AThe beauties of Venice often belie a dark past: what ghosts haunt the walls of Campiello del Remer as we contentedly sip our glass of Prosecco?
Wandering through the canals and the calli of Venice, its sestieri and campi, taking in the sights of baroque churches and neoclassical palaces, we have learned something about the hidden character of this unforgettable city. La Serenissima’s wealth of buildings and precious marble have borne witness to a picturesque history that has shaped the city’s folklore and the spirit of its residents over the centuries. When we listen to these tales and try grasp at their essence, it is hard to remain unmoved by the intimate tragedies, the excesses of passion, greed, fear or repentance they contain. These stories, existing somewhere halfway between chronicle and fantasy haunt those places which inspire so much wonder in the eyes of international travellers. As we enjoy a perfect aperitif in Campiello del Remer and sip at our chilled glass of Masottina’s Prosecco DOC, it is easy to let our gaze linger, taking in the sight of this special place where the city’s most skilled artisans used to craft oars and beautifully carved rowlocks, all set against sublime views over the Grand Canal, the campo dell’erbaria, the Rialto bridge and the Camerlenghi Palace.Nowadays, oar-makers have disappeared from Campiello del Remer, but their ancient art lives on in the square’s name and in the work of today’s finest local artisans.
The small square is famous for the elegant staircase that leads to a Gothic-style loggia and the typical Venetian pink marble wellhead at its centre. But how would we feel, as we enjoy our Prosecco, to learn about the tragic story hidden among the beautiful artwork preserved perfectly intact under our very eyes?
Back in the year 1598, the city’s doge Marino Grimani once walked into Campiello del Remer escorted by his men when he suddenly heard the cry of a woman in distress. Immediately the group started in the direction of that piercing call and found Grimani’s niece Elena chased by her furious husband, Fosco Loredan. The man was enraged, having supposedly just found proof of his wife’s infidelity. The doge and his guards tried to protect the woman but Loredan, beside himself with jealousy, managed to grab a sword and behead her. The horrified doge had the man arrested on the spot and sent to Rome along with his wife's severed head, so that the Pope himself could decide on the most befitting punishment. The latter, however, refused to take the man’s fate into his own hands and promptly sent him back to Venice. While he was about to be taken to prison, Loredan managed to free himself and run to the place where his wife's remains were awaiting burial. At the sight of his wife’s lifeless body, the man was stricken with remorse and threw himself into the Grand Canal carrying her head with him.His body was never found again. But, according to this particularly macabre local legend, every time the northerly wind blows, the body of Fosco Loredan re-emerges from the water in front of the Campiello del Remer, holding the head of his wife Elena.