Sharks in Venice

San Michele cemetery island, Venice

San Michele cemetery island

We spent our last day in Venice in a cemetery, visiting museums and elbowing our way through crowds. The carnival had arrived. And we did our best to avoid it. We got up early and headed to San Michele alone. San Michele is the cemetery island just off Fondamente Nove. It’s illegal to bury people on Venice. This was one of our top places to visit before we came to Venice and we were not leaving without seeing it. We spent hours in Pere Lachaise in Paris, even picnicking there. Visiting cemeteries is one of our favourite things to do. Though trying to convince other people that spending their holiday with dead people is a great use of their time doesn’t always go down well.

VeniceWe tried using our Murano tickets to avoid paying for the ferry but alas, we were foiled.  The cemetery is actually pretty small. We managed to tour it in an hour. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos. Or picnic. We found the graves of Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. Most of the graves are actually ossuaries because you rent the graves and if you stop paying, you get moved into the ossuary. So whilst the island is small, there are a lot of people buried there because they’re all in what is essentially chest of drawers. There were some huge tombs. Some even had chairs inside them with glass doors. Sadly, the doors were locked.

church of Santa Fosca, Venice

church of Santa Fosca

We returned to the apartment to collect Tom and Amy and set out for a day of museums. First we took a detour to find more haunted places and to visit a supermarket. Our first haunted place of the day was by the church of Santa Fosca. An old money-lender, Bartolomio Zenni, staggers up and down the Campo dell’Abbazia, begging for help. If you approach him he turns into a fiery skeleton. That is one of the coolest ghost stories ever. On 13th May 1437, a fire broke out on the opposite side of the canal. He refused to help his neighbours save their children because he was saving his bag with his belongings. He dragged it to a nearby canal and vanished into the waters. Several nights later, he reappeared with the bag, breathless, and asking people for help. Everyone avoided him. His soul will only be free when someone helps him carry the bag from the Campo to the church of Santa Fosca. We’re great at carrying bags. And we hate children.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

one of the Mastelli brothers

We headed for our next haunted destination and ended up walking right past some statues we wanted. Typical. Fortunately, Amy spotted them. They are the Mastelli brothers – Rioba, Sandi, Afani and Antonia and are on the wall of Campo dei Mori. They were merchants who were apparently turned to stone due to their dishonesty and meanness. Rioba used to say “May the Good Lord turn my right hand to stone if what I say is not true.” They could buy any jury and ruined many families. One day in February, a woman came to them to buy Flanders lace for her shop. Mastelli brothers, VeniceHer husband had died and she needed to re-open her shop. Rioba showed her many fabrics, claiming it was Flanders and she couldn’t afford them but he wanted to help. He and his brothers quoted his line about being turned to stone. As the woman paid, she said “May the good lord be a witness to your honesty and may you be held to what you have decided.” With that, the coins and his arm turned to stone. Then his brothers’ arms turned to stone. The woman was Saint Magdalen. “Criminals! Liars and hypocrites! You will turn into the whited sepulchres that you have shown yourselves to be during your lifetime.”Mastelli brohters, Venice

The statue of Rioba has been seen crying in February. If someone who is pure of spirit lays their hand on his chest, they might feel his heart beat. We were too short to reach his heart. Tom and Amy could touch his heart no problem. We managed to touch his stomach while stretching up on tip toes as far as we could reach. Otherwise it would’ve been a groin grab and according to legend, that’s not what you can feel throbbing.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

Rioba, whose heart you can feel beating. If you’re not short arses like we are.

We insisted on heading to the museums through parts of Venice we hadn’t yet explored. Getting lost is how adventures happen! We wanted to see as much of Venice as possible, rather than retracing the same route we’d take every day. First up, we found another vegan gelato/sorbet place, Gelateria Alaska.

Gelateria Alaska

Gelateria Alaska

The guy serving asked if we were here for the carnival. We said we were here for our birthday so he insisted on giving us an extra scoop of sorbet for free. That was so nice! We had strawberry and mango and strawberry and lemon. They were delicious.

Museo di storia Naturale, Venice

dinosauro

We managed to find our way to the natural history museum, Museo di Storia Naturale, despite Cat having the map. Usually CatNav is unreliable and easily distracted. CatNav took detours a few times but did manage to get us to the gelato place and the museum. That was a really cool one, probably our favourite after San Servolo and Doge’s Palace. To be fair, it had dinosaur bones and anything with dinosaurs is a winner. We were so excited as we headed in that we started squealing and bouncing. Some people, can’t take them anywhere. They’re just an embarrassment. There were also sharks and other creatures. We love sharks as much as we love dinosaurs. This was our happy place.

Museo di storia naturale, venice

sharks in Venice

Some people on Trip Advisor complained that none of the information was in English. However, there is an English guidebook at the desk and an English audio guide. Plus, in Britain, we don’t have museum information signs in any other language, so don’t complain when other countries do it. Wales is the exception, as we have bilingual signs in English and Welsh. We were heading upstairs saying “dinosauro” and doing our best not to show our excitement. And failing. Our friends doubted that this was the Italian for dinosaur. Turns out, we were right. It was amazing being able to touch the fossils. It’s like we were touching history without the danger of being eaten.

Palazzo MocenigoLynxNav took over and experienced technical difficulties when she ripped more of our battered map. It was one day from retirement and it was a battle to keep it intact. We headed to Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a perfume museum and had 18thc furniture. That was interesting. There were glass bottles filled with scents that you could sniff. Some places don’t trust tourists with touching furniture, but this place let you lift glass stoppers to smell the scents inside. Palazzo MocenigoCat sniffed too enthusiastically in the scent bottles and spluttered. A woman next to Cat laughed. At least we’re keeping people amused. There was also a table filled with bowls of different raw ingredients that you could smell. It’s the first time we’ve visited a museum that has an interactive olfactory section, so it was good to do something different. There was a collection of perfume bottles, some dating back 6000 years!

Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

Ca’Rezzonico

Our final museum was Ca’ Rezzonico, which had 18thc furniture and paintings. We kept our tradition by touring the museums the wrong way around and only discovering our mistakes when we found arrows pointing the opposite direction. There was a beautiful 18thc writing desk that puts our £10 IKEA metal writing table to shame. Though we have no room for a writing desk in our dungeon. We particularly liked the 18thc apothecary that was randomly inside the house but we weren’t allowed in. Each room was beautiful and proudly displayed its wealth while taunting us that we could never afford such luxury. The upper floor was all paintings.

Ca'Rezzonico

writing desk envy

Then we headed back to discover everyone had arrived for the Carnivale. We imagine the carnival itself is spectacular. The crowds, however, were not. This is officially the worst circle of Hell. You couldn’t move down the streets. We all got very frustrated and murderous and also claustrophobic, as our heads are generally chest, armpit or shoulder height to most people so all we could see was the back of the person in front of us. Being in crowds is horrible enough but when you’re short, it’s even worse. People were moving so slowly! There were even police officers directing foot traffic. We were glad to be leaving the following day to escape the madness.

VeniceWe found our way to another haunted spot, which as it turned out, we walked past every. Single. Day. It wasn’t far from our apartment. Although it gave us excuse to escape the crowds for a bit. In the Campiello del Remer on the Grand Canal, the corpse of Fosco Loredan floats to the surface holding his wife’s head. He was extremely possessive of his wife, Elena, whose uncle was Doge Marino Grimani. In 1598, the Doge heard a woman scream as she ran towards campiello del Remer chased by a knight with a sword. The Doge blocked the knight then recognised them. Fosco said “what right have you to stand between me and my wife? I am going to kill her and it is my right to do so.” The Doge replied that he wanted to know what Elena’s crime was.

Fondamente Nove, Venice

Fondamente Nove

Fosco suddenly recognised the Doge and claimed Elena had been unfaithful. Elena protested her innocence and said Fosco was jealous, even of her cousin, who was young enough to be her son. She begged the Doge to protect her and he agreed. Fosco swore he would do as the Doge wished, but Elena warned him not to trust Fosco. The Doge sheathed his sword. Fosco shouted “behind you! Armed men!” As the Doge turned, Fosco decapitated Elena.

The Doge drew his sword and Fosco dropped to his knees, begging for mercy and swearing he would do whatever the Doge asked, providing he spared him. The Doge replied “you will lift this corpse upon your shoulders and you will hold the severed head in your dirty hands. You will never put them down, day or night and you will go to Rome to see the Pope. When you appear before him, you will show him what you have done. He will decide your fate.” He threatened to chop Fosco to pieces if he disobeyed. Fosco walked for months and when he reached Rome, the pope refused to see him, sending him away without absolution. Fosco returned to the spot where he killed Elena and threw himself into the Grand Canal. His corpse now re-emerges holding her head. Sadly, he didn’t do it when we were there. Perhaps he was also avoiding the crowds.16807644_10155179942500982_5116692098111421778_n

Tom and Amy returned to the apartment while we stayed out because we wanted to find a Murano gondola with black cats and a moon that we saw a day or two before and hadn’t seen since. Lots of shops sell glass gondolas, but hardly any sell them with cats instead of people. We’re starting a collection of pewter models of the cities we’ve visited – for Paris we have the Eiffel Tower, so we wanted a pewter model representing Venice – a gondola or the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t see any, then figured that Murano is famous for its glass, so a glass gondola would be perfect. On Murano, we saw a black gondola with two cats and a heart and whilst we liked it, hearts aren’t really us, so we wanted something different. We ended up constantly in the crush because we kept going wrong. Couldn’t find the cats with the moon so decided to get the one with cats and a heart. We saw it before Tom and Amy left us but could we find it again? No. So we had to retrace our route through the crush. In one shop, a shopkeeper’s dog was barking. She hated the crowds. We agreed with the dog and told the owner we wished we could get away with barking at people too.

p1200288It was so busy, there were police directing the pedestrian traffic at crossroads. That’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that. And hopefully the last. Lynx got stuck behind three women who stopped to window shop, so a police officer marched them on to keep the crush moving. It was like being back in high school when they locked the doors, trapping several hundred kids in a corridor. We eventually found the shop with the cat gondola and headed back. By now, our tempers had frayed so much, the slightest provocation would result in someone being Hulk smashed in the face and tossed into a canal. Our rage is bigger than us.

When we returned home, our feet were back in the pans of cold water while Tom and Amy went to get pizza for them and kindly got chips for us as we couldn’t physically walk anymore. We uploaded our pics, chilled out, packed and celebrated not being outside with all those people.16730201_1452867414755530_7725308376231030617_n-1

16903144_1455424244499847_4630676275197451023_oThe next day, we left. We got to the airport very early and had to sit around for half an hour until check in opened. Our bags were underweight. Hooray! We waved them off and headed to security. Everyone got through without a patdown, except Lynx who got checked for drugs. We needed a Red Bull. We went to every shop downstairs. No Red Bull. They only sold Coke or water. We needed a Red Bull. The headaches were forming. Our thirst was increasing. Our tempers were rising. We headed upstairs, our rage starting to burn brighter than a dying star. No Red Bull. This was reaching dangerous levels. This was reaching…Edinburgh levels, where Cat had a meltdown on Canongate and nearly destroyed a man’s fridge. Finally, as the meltdown started to reach Volcanic levels, we found a shop that did one. €3.3o! For a small can! We paid in disgust, cracked it open and like a bomb being diffused with seconds to spare, our rage dissipated with each sweet sip.p1200594

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica