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Haunted Venice: legends of spirits and ghosts

Haunted Venice: legends of spirits and ghosts

September 2021

In this article you’ll discover a Venice you wouldn’t expect, dark and mysterious. Not everyone knows that many ghost legends and spooky stories that have been handed down for decades are set in Venice’s calli, campi and campielli.

Get ready to look at Venice with new eyes and get to know the dark side of the city. You might remember this post, Mysterious Venice: discovering myths and legends, where we told you about the ghost of the Biennale, but for this article that is all about spooky legends we have been waiting for autumn for a good reason: have you ever thought about spending Halloween in Venice?

You will discover that the city has all the right ingredients to be the perfect destination for this time of the year.

Ca’ Mocenigo

This first story is set in Ca’ Mocenigo, located in Campo San Samuele, and the protagonist is Giordano Bruno. Other than a philosopher, Bruno was very fond of the occult and esotericism. Because of his fame, it is said that he was invited to the city by Giovanni Mocenigo, who aimed to learn the magical arts from him.

However, not seeing any improvement in his skills, Mocenigo decided to denounce his mentor for blasphemy to the Venetian authorities. At that point Bruno’s fate was sealed: he was arrested, extradited to Rome and, finally, condemned to be burnt at the stake in the public square.

It is said that from that moment on his ghost wanders around the palace, always showing his presence through events, apparently inexplicable, somehow related to water (the same water that could have extinguished his fire).

Flooding and plumbing problems are frequent, taps seem to turn on by themselves. Some people even claim to have spotted the ghost, overlooking the balcony of the room where he stayed.

Casino degli Spiriti

Looking for an ideal stop for your Halloween in Venice? Then you shouldn’t miss the Casino degli Spiriti in Cannaregio, along the fondamenta Gasparo Contarini. It is actually an annex of Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo and, since the sixteenth century, it has been considered a haunt of spirits and ghosts.

The legend tells that the most famous ghost is that of the painter Luzzo who, in those years, used to meet in the palace with other well-known artists, such as Giorgione and Tiziano. Luzzo, however, committed suicide due to his unrequited love for Cecilia, Giorgione’s lover.

It may be due to the isolated location and the position of the palace, where the sounds of the wind and the backwash channel, but sometimes in this area you can hear a noise that resembles a mournful howl. On top of that, some Venetians claim to have seen some strange flashing lights near the palace.

What about going and checking yourself?

The haunted island of Poveglia

The case of Poveglia is probably one of the most famous and even creepy ones. Consider that the fame of this small island, located in the middle of Venice’s southern lagoon, has reached the most passionate American ghost hunters. Some people even call it the most haunted island in the world. Let’s discover why…

In the eighteenth century Poveglia became a lazaret, a place of shelter for sick people, especially for plague victims. Being brought to Poveglia was a sign that death was approaching and, therefore, a moment of deep resignation. To give you an idea, the bodies used to be burnt in the vineyards of the island. It was in those years that spooky stories about the ghosts of the plague victims who died here began to spread.

As if that wasn’t enough, in 1922 a strange building was erected on the island. In some historical archives it was described as a shelter for the elderly. However, various clues confirm that the function was pretty different as it was, indeed, a psychiatric hospital.

According to the legend, extremely cruel and illegal practices were experimented on patients, such as lobotomy. It is also told that the head of the psychiatry department went mad after witnessing such a barbarism and committed suicide by throwing himself from the bell tower of the island.

Nowadays Poveglia is left in a state of total abandonment and it is officially closed to tourism. It is possible to visit it only with a special permit or by private boat. The few visitors who have had the chance to wander around the island confirm that they have found a macabre, surreal, atmosphere and that they have witnessed several inexplicable phenomena or heard disturbing sounds.

And you, would you take a walk in Poveglia?

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