The Shadowy Faces of Venice

Venice remains my favorite city in Italy. I never tire of her beauty and charms. I’m also fascinated by her dark side and her complicated past, which seems to be reflected in the many dark faces of Venice that adorn countless walls and doors.

Don’t get too comfortable.

That’s my interpretation of these dark and foreboding faces of Venice. On their own, they can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but throw in their location in the maze of dark and confusing alleyways, and you have an excellent setting for a thriller or horror movie. Who can forget the final scene in Don’t Look Now? (The creepy knife-wielding dwarf elevates the spooky factor).

Venice, ItalyWise

Are You Sure You Want to Pass? – © 2018 Jed Smith

You don’t have to search hard to find the shadowy faces of Venice.

Consider the three photos in this post and the fact that I captured them in the span of five minutes and within 50 meters of each other. In other words, they’re pretty much everywhere.

Now, to dig deeper in order to understand the reasons and the psychology behind these anything-but-welcoming adornments. Maybe the clue is in the dark passages in Venice’s history, which are numerous. Just recently I watched a fascinating documentary about the history of Venice. It’s called Francesco’s Venice(You can find it on but be forewarned it comes in region format 2, so be sure your DVD plays multiple regions before purchasing). In the documentary, I came to much greater familiarity with Venice’s population being decimated by 30% during the plague. I also had no idea that, at one point in time, a full 20% of Venice’s population had syphilis. Yikes! And, Venice held a reputation for holding trade and physical indulgences first while the church and Christianity held second place. In other words, Venic stubbornly and persistently refused to give up its vices.

Venice, ItalyWise

Guarding The Door – © 2018 Jed Smith

Warding Off Evil?

Probably. I know I’d been employing whatever voodoo I thought would help if my city’s population was being quickly wiped out. I’d make sure strangers would think twice before knocking on my door.

Ghost stories and mysteries set in Venice are easy to find. The stage is set. Let the fog from the lagoon roll in, and the storyline is off and running. I know my fertile imagine doesn’t need much in this regard. And, for that reason, I’ll be revisiting this theme in future posts. Consider this a mere appetizer!


By |2019-01-19T21:11:46+01:00February 14th, 2018|A Romance with Venice, Exploring the Veneto|8 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Jill July 9, 2019 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    I love Venice too! Her influences stretch far and wide….did you know that the winged lion symbol of Venice is usually depicted with his paw on a book, they say if the book is closed the lion was carved durin wartime and if open he was carved during peacetime….maybe a little anecdote dreamed up by tour guides…but a nice one. 😘 Jill

    • Jed July 9, 2019 at 10:59 pm - Reply

      Ciao Jill, I love hearing about the Lion with his paw on the book and whether it was open or closed would indicate peace or wartime. I’ll be sure to pass this along when I have visitors! Hope all is well!

  2. Kathryn Smith February 20, 2018 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    The door knocker reminds me of the one at Scrooge’s house in “A Christmas Carol”!

    • Jed February 20, 2018 at 8:54 pm - Reply

      Indeed! Crossed my mind as well.

  3. Amy February 14, 2018 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    This exchange brings to mind a quote by George Carlin:

    “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

    • Jed February 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      A great reminder, Amy, to go with the flow and keep a sense of humor. Thanks!

  4. Richard Deal February 14, 2018 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Decimated means to reduce by a tenth, apart from that small error an interesting article, thanks. You might like to look up the origins of the word ‘ciao’ and how Venice formed that word, which is not found in other Latin based languages. ‘Vostro sciavo’ will point you in the right direction!

    • Jed February 14, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

      Thanks for pointing out this older, but rarely used meaning of decimate. However, I don’t consider this an error. “Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people)’. This sense has been more or less totally superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of’, as in the virus has decimated the population. Some traditionalists argue that this is incorrect, but it is clear that it is now part of standard English.” (Source
      I’ll be sure to look into the origins of “ciao.”

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