Venice Local Custom Tips by Jefie
Venice Local Customs: 312 reviews and 505 photos
Burano's busy landing dock
When we reached the island of Burano on our cruise of the lagoon, we saw that there already was a boat parked at the island's small landing dock. However, there was no need to wait: our captain simply placed a wooden board between the two boats and we proceeded to make our way through the other boat to reach the dock! Apparently this method was devised to handle the flow of visitors which, without being heavy, can still be a lot to handle for a small island like Burano.
Floating market in the Dorsoduro area
I don't know how common these floating markets are - we only saw one during the few days we spent in Venice, and it was located near the Ponte dei Pugni, in the Dorsoduro area. This little boat was filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, and for us it was yet another reminder of how unique life is in Venice. Well, that and the "floating delivery truck" that passed by with a new set of washer and dryer :o)
Winged lion on the monument to Daniele Manin
Winged lions can be found all over the city of Venice, in all shapes and sizes. The winged lion became the symbol of the city after the body of St. Mark the Evangelist was stolen and brought to Venice around 828 A.D. The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are each represented by a winged creature, and St. Mark's symbol is a winged lion. Unfortunately, when Napoleon captured the city of Venice in 1797, he gave orders to destroy winged lions all over the city since they were considered a symbol of the Republic - even the one sitting on top of St. Mark's column was temporarily removed. After Napoleon's defeat, most winged lions were restored to their original locations and copies were made to replace those that had been destroyed beyond repairs. They now stand once again as proud symbols of "la Serenissima".
Bocca di Leone at the Palazzo Ducale
Here's another interesting custom unique to Venice (as far as I know) that's no longer in practice. The doges devised the "Bocca di Leone" (lion's mouth) as a way to encourage Venitians to denunciate fellow citizens who had committed a crime or a fraud and thus contribute to maintaining order in the Republic. The letters of denunciations had to be signed in front of a witness, but they could then be discreetly inserted in a Bocca di Leone, which were found in different areas of the city. The authorities would then study the letters received and arrest the guilty party if the allegations seemed serious enough. Other than the plaintiff and the witness, no one would ever know who had made the denunciation - while this might seem like a good way to get rid of an annoying neighbor, it's important to know that there also was a price to pay for those who had made false accusations!
The most famous Bocca di Leone can be found in the Palazzo Ducale's courtyard, but we spotted another one near the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione in the Dorsoduro area.
Ponte dei Pugni in the Dorsoduro area
This is obviously not a modern-day custom, or at least I didn't see any fighting going on while I was in Venice. But back in the days, it wasn't uncommon for duals to be fought on one of the city's numerous bridges. These bridges were known as "Ponti dei Pugni", which would translate as "Fist Bridges". Perhaps the most famous one can be found near Campo San Barnaba, in the Dorsoduro area. On both sides of the bridge, you'll see a footprint where rivals used to take their stand before the fight would begin. These fights would often end with one of the two adversaries falling into the canal and thus losing his pride along with the fight, but death also wasn't unheard of. To avoid further casualties, the Republic of Venice banned these fights in 1705, but golden footprints can still be found on some bridges in different parts of the city.
Spritz and chips, a popular combination in Venice
This local custom isn't unique to Venice, but with so many sunny terraces, perhaps there isn't another city in Italy that lends itself quite like it to the habit of stopping for an aperitive before dinner. Thanks to my Italian professor, who grew up in Venice, I learned much more than just the language - he also taught me that I absolutely had to order a spritz in Venice! Basically, it's a cocktail made with wine or prosecco, sparkling water and liqueur. We tried the two most popular versions, spritz al aperol, which is orange and usually served with an olive, and spritz al campari, which is dark red and served with an orange. We liked the former the best and I must say, we took to this foreign custom pretty quickly!!
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