The moonlit streets and alleys of Venice are always pretty shadowy and bewitching but if you take one of Secret Venice’s tours you may never go out after dark again! Telling tales of murder, superstition and deals with the devil tour guide Francesco weaves a web of intrigue, secrecy and whodunit to scare the boldest of Venice’s visitors – what could be more perfect for Halloween night?!
Based on local writer Alberto Toso Fei’s book The Mysteries of Venice”, the tour starts at the Rialto Bridge, the largest stone bridge in Venice, built in 1591.
Legend has it the supervisor was struggling to finish the enormous bridge, as it kept collapsing. Finally one night, in desperation, he made a deal with the devil. Satan agreed to stop the bridge crumbling if he could have the first soul to cross it.
The supervisor tried to outwit the devil by sending a rooster over the bridge – the devil hadn’t specified a human soul. But Lucifer was too cunning and, to the horror of the supervisor, managed to trick his wife to cross.
The devil was patient for his payment, however, and the wife didn’t die that night. It wasn’t until the next day that disaster struck, when the wife went into labour giving birth to a stillborn baby. She died shortly afterwards leaving the supervisor heartbroken. But at least the devil had had his payment so the Rialto stands strong, even today, 420 years later!
And so the atmosphere for the evening is set. Part true story, part superstition, part local legend!
The Rialto gives rise to other stories too. Take a look at the old prison building at the bottom of the bridge on the San Polo side. Can you spot the carvings of a man and woman with flames coming from their nether regions? Apparently the woman had sworn to “set her fanny on fire” if the Rialto bridge was ever completed! Seems a bit of a risky bet to make to me, but hey perhaps that’s what one did back in the day!!
Crossing over to the San Marco side Francesco’s tour twists and turns through the lesser known calli (streets) and campi (squares) of the city as we hear tales of courtesans, secret passages and forbidden love.
Anxiety levels rise a little as Francesco talks of ghosts that inhabit the historic city, disease-ridden rats that infested the city and vampires buried under a modern courtyard!
However, the most blood curding stories centre around two run of the mill, everyday places – a restaurant and a well. But if I told the stories it would spoil Francesco’s tour so I’ll leave him to tell you! Suffice to say neither story ends well and you’ll never look at a menu the same again!
So if you think you can stomach 2 hours of ghastly ghosts and murderous mysteries as your footsteps echo eerily along Calle dei Assassini (Alley of the assassins), then this is the tour for you! Venetian Francesco knows his stuff and takes great delight in recounting the criminal conduct of his city’s residents as we squirm and squeal! And even if you weren’t scared of the dark beforehand, you might want to sleep with the light on after this! Why not leave a comment with your favourite Venetian ghost story. Sweet dreams!!
Secret Venice are the only walking tour agency in Venice to have exclusive persmission from local author Alberto Toso Fei to run ghost tours based on his book “The Mysteries of Venice”. Tours can be booked online here.
More information on the tours which Francesco Zanchi offers can be found here.
And more Venetian mysteries and mayhem can also be found on Alberto Toso Fei’s official website – http://www.albertotosofei.it/en