Casino degli Spiriti - History and Facts | History Hit

Casino degli Spiriti

Amy Irvine

26 May 2023
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Didier Descouens / CC BY-SA 4.0

About Casino degli Spiriti

The Casino degli Spiriti (‘Small House of the Spirits’) is an elegant annexe of Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo on the Fondamenta Gasparo Contarini in the Venetian sestiere of Cannaregio. Believed to be a meeting place for sects invoking spirits, several corpses have been found there, and for centuries people have believed it to be a cursed location.

History of Casino degli Spiriti

Built in the 16th century, Casino degli Spiriti hosted meetings between Venetian philosophers, nobles, artists and learned men of the era, with figures and artists such as Tintoretto, Veronese and Titian regular visitors at its heyday. The Casin degli Spiriti also once served as a hospital where thousands of Venetians died from the plague, and later hosted an anatomical theatre in which autopsies were performed.

However, the palace and its annexe were later abandoned, yet strange noises have been heard at night coming from the house’s direction, similar to Gregorian chants, that spread throughout the surrounding lagoon, leading many locals to say the place was cursed.

Some think the casino was the seat of religious sects, some congregating there to organise satanic rites, invoking spirits and demons. Many witnesses reported having seen people hooded and hidden by cloaks holding torches at night in the fog. These processions reached right up to the Casin degli Spiriti.

There are other stories that help explain why the house is perceived as cursed. The most famous is the ghost of Pietro Luzzo da Feltre, a 16th century painter. Luzzo used to regularly meet in the palace with other well-known artists, such as Giorgione and Tiziano, but was in unrequited love with Cecilia – Giorgione’s model and lover. After his affections were rebuffed (and after heavy drinking), Luzzo killed himself with a shotgun in the building. His ghost is said to wander through the palace, crying for his impossible love. 

In 1929, the bodies of four people were found in the Casin degli Spiriti. Apparently, they all missed their heads and their right hands.

To add to the building’s macabre history, a gruesome murder was also linked with the Casin degli Spiriti in 1947. A young woman called Linda Cimetta was robbed and killed there (by a gambler and his gondolier accomplice), her body dismembered, placed in a trunk, and submerged into the lagoon in front of the building. The body was discovered a fortnight later by a local fisherman. 

Casino degli Spiriti today

Venetians sometimes claim to have seen strange flashing lights near Casino degli Spiriti, and sometimes hear a mournful howl in the area – perhaps due to the house’s isolated location enhancing the sounds of the wind and the backwash channel.

It is said that to this day the fishermen of Venice refuse to fish in front of the Casin degli Spiriti or anywhere in the surrounding lagoon.

Getting to Casino degli Spiriti

The Palazzo Contarini dal Zaffo (of which Casino degli Spiriti is an annexe) is located in the district of Cannaregio, between Madonna dell’Orto and Sacca della Misericordia. The Casino faces a bay in the northern part of the island, situated at Fondamenta Gasparo Contarini, 3541 in Venice.

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