Orio, Melusina and the Heart of Stone
In Castello, a large and lively neighbourhood that partially borders Piazza San Marco, is the Sotoportego dei Preti, the area in which the home of Orio and Melusina is located. Orio was a fisherman who one day stumbled upon a mermaid, who had been entangled in his fishing net. The two fell in love instantly, so much so that she gave up her nature as an enchantress. They went to live in his house, but Melusina, who had been hit by a curse, made sure that every Saturday until the day of the wedding Orio did not return home, as she would turn into a terrifying snake. After the wedding, the young couple had three children, but the happiness soon faded, as Melusina fell ill and died. Orio, destroyed by grief, had to provide for his children, as well as tending to the housework but, to his amazement, every time he came home, he found everything arranged and clean. One day, due to a storm, he came home earlier than usual and found a snake in the kitchen. Terrified for the safety of his children, he killed it, since then the house was no longer tidied up and Orio therefore understood that slimy animal was none other than his beloved Melusina, who would never come back because of what he did. To commemorate a story of poignant love, where Orio and Melusina lived, a red brick heart was placed, which is said to bring good luck if it is touched with your loved one.
PONTE DEI SOSPIRI Baroque style bridge, built in the early seventeenth century, in Istrian stone. It connects the Doge’s Palace to the New Prisons. It is entirely enclosed to avoid escape routes, and made up of two separate but very narrow corridors. At the time of the Serenissima, the prisoners, looking at the outside world for the last time from small stone openings, sighed; hence the origin of the name Bridge of Sighs.
PALAZZO DUCALE The Doge’s Palace, a Venetian Gothic masterpiece, founded after 812, was the ancient headquarter of the Doge and the Venetian magistrates. It has been rebuilt several times following fires, thus following the history of the Serenissima from its dawn to its fall. Today it houses the Civic Museum of the Doge’s Palace, part of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation (MUVE).
LE PRIGIONI NUOVE The New Prisons were built in the sixteenth century to lock up criminals and to house the offices of the judiciary. On the ground floor there are the Pozzi, cold and terrible cells, which housed most serious criminals who comitted crimes against the Republic, whilst in the attic there are the Piombi, sultry prisons where less dangerous criminals were housed. Giacomo Casanova in 1756 fled from here, through a secret alley.
LE PORTE DELLA CARTA The door in flamboyant Gothic style rises between the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco and is the linking point between the two buildings. It is called “Paper Door” because originally, in its proximity, there was a desk with a scribe for illiterate people who needed to write a letter or a message. It is also close to the place where the state document archives were kept.
Did you know That… Venice was called Serenissima after the goddess Reitia, venerated by the Venetians and the Paplagons, their ancestors. She was known as “splendid” or “serenissima”, hence the name.