Mysterious Venice: discovering myths and legends
The island of Sant’Elena
The first legend is about the island on which our hotel is located, Sant’Elena. It is said that centuries ago a ship from Constantinople, carrying the remains of Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, arrived in the lagoon. Because of low tide the ship ran aground near Olivolo, where there was already a small chapel dedicated to the Saint.
The sailors, exasperated by the situation, thought about temporarily unloading the ship to make it lighter. They deposited everything on the island: barrels, boxes and also the urn containing Elena’s remains. The ship could finally float again and it was taken to deepest waters, where there was no danger of running aground.
After that the ship was reloaded, but, as soon as the urn was back on board, the ship inexplicably ran aground for the second time. The sailors interpreted this as a clear sign that the Saint did not want to leave the island. Her remains were thus brought back to land. From that moment on, the island became the island of Sant’Elena.
The heart of the Sotoportego dei Preti
Walking under the Sotoportego dei Preti, you will notice a red heart-shaped brick on one of its walls. Because of the legend it originates from, the heart is thought to bring good luck to couples who touch it together.
The legend tells the love story between a fisherman, Orio, and a beautiful mermaid named Melusina. Orio rescued the mermaid at sea and it was love at first sight: the fisherman immediately proposed. Melusina agreed, but on one condition: before the wedding her beloved should never have visited her on Saturdays.
But Orio indulged his curiosity and on the third Saturday he went to look for his future bride. At the usual meeting place, Orio did not find Melusina, but a frightening sea snake. The monster was the mermaid, hit by a spell that only marriage could break.
Orio, deep in love, wanted to marry Melusina despite her secret. They got married and the mermaid turned into a woman, but after three children and much joy, Melusina died. Orio went on with his life and every day, arriving home from work, he found his house inexplicably tidy. One day, he came back earlier than usual to find out who was helping him: he found a snake in the house, that he killed to protect his children. The following days, arriving home and always finding it untidy, he sadly realized that he had killed Melusina.
The heart in Sotoportego dei Preti stands on the building that is said to be the couple’s house.
The ghost of the Giardini della Biennale
When strolling through the Giardini della Biennale, you will see two statues: Giuseppe Garibaldi and, behind him, a bronze bodyguard. The latter was placed there at a later time, because of a curious event that took place in 1921.
It is said that that year, a ghost in a red shirt used to appear near the statue of Garibaldi and to annoy passers-by. It was identified with Giuseppe Zolli, a faithful Garibaldi soldier. The Venetians thus decided to add a second statue behind Garibaldi, that would look like Giuseppe Zolli. It is said that, since that day, the ghost has never appeared again.
The bocolo of San Marco
Not only Romeo and Juliet: there are many love-themed myths and legends that belong to the history of our cities and Venice is one of them. In particular, there’s one tradition that is handed down from year to year: on April 25th, the day of the patron saint of Venice, San Marco, men and boys offer a rosebud (bocolo in Venetian) to their loved ones, mothers and daughters.
This tradition comes from a legend, whose protagonist is a young couple: Maria, the daughter of Doge Orso I Partecipazio, and Tancredi. Despite the strength of their love, the Doge did not approve the union between the two, because of Tancredi’s humble origins. Maria thus pushed Tancredi to fight against the Turks to conquer the admiration of her father, who, considering the valor shown in battle by Tancredi, would have changed his mind about their relationship.
Tancredi was valiant and brave, but unfortunately he was mortally wounded and fell into a rose garden. The legend says that, before exhaling his last breath, Tancredi asked his friend Orlando to bring a rosebud soaked in his blood to Maria. The story, however, has an even more tragic ending: on April 25th, the day after Maria and Orlando first met, the young woman was found dead in her bed with the rosebud on her chest.