Weekend in Venice

A weekend in Venice, universally known as the city of lovers

San Giorgio Island, Venice, Italy.
Photo by Juan Rubiano
A weekend in Venice, known around the world as the city of lovers, is always accompanied by a search for an easier way to get around the city. It’s every tourist’s dream to be able to avoid the usual crowded walkways. Here’s a bunch of little secrets to help you stick out from the crowd while hopping from one ferry to the next.
A passion for “cicchetti”!
Forget about the idea that real Venetians (there aren’t many left, but they still exist!) spend their free time going out to eat in expensive, unappetizing restaurants. Venetians really love “cicchetti”, that is, drinking good local wine with small fish based dishes. This is done in small bars known as “bacari” that, most of the time, are hidden from the vain eyes of tourism. They’re miniscule, hidden places because, if tourists ever got wind of them, their true folksy nature would be crushed in an instant. They’re very spartanly decorated, caring more for substance over appearance, so don’t imagine that they’re chic or hi-tech.
A “cicchetto” is a cold dish that’s usually seafood (or rarely cold cuts) such as creamed cod, meatballs and sauce, or sweet and sour sardines; all tasty meals to accompany the ever present wine. One guaranteed bacareto is the “Osteria ai Osti” in Corte dei Pali Testori, at the beginning of the Strada Nova before the Cà d’Oro, a cicchetteria where typical Venetian cuisine, superb wine, and excellent service are the norm. If you’re by Calle dei Boteri in the San Polo area, a good place to go is “Garanghelo” where you can get a glass of white wine and three cicchetti for only 10 Euro, which for Venice is really nothing.
Perhaps the most well-known bacaro (by tourists, that is) is “VinoVino” near Ponte delle Veste in the San Marco area, behind the stock market. The bar was born as part of the famous “Antico Martini” restaurant, only two steps away, a sort of additional tavern where cicchetti were served by all-star chefs. This small tavern’s success allowed it to turn into a wine bar, renaming itself “L’Osteria del Martini” to better connect itself with its restaurant. It’s the most pretentious amongst the bacari, but it might be worth the trip to taste cicchetti prepared by highly trained chefs.

Myth or truth

Rialto Bridge
Photo by ZeHawk
Myth or Truth
There are many places in Venice that are steeped in local legend. It’s worth it to check out Locatello court in Mercerie, near the Ponte dei Bareteri, on a parallel street that goes towards Rialto. Here, you’ll find a small court with an ancient well in the center, which in the past used to be one of the city’s only water sources. It’s told that, long ago, a ferryman who was getting some water from the well met a lady dressed in white that told him to not be afraid (at the time people thought witches roamed the streets), but that he should go home before dawn otherwise something terrible would happen to him. The ferryman, threatened by the odd presence, tried to leave with his water when he was mugged by a man who gravely wounded him. The lady in white took the bloody knife out of him and let three drops of blood fall into the well, causing the water to swell up and gush out of the well.
She then used her handkerchief to clean the ferryman’s wound, immediately healing it, and she told him that from that moment on there would be plentiful water for everyone. Then she disappeared. There are those who say that the lady was walled into the well by her spurned lover to hide her murder, and that her spirit protects the well on nights with a full moon. Let’s bet that the next time you see the well, a chill will creep along your spine.
A Weird Heart
If you go to Bragora, you’ll find one of the shortest porticoes in the city, with an image of a heart on it. Here, there once lived a young fisherman named Orio. One night, as he always did, he took his boat and rowed to Malamocco to fish. Suddenly, he heard the voice of a young woman crying out to be freed, and from the darkness of the lagoon rose the face and hands of a beautiful girl. Orio asked if she happened to be a witch who had fallen into the water, but the girl said not to worry; her name was Melusina, and she was a mermaid. Orio immediately fell in love with her, and they spoke all night long. He promised to visit her every night, and he did. He wanted to marry her, but she reminded him that if they married then she would lose her tail fin for legs.
She accepted, on one condition: they wouldn’t be able to meet on Saturdays. But Orio, impatiently, didn’t keep his promise and Melusina was struck with a curse; every Saturday she’d be transformed into a serpent, but if they married then she would remain a beautiful woman forever. They wed, had three kids, but one day Melusina fell ill and died. Orio gave her a burial at sea and continued to care for the children, all the while fishing every day. The odd thing was, every day, when he would come back home, the house would be perfectly clean. He thought perhaps the neighbors were helping out until, one Saturday, he found a serpent snaking around the house. He grabbed a knife and killed it. But from that moment on, Orio’s house fell into disrepair and he understood that the serpent was really Melusina. The stone heart in the portico was placed to commemorate this sad love story right where Orio and Melusina’s house originally stood.
Thin? Yes, skin-and-bones.
To end this weekend with a chill we suggest a tour around the city, searching for skeletons. At night, when there aren’t that many people on the streets, go to Corte Bressana and follow it until San Giovanni e Paolo; you might find the walking skeleton of one of San Marco’s last bellringers. It’s said that the man sold his own bones to a scientist who, after his death, used them for his experiments. Now, he’s damned to wander the streets (always after midnight), begging for change so that he may one day be able to repurchase his own bones.
If you go down to the popular Cannaregio, and go down to Campo de l’Abazia, you might find Bartolomio Zenni’s skeleton, a loanshark cursed to roam the alleyways of Venice for his own greed.
The most beautiful squares in Italy
Piazza San Marco has been voted by our readers as the most beautiful square in Italy. Other squares include Vigevano, Pisa, Siena, Roma, Napoli, Ascoli Piceno, Lecce e Palermo.
Written by: Aldo Galvagno
Translation by: Daniel Yeatman

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