Unique, fascinating and mysterious. The adjectives to describe Venice can be infinite, as well as all the details that make it a city full of beauty. Among the sweet curves of its canals and the masterpieces of art suspended over the water, the Veneto capital hides dozens of characteristic curiosities, some far from the most beaten itineraries. Here are 5 precious details that you have never noticed or whose explanation you don’t know.
1. THE TWO RED COLUMNS OF THE DUCAL PALACE
All the columns of the upper loggia of the Palazzo Ducale are white, except for two central ones that are red. Why? The legend tells that in the middle of those two columns the Doge overlooked and he read the death sentences against the condemned; the color red, therefore, would remember the color of condemneds’ blood. Not only, but the two columns are exactly in front of the Clock Tower, so that the condemned men, once they got to the gallows, could see the exact time of their death.
2. THE WATCH TOWER DIAL
After centuries in which the hour had been calculated thanks to the light of the sun, the first mechanical clocks appeared in Europe in the 13th century, and the one of the Tower of Venice was one of the first. Since the time indicated by the solar sundials made a whole circle in 24 hours, the first mechanical clocks performed an entire clock circle in the same way; for this reason the dial was divided into 24 hours and not 12 as today.
3. PORCH FLAGS IN ST. MARK’S SQUARE
Enthroned by the beauty of St. Mark Basilica, often you don’t notice the three high poles that hold three different flags in front of it and whose tops have three different golden symbols. What do they symbolize and why are they three? The three flag bearers represented the three kingdoms conquered by the Doges, namely Cyprus, Heraklion (now Crete) and Morea (the current Peloponnese) and waved the banners of the three conquered regions. Today, instead, the flags of Venice, of Italy and of Europe are waving.
4. THE GOLDEN HEAD HANGED IN RIALTO
A unique hanging golden head can surprise you if you look up to the right of the Rialto Bridge. The bronze sculpture suspended in the air is nothing but the sign of the ancient “Alla testa d’oro” spice shop. In an age where few could read and write, it had to make the pharmaceutical store immediately recognizable, where the best Theriaca of the city was produced, a sort of universal remedy able to cure all ills.
5. CALLETTA VARISCO, THE NAREST CALLA OF THE CITY
“Calli” are the typical Venetian streets. Even there is one where, to go, you have to cross it to the side: it’s “wide” only 53 centimeters! It’s name is Calletta Varisco, in Cannaregio district, near Fondamenta Nove. Slightly wider is Calle Stretta: 65 cm wide, which connects Campiello Albrizzi to Sottoportico della Furatola, in Santa Croce district.