The Venice Hospital – Ss Giovanni e Paolo
In Venice there’s one hospital, the Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The reason for its name is not stranger than that the location is right there… On Campo Santo Giovanni e Paolo.
Before entering the hospital, to your right you see the impressively large Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. This is one of the biggest, and most important churches in Venice, and it’s well worth a visit.
There are other minor health care facilities distributed around the city, but this is the Venice Hospital… The one and only, and the only one that has a reasonable coverage of all kinds of health issues.
They have a 24/7 Emergency room. And if you should ever be in need of immediate medical care that’s were they bring you. If it’s an emergency, the ambulance will part from right outside Venice Hospital, on the lagoon-side, and with wakes that threatens to bring down the canal-sides, they will hurry through the narrow waterways to get you right medical treatment as fast as they can.
The telephone number to remember should have been one, and one only. The emergency-number valid all over Europe for any type of emergency is 112. In some countries it’s possible to call 112 without credit, and sometimes even without a Sim-card.
- 112 European Emergency Number
Unfortunately, Italy has been very slow in introducing the single, unified telephone number. And you still have to remember a few special numbers depending on what your emergency is:
- 118 Medical Emergency
- 112 Carabinieri. National Military Police. (Black/red uniforms)
- 113 State Police. (Grey/blue uniforms)
The Carabinieri-number 112 is in fact the unified European number. And they will redirect you to the right contact if you call them. You should memorize at least 118, as well as 112, although the last one is the most important.
Are they any good?
Venice Hospital is regarded as a well functioning hospital. The more exclusive position within the historic center of Venice rather than the landside like Mestre or Marghera, gives it a few advantages.
First of all, it’s easier to attract medical expertise to Venice, than to many other places. Secondly, it has a lower volume of patients. In Venice there are much less residents. This is balanced in some way by the older population, and by the many tourists. But it’s still a lower pace, more laid-back, and shorter waiting times.
We often compare it with Mestre – Ospedale dell’Angelo, which is a brand new, state of the art hospital. And although Venice is older and smaller, it’s by far better than Mestre. The quality depends on where you need to go, obviously. Every clinic or care unit is different and even in Mestre there are some really extraordinary departments. But all considered, I’d rather stay in Venice. And not only for the shorter waiting times.
The Terrible story of the Son of the Levantine.
And now to the ghost story connected to the Venice Hospital.
On the architrave of the entrance door, there are a few carvings… Almost like graffiti but from ancient times. There’s some writings and there are a few ships… But the most disturbing figure is that of a Levant man holding a heart in his hand.
You wont be able to see all the details any more. With time much of the carvings has been lost by air pollution and tear and wear. But, I know the story behind it, and now I’m going to tell you what happened:
A Stonemason lived in Venice. His name was Cesco (Francesco) Pizzigani. He was an expert of his trade and worked on the most prominent buildings in Venice.
His wife, Florinda, fell ill, and in a very short time she died leaving poor Cesco alone. On top of his unfortune, he had spent all of his money as well as his workshop on expensive therapies to save his wife. So, now he didn’t even have money for food, nor could he work without his tools and work-space. He used to sit outside the very Scuola Grande di San Marco that he himself had helped in building, begging for a coin or two to have something to eat.
Un unhappy couple
In the neighborhood lived a women alone. She was always friendly and although she was poor, she always had something for Cesco, even if sometimes it was only a smile or a kind word.
Cesco new her. She was once the fiancee of a rich Levant man. Together they had a son. But they never got married, and they were of different creed. They also came from very different social background. The girl was poor while the Levant enjoyed privileges as a successful Orient merchant. To that came the normal oppression of women of the time, especially unmarried women with sons. Remember that we are in the beginning of the 16th century.
All this resulted in the boy growing up with his father, while the girl was left aging with a bigoted neighborhood’s accusatory glances wherever she went. Still, to Cesco she was always a moment of light in the otherwise rather depressing existence.
A heartbroken mother’s love for her son.
The son took on his father’s ways. He dressed in Turkish clothes, and he practiced his father’s traditions. But he wasn’t satisfied. He visited his mother, sometimes late at night, after one too many drinks, and they always quarrelled.
Nobody knew the reason for this, not even the boy’s father, but the son blamed his mother. He felt abandoned, and he felt an outcast. He wasn’t Turkish, and he wasn’t Venetian. He didn’t belong anywhere, and that fact was consuming him. He was more frustrated for every day, and felt it was all his mother’s fault.
. Why couldn’t you have married a Venetian like any virtuous woman in the Republic? he shouted. Why did you have to dishonor me like this?
And he beat her, sometimes brutally so. Just a few days before Cesco had seen her hurrying by without saluting him, covering her face with a scarf.
The violent ending of the story.
The son finally killed his mother. Though she never complained, never corrected him but always explained how much she loved him, he couldn’t find it in his heart to forgive her. She loved her son more than herself, and she wanted nothing but for him to accept who he was. He wasn’t less because he was neither Venetian nor Oriental… He he was more because he was both.
But he refused to understand. One night after too much alcohol and too much pondering he went to his mother’s house. But this time he had a knife.
In a state of rage and confusion he stabbed her. Then he cut out her heart, and screaming and crying he went outside. And that’s where he was spotted by Cesco Pizzigani, who was slumbering in the doorway of the Scuola Grande di San Marco.
What he witnessed was truly horrific:
The boy came running from Calle Larga on the other side of Rio dei Mendicanti, with his mother’s heart in his hand. Snivelling he crossed the bridge, Ponte del Cavallo. But coming down on the Giovanni e Paolo side, he stumbled. For a moment he seemed to rise upward only to immediately lose his balance and fall to the ground with a slam and a sigh. The bloody heart rolled over the square and landed just a few feet away from Cesco.
Looking over at the young man who lay motionless on the stone pavement, Cesco could see his mouth grinning in agony. Just as he was getting up to run over to the boy, an almost inaudible voice came from the piece of human flesh lying on the ground before him. The soft voice of a women asking…
– My son… Are you alright?
The young man got up. He uttered a muffled shriek of pain, grabbed the heart ad stumbled away down to the Fondamenta Nuova. There he threw himself into the water, never to be seen again.
But what has all this to do with Cesco Pizzigani?
The skillful stonemason used to carve small comments of the daily life in Venice, when nobody was around. He carved them on the architrave of the entrance to the Scuola Grande di San Marco, which is also the entrance to the Venice Hospital.
And there you can still see it. The boy with a turban on his head and a his loving mother’s heart in his hand.