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Our Venice

Venice has a lot of secrets and some have not been discovered yet. Some artefacts have been recycled and inserted into buildings, so it is difficult sometimes to clarify the reason why they are there.

The Hooks at San Canciano

What about the hooks you can see while you are crossing the bridge near Campo San Canciano attached to a wall facing the water? Their meaning might not be clear to all the people who walk past them and kiss them because they think they bring good luck.

The bridge of the Quartered

Those hooks are the only ones left in Venice, There were some more in the district of Santa Croce, at the ponte dei Squartai (the bridge of the Quartered).

They are made out of iron, and have the shape of an anchor like the hooks you find in a butcher shop to hold meat. They were put in at least four different parts of Venice referring to the cardinal points of Padua, Mestre, Chioggia and Lido. Venetian law required that the four parts of criminals’ and traitors’ bodies who had been executed had to be exposed.

Pink columns, Doge’s Palace facade

Their heads were brought instead to St. Mark’s Square where they were probably hanged between the two pink columns of the facade of the Doge’s Palace.

The reason for all of this exposure dealt with the warnings that the Republic of Venice wanted to communicate to their citizens as an educational example in order that they did not commit the same crimes.

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Venetian roofs

In Venice there are many buildings that are topped with wooden terraces. In the twelfth century Venetian houses were just made out of wood and had terraces parallel to the main facades. As they collapsed very often the government decided to remove them especially those along main streets and canals, and later they were added on top of the roofs.

Small rooftop garden in the foreground

What function did they have?

They served for different purposes. It was one of the favorite places of many women, who used to dry clothes outside, did some gardening and watered flowers.


Starting from the 1500s they were used for another purpose. Local women took advantage of the sun rays to lighten their hair. The most fashionable color was the blond invented by one of the most famous painters, Titian, who painted his female subjects blond and with fair skin.

Violante, Titian’s painting

It was a ceremony that most of the women followed in order to be fashionable but In order to obtain this highlighted effect they followed to the letter the recipes suggested by manufacturers and sellers of perfumes. A straw hat with no top served for the purpose, where their long hair was rolled up to dry.

Iron wooden terrace

The wooden terraces left in the city are subject to the Superintendency, that in recent times has decided not to give so many permits for new ones!

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When St. Francis came back from the fifth crusade in the 1220s it is said that he stopped to pray on one of the Venetian lagoon islands. Immediately after he left the island was called Saint Francis after his name a group of Franciscan fathers settled there to continue his religious practice. Hundreds of years later because of malaria the island was abandoned for a while and for this reason the word Desert was applied to it.

The architectonic complex of Saint Francis, the pathway leading to the church

The island is considered a place for meditation and prayers as it is surrounded by a lot of vegetation and cypresses, typical trees of the lagoon islands and of the Mediterranean evergreen plants. A pathway with pebbles leads to the old convent, where a few friars still live today.

The church

The island was originally owned by a Venetian nobleman, Jacopo Michiel, who donated it to the friars. In 1228 a church was added to the oratory where St. Francis prayed. On its facade there is the representation of the saint in a small niche. The whole architectonic complex was built according to the Franciscan standards of respecting simplicity, so its inner and outer parts remain very plain.

Part of the garden surrounding the island

Following St Francis precepts the Franciscan friars found God in all the creatures and identified with them as brothers and sisters. Famous are his Canticle of the creatures and his Canticle of the Sun underlying the relationship between humankind and the creation.

One of his canticles is represented on the iron structure you see in the above picture. The hymn was dedicated to the birds who greeted him on his arrival on the island.

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