Haunted Venice

At the end of May 2022, my girlfriend and I decided to get away for a little while and attempt to travel through Italy a little. Whilst my girlfriend had been a couple of times before, I had never managed to visit Italy; but it was very much on my list of places to travel to.

Venice was actually one place in Italy that my girlfriend had not been, so it would be a first for us both. However, on this occasion as we only had six days and a lot of ground to cover; our stay in Venice would only be just over a day.

Flying in on the morning of Saturday 28th May, we took a water taxi to a dock along the Grand Canal, which was near our hotel. Then made the rest of the journey, down some narrow back streets to the place we would call home for the day. As we were travelling light and our room was not quite ready, we took our bags (tiny travel bags) with us as we went off to explore Venice.

Whilst Venice is probably best known these days for being a top romantic destination for couples seeking that genuine gondolas through its beautiful canals; there is a fantastic history to this city dating back centuries. With that history comes many people that have both visited Venice or lived there; and with them comes many a ghost tale.

Especially when you understand that the influence of the Venetian empire was felt across Europe, the Mediterranean and beyond. All of which fed its strong international trade, amazing art and rather complex political setup. It is amazing to think what a bunch of islands connected by bridges can really achieve. As I was told by a local, to be a true Venetian you must own a boat and get around Venice using it. Which seemed pretty obvious I guess, but still you can get around well on foot. Although being able to swim is probably desirable in a place surrounded by water.

Oddly whilst we attempted to navigate the tiny streets of Venice, it was far from night and as such you would likely be of the belief that there would be nothing spooky to find. However, some of those little ally ways between the tall buildings did not allow a huge amount of light in. More so, take the wrong left or right, as I did a couple of times; and the usual tourists would vanish leaving us very much alone.

Whilst my visit to Venice was not really one in search of its ghosts, I sometimes just can not help myself. And as there are so many stories linked to various places across the city; I could not help myself at times.

One such place is the Annexe of Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo found on the Fondamenta Gasparo Contarini. A place known as the ‘House of Spirits.’ Strange noises are often heard at night from the building. The place has even been said to be the meeting place of cults looking to invoke spirits and demons. Then there is a belief that the place is haunted by the 16th Century painter Pietro Luzzo da Feltre. He was said to have committed suicide after being rejected by a love interest. Like many haunted locations I have encountered this one also served as a hospital for plague victims; and later as an autopsie theatre.

The house of spirits was also linked to the discovery of four bodies, each headless and missing their right hand. Its also been linked to a dismembered murder where a body was dumped in the canal outside the building.

Like many cities the world over, Venice has its fair share of potential haunted houses or gruesome tales. I quite like one about the house of the mysterious statues, as it reminds me of many a myth and legend. The Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello has some rather curious statues, some with rather startled faces. An old legend claims they are the petrified owners, merchants called Rioba, Afani and Sandi. Its believed they tried to sell a rich Venetian lady low quality textiles for a high price. When she discovered this she cursed the money she had paid and when the merchants touched it, they turned into stone.

Probably more well known for its haunting attributes is the island of Poveglia. It is one of those ‘most haunted locations on the planet’ type places. Plague victims, both alive and dead, would be taken to the island and never return. In fact the island became a huge mass grave, with possibly over 160,000 people buried there. If that was not enough, a psychiatric hospital was also built on the island. It is said the Doctor experimented and tortured the patients. He later committed suicide by throwing himself from the hospitals tower. It is said that many ghost sightings have been recorded on the island.

There are many, many more stories of ghosts, spirits, cryptids, and more in Venice; perhaps something I could return to at a later date. As I only wanted to provide a quick post on this, not unlike our visit to the beautiful city.

However, before finishing I wanted to share a little story about San Barnaba; a church that faces a little piazza where we stopped for a drink. A place that got me somewhat excited and probably had my girlfriend rolling her eyes.

If you are unfamiliar with this church that is perfectly okay, but if you have seen the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, then you may just recognise this place. It is the church that Indy enters the crypt from to find the Crusade Knights tomb. In the film the inside was a library, but when I visited there was a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition there, which was pretty good too.

It may not be exactly paranormal related, but it was certainly an ‘oh Venice’ moment for me.

With its winding, tiny streets or ally ways, random little piazza’s that seemingly appear from nowhere and its abundance of churches; Venice is every bit a scene from any ghost story. Of course it is also every bit the romantic city you would think it to be. As you walk its streets, cross those bridges, taste the local food; you are quickly engrossed in its tradition, it’s history. It’s beauty hides a thousand spooky stories, but its architecture and character tells them all; if you are prepared to listen.

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