It took me some time to have a look at my photos of the headstones on the island of San Michele. The experience back then was overwhelming, Stendhalesque. Maybe the shrieks of the seagulls in combination with the pre-storm heat made me flee and store the memory for a while. I hadn’t done research but decided on a whim to get off the vaporetto at the Cimitero stop, on my way to Burano and Murano. San Michele became a churchyard island in the laguna in 1807, when the French decided that burial on the mainland was unsanitary. Bodies were carried to the island on special black funeral gondolas.
I left the main courtyard and followed the sign to the Recinto XIV – Greco , the Recinti XV – Evangelico, and the Orthodox section spotting some familiar names. I was by myself, the Italians tending to family business in other parts.
The first headstone that caught my attention was this one :
At first I thought it was the headstone on the grave of the famous Dutch author Multatuli but I learned afterwards that it belongs to Tine, his wife who had fled their marriage, when he tried to force her to agree to a ménage à trois. She took her three children to Italy and died as a pauper.
Princesse Catherine Bagration married Peter Bagration in 1800 , an arranged marriage by Emperor Paul I. None had serious feelings for another and marriage was a complete disaster. Catherine spent most of time travelling throughout Europe. She finally settled in Vienna, where, supposedly, she was used as a secret agent by Alexander I. She was a mistress to Metternich – he called her Naked Angel, she gave birth to his daughter Clementine, whom General Bagration, under pressure of Alexander, declared as his.
Joesph Brodsky’s (Russian American poet and essayist) burial spot, covered in flowers.
A huge contrast with this one :
The double headstone of Sarah McLean Drake and Janet Drake ‘In Ever Loving Memory of Our Darling Mother and Sister Who Perished in the Steamer Disaster Near the Lido, Venice 19th March 1914′.Everyone on board of the vaporetto was watching one of the first seaplanes to be seen in Venise when the helmsman, ship’s engineer and stoker all left their posts and joined the passengers on deck so that they too could have a better look. A boat of the Italian Royal Navy could not avoid a collision.
This experience is exactly why I like to travel alone. In company it wouldn’t have been the same experience or maybe the stop wouldn’t have happened.