Sarah Murphy

It may seem strange but Venice isn’t just the sinking city of Europe, it also happens to be one of the more haunted cities of the world. When you think about it, it starts to make sense: thick foggy nights, empty alleys and water walkways every which way you turn. Not only is it easy to get lost in Venice, it also happens to be a common spot for flickering shadows, time loops and ghosts. And ghouls and vampires appear all over the place.

You may have heard of Poveglia, an island separate from Venice that no one is allowed on because of the terrible ghost stories and cursed legends surrounding it (and supposed diseases). Instead, we will look at some spots that you can visit in haunted Venice itself.

Casa D'Ario

Ca’Dario, Venice (http://www.wikipedia.it)

Ca’Dario

The Ca’Dario is a castle, palace or house (depending on who you ask) built off the Grand Canal of Venice around 1486. This palace has had a string of deaths and misfortunes connected to it for every owner since the original one died. That is over 500 years of documented evidence of tragic and strange deaths, accidents or unusual situations that either happened to the owner of the place or someone incredibly important to the owner. Probably the most famous owner of this place is Kit Lambert, the manager of The Who, who fell down the stairs after a major downward spiral in his life.

Many of the deaths and accidents are in rather strange circumstances, with quite a few car accidents happening in the last 50 years. Although the place is currently owned by a private organization rather than an individual, it has been up for sale for a number of years but no one else wants to test the curse that seems to have befallen this canal-side property. It has gained such a reputation that it is now often called the ‘house of no return’ by locals.

Luckily you can still view the inside and much of this place if you come along for some of the art exhibitions that still take place there. Because there is no specific owner, there haven’t been any major accidents surrounding it recently, but it continues to be one of the most cursed homes in all of Italy.

Casa Degli Spiriti

This place is also known as the House of the Spirits. And if the previous house didn’t have enough spirits for your taste, this one is full of them. There are all sorts of legends surrounding it, including the stories of religious sects and cults performing major religious and magical rituals within it. These are said to have cursed the Casa with spirits and demons that often escape.

The most famous is a spirit, wandering the house after he committed suicide in it over his unrequited love for his muse. This spirit is Luzzo, who is well known for painting the ships around the Venice canals. His ghost is often the explanation today for cries coming from the home and doors randomly shutting.

The most recent death to occur was when a woman was stuffed in a trunk and sunk in the lagoon that surrounds the house in the 1950s; and even that isn’t the end of the story: all the pipes burst at once during a more recent renovation.

The place can still be visited, but can be difficult to get to, as it’s in the middle of the lagoon. Many locals are afraid to go near the place, so don’t expect to find a guide to take you without a hefty fee.

If you would like to find out more about the haunted places of the Venice area, you can find all sorts of tours focusing on that subject. The best option as always though, is to look things up yourself and find some of the good haunted places, or even ask some of the locals about the ghost stories they’ve heard. Every town has at least a few, though of course Venice isn’t just any town.

Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A trained journalist and travel junkie by nature, she regularly travels to Italy for business and to experience some of the tours of Venice, where she mostly spends her time learning how to blow glass from the pros.

Seven Fascinating Facts From Venice, City of Firsts

As preparation for our recent trip to Venice, I read two very excellent books on the subject: Venice by Jan Morris and Venice: Pure City by Peter Ackroyd. What struck me about the city on reading them (and I would absolutely recommend both) was the number of Venice firsts.

Here’s Quirky Travel’s list of Venice’s Fascinating Facts and they’re all Firsts (mostly):

17th century Venetian mirror in Museo del Carmen de Maipú, Santiago, Chile

17th century Venetian mirror in Museo del Carmen de Maipú, Santiago, Chile (Geolocation)

Mirrors

The mirror as we know it, a layer of flat or ‘plate’ glass on a thin sheet of reflecting metal was possibly invented in the 16th century by a German or Flemish inventor – it’s not known exactly who came up with the method.

However, what we do know is that it was the Venetians in Murano – already experts in glass manufacturing – who began making these mirrors on a large commercial scale. By the seventeenth century it had become the largest mirror-manufacturing city in the world.

The method for making the perfect reflective surfaces was kept secret for a long time and as a result, mirrors were extremely expensive.  In 1683 a Venetian mirror belonging to the deceased French minister Colbert was sold for three times the price of a Rubens painting!

Zoning

For all you city planning enthusiasts out there, the concept of formally zoning a city originated in Venice.

If you’ve ever played Sim City you’ll know that city zones are industries separated by location. Peter Ackroyd gives as examples cloth-stretchers who were located in the west and tin-smiths to the north-east of the city. San Niccolo had Fishermen and silk-workers were concentrated in the Dusoduro district, Sestiere di Castello sailors and shipbuilders. The Lido specialised in recreation and acted as a seaside resort and of course Burano was the centre for glass-making.

Aldus Manutius' dolphin and anchor logo

Aldus Manutius’ dolphin and anchor logo (Wikipedia)

Paperback book

As well as inventing Italic type, establishing the use of the semicolon and the modern appearance of the comma, Aldus Manutius the Elder in the fifteenth century came up with the idea of the compact book in the form of the ‘octavo’ – similar to what we now know as the paperback book.

The simple notion behind these portable reading materials was to create something that could be carried easily in saddlebags. Virgil’s “Opera” was the first published in this format.

Incidentally, Aldus used a dolphin wrapped around an anchor as his company logo – have a look at Doubleday’s logo

Ghetto

The extremely negative connotations of the word Ghetto originated in Venice.

The word probably originally came from ‘gettare’ – the casting of metal or ‘getto’ (that’s the noun for a metal cast) which was concentrated (see previous item on zoning) on the edge of the Cannareggio district.

700 Jews were enclosed on the site of a former metal foundry there from 29th March 1516 and the Jewish community remained in the area until the 18th century when Napoleon arrived and the Ghetto was disbanded.

Completely surrounded by water, two bridges were the inhabitants’ only entrance into the city and both were closed off at night.

Gondola detail and reflection, Venice

Gondola

Ha – you would think the gondola would be on this list, but the boat may have originated in either Malta, Turkey or Avignon. (There’s a great post about gondolas on the Bosphorus here)

We do know that they were being floated around Venice as early as 1094, however, as it was documented that the Doge declared that ordinary people could build there own gondolas from that time. By the the sixteenth century there were 10,000 gondolas on the canals.

Did you know that the reason they’re black is that in 1562, ornamentation on them was banned by a government who were down on self-expression?

Spectacles

Pisa and Florence are in competition for the title of inventor of the eyeglass, however, the College of Optometrists think that they were most likely invented in the Veneto region, and that’s good enough for me.

Their development probably occurred around 1286 and by the fourteenth century, thousands of pairs were being made in Venice and transported around the world. Here are some beautiful handmade glasses still being made in the city.

Venice Lido

Venice Lido

Lido

When an average Briton thinks of a lido, a 1930s outdoor swimming pool and surrounding facilities springs to mind. The deck with the swimming pool on a cruise ship is known as the ‘lido deck.’ Lidos in Italy and other areas of Europe are simply beaches. But where did the term originate? Venice, of course.

The Lido in Venice is an island that comprises of an 11km (or 18km or 20 km depending on who you read) long sandbar in the Lagoon of Venice. It’s the city’s main protection against the ravages of the Adriatic.

The first bathing facilities were set up on one of its long stretches of beach in 1857 and the word soon became the generic word for beach resort (and draughty swimming pool).

And finally

Venice is still a mesmerising city for different reasons, but it’s good to remember what an influence it’s been on human history.

Offbeat things I want to do in Venice

Peggy Guggenheim in tradmark glasses, Venice

Peggy Guggenheim in tradmark glasses, Venice (artfortune.com)

I haven’t been to Venice yet, but will go in the next year or two. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a bit of research on what I’d like to do when I get there.

Walking tour with a difference

I’ve take a ghost walk in whichever new town I visit – one of the best was one where just myself, my husband and the student tour guide in her swingy cape strolled the streets of Prague on a freezing winter evening, being sprung upon by varied “ghosts” along the way, each one making me jump a foot in the air …

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a ghost tour that floats my boat in Venice, so instead I’ll go on a tour with L’Altra Venezia (the other Venice) which I would hope will show me off the beaten path Venice that many people don’t get to see.

Their costs 30 euros per person (I haven’t managed to find a cheaper walk in Venice) and they have quite a few different routes within Venice – they do “The Other” as well as “Classical” tours and I presume they can conduct them in English as they have English pages on their website. There are many very good reviews on TripAdvisor for them, although mostly in Italian and French.

Far from the madding crowd

I would take a walk around the Dorsoduro area for the artisanal shops and not-so-famous churches and boatyards. This unusual Dorsoduro self-guided walking tour looks just the thing.

Some modern art

I would visit the Peggy Guggenheim collection in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. American and European art of the first half of the twentieth century is housed in this building, formerly occupied by the lady herself. Paintings and sculpture from the likes of Picasso, Braque and Kandinski feature in a beautiful, serene old building and will make a pleasant change from the gothic and baroque art of Venice.

Address

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni 701

Food and drink

I would try seafood restaurant Hostaria Da Franz but not just for their fish – they are said to do one of the finest tiramisu in the world, and this is my very favourite dessert. And pizza at Al Nono Risorto – a large pizza in a casual, lively setting is said to be had here. And the prosecco is apparentlly very good value and great tasting as well.

Taverna del Campiello Remer has a courtyard that overlooks the Grand Canal and provides great-sounding buffets, cocktails, and live music (not every night, though). And it’s somewhere you may actually find a local or two.

Addresses

Hostaria da Franz: Castello,3499
Al Nono Risorto: Santa Croce 2337, Calle della Regina
Campiello Remer: Sestiere Cannaregio 5701

Where to stay?

The Ai Tagliapietra b&b gets great reviews. It’s good value, boasts warm and friendly decor, is quite centrally situated but in the back streets away from the hustle and bustle, and the lovely host Lorenzo meets you from your vaporetto and walks you to his b&b!

Address

Castello 4943, 30122 Venice

Superstition? Bah!

I want to visit the the south-east corner of the Piazza, the Piazetta (little Piazza) because I want to walk between the two columns. They were pilfered from Constantinople in the 12th century and dedicated to the patron saints of Venice – one features The Lion of San Marco and the other San Teodoro and his crocodile (or could it be a dragon?) Walking between them is said to be incredibly bad luck as it was where public executions took place but I don’t mind, I’m a contrary thing.

Do you have any offbeat things you’d like to do in Venice, or have done in Venice? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.