Hidden treasures

Andrea Contarini's tomb in the cloister of the church of Santo Stefano in Venice

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Andrea Contarini's tomb in the cloister of the church of Santo Stefano in Venice

If you have to go to a Revenue Agency office, it is never a good day! But if the office in question is in Venice, you can console yourself by visiting the ancient cloister of the convent of the Augustinian Friars of Santo Stefano, where the offices of the Revenue Agency in Venice are located.

The cloister retains its quiet charm, even when tourists heading to St Mark's Square are jostling outside.

Even today you can spend an entire day trying to decipher ancient tombstones and inscriptions almost erased by time... If you are good and patient you might even be able to find the sarcophagus of one of the most important Doges of Venice, Andrea Contarini (1300- 1382 ).

As a young man he led a dissolute life, but legend has it that he changed after an unusual sexual encounter in a convent ... As he was making love with a nun, he saw that she wore a wedding ring on her finger. The nun replied that the ring symbolized her union with Christ, and she upset him to such an extent that he run away from the convent. Returning home, a crucifix gave him a nod to thank him for his behaviour.

In 1368, when there were rumours of his possible election as Doge of Venice, he sent a message to the 41 voters making clear that he had no desire to take up the post. No one listened to him and, after the election, since he could not refuse, Andrea Contarini escaped and was found three days later in a barn near Padua ... He justified himself by saying that, as a young man, a soothsayer in Syria had predicted that if he was elected doge, his sovereignty would be marred by all sorts of misfortunes.

Actually Andrea Contarini proved a good Doge, able to govern the fate of the Republic in a crucial moment in the history of Venice, the war of Chioggia, when the Venetian Republic was finally able to supplant the rival Republic of Genoa.

Venice will never cease to amaze us ... If it can preserve precious treasures even in the headquarters of the Revenue Agency, how many other surprises are hidden in its palaces or in the uncrowded narrow alleyways? Discovering them is not easy without the right guidance! For this reason, we offer you the opportunity to visit Venice with a local tour guide: the best way to leave behind the usual tourist areas and explore curiosities and endless mysteries!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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