This is probably one of the most unseen in plain view details in Venice: la Testa d’Oro, or “Golden Head“.
It is located 20m away from the Rialto Bridge, on the San Marco side, in a very busy area full of ‘banchetti’ (souvenir stands) and shops. Hanging 6m above the ground and overlooking a continuous flow of people, the bronze head often goes unnoticed.
The Testa d’Oro isn’t a statue in the memory of anyone like you would naturally assume, it is the remain of a reputed shop: the most important spicery of Venice.
In an era where the majority of the people could not read, the spicery called “Alla Testa d’Oro”, wanted to be easily recognizable by anyone, and came up with this clever solution. The reason behind its fame was a secret preparation of “Theriachia d’Andromaco”, a cure-all panacea which they started to produce in 1603. The quality of the remedy was so outstanding that the Serenissima itself was allowing them, and them only, to produce it three times per year, while everyone else was allowed to create their own recipe only once.
“Alla Testa d’Oro” kept running for over 240 years, and survived the end of the Serenissima, as well as the successive foreign dominations: Napoleon first, then Austria and later Italy, all thanks to the legendary properties of the “Theriachia d’Andromaco”. In the 1940s, nonetheless, with the introduction of new laws forbidding the use of psychotropic drugs, opium was banned and the original recipe could not be produced anymore.
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