Venice may be the most special city in the world, unique by its own terms and beautiful like few others; just the Grand Canal seems firstly imagined and painted by the genius of Canaletto and later built up. Such a fantasy place must keep tons of secrets and mysteries.
The Winged Lion of St Mark is the symbol of the city as the remains of this evangelist are supposedly buried in St Mark’s Basilica. The legend says that St Mark was murdered and buried in Alexandria, Egypt, circa 69 AD. Eight centuries later, two Venetian merchants who were trading in the city stole the remains from a Muslim crowd who was about to destroy it. They hid the body of the first bishop of Christianity in a basket of pork and fled home.The Doge, governor of the Venetian Republic, ordered the construction of a church to honor the apostle, but at some point they lost St Mark, who allegedly appeared inside a column, where he still is and where Venetians and tourists visit him every day.
The winged Lion is also the award of the Venice Film Festival, the ‘Golden Lion’.
Venice legends are so cool that they even inspired Hollywood movies such as ‘A Little Romance’, a 1979 comedy featuring Laurence Oliver and Diane Lane, based on the Bridge of Sighs legend. The myth says that any couple kissing under the bridge while riding on a gondola, while the sunset is happening and while the bells at St Mark’s Campanile are ringing –yeah, all that together– will have eternal love. Tons of coincidences but who wouldn’t give it a try for everlasting love?
About love, not necessarily eternal, Venice has a lot to say and Giacomo Casanova more than anyone, whose book/memoirs Story of my Life is considered one of the best reflects of European upper-class social customs during the 19th century.
We all know about this son of the Venetian Republic because of his affairs with the most prominent ladies of European Royal Houses but he was also friends with the most renowned personalities of that time: Voltaire or Mozart among others.
The Ducal Palace boast another Venetian legend and a challenge for intrepid visitors. The palace was an old scaffold but the funny Venetian executioners used to give the accused one final chance to live if they could pass around one column without falling to the ground. The wearing out on the marble carved by those who tried is a witness that maybe this was no legend but true history.
You can give it a try for yourself and check outs how many prisoner got their way into freedom.
Venice is home to one of most famous and interesting festivities in the world, the Carnival. Unique and fancy like no other one, few we know of its origins, as the first recorded data is from the 13th century, a law forbidding masked Venetians to throw eggs to their neighbors.
This worry for etiquette when disguised went on -laws forbade Venetians from wearing vulgar customs or fake wigs and beards– and so it developed into the fancy event that it’s today. But the Carnival was also the time when the oddest things happened and when people took advantage to gamble (forbidden in the 13th) or to visit nuns (forbidden in 1399).
Some of the creepiest legends of Venice started during the Carnival, such as ‘The Beggar and the Levantine’. The beggar was a former rich man who lost his fortune trying to save his ill wife and the Levantine, a conflicted son who stabbed his mother in her heart. Maybe not a so special story but the beggar used to carve marks for every ship arriving into the city in the walls of a famous Venetian building. The night of the murder, he carved a different thing.
Look for a carved man with a turban holding a human heart in his hand. The legends says the Levantine trod and the heart fell to the floor, from where it asked its killer: my son, did you hurt yourself? The Levantine threw himself into the lagoon, starting the legend.