Located between St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal, in the heart of the Venice, the Sissi Palace reopens on the 14th of July after 22 years of work.
If the Empress of Austria was its most famous guest, the palace owes its birth to the French Emperor Napoleon I, who became King of Italy in 1805, even though he never set foot in it himself.
The palace has been completely renovated by the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice, the organisation that has fully financed the seven-million-euro work thanks to donations from generous patrons. AFP
SOUNDBITE 1 – Jérôme Zieseniss, President of the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice (male, French, 25 sec): “Here we are in the royal palace of Venice, it seems quite unusual because everybody thinks of Venice as a republic. But in fact Napoleon became king of Italy in 1805 and Venice was the second city of his kingdom of Italy, so he needed a royal palace, and this royal palace had to be in the St Mark’s area and it is indeed in St Mark’s Square because it has always been the area of power.”
SOUNDBITE 2 – Jérôme Zieseniss, President of the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice (male, French, 17 sec): “It took us 22 years to complete, so you could say ‘you took your time for 27 rooms, 22 years’ but in fact we had to get 5 administrations out because these rooms had been turned into offices at the end of the monarchy.”
SOUNDBITE 3 – Andrea Bellieni, Head of Correr Museum (male, Italian, 47 sec): “To rediscover the history of these rooms is also to rediscover the spirit of those who lived in them, and certainly that beautiful woman, that extraordinary female figure that was the Princess, or rather Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known to many as Sissi, who lived in these rooms several times, the first time she came here, as a young bride at the age of eighteen in November 1856, the first state visit, the famous one, and, how to put it, immortalised in the famous film, her arrival in Venice, in the silence and hostility of the citizens she would later conquer.”
SOUNDBITE 4 – Jérôme Zieseniss, President of the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice (French, 26 sec): “She was the one who lived the longest in this palace because Sissi was someone who wouldn’t let the others decide for her, and therefore she didn’t want the life of the court, it bored her, she decided to go away, she built herself a villa in Corfu, and on her way to and back from Corfu, she would stop here in Venice.”
SOUNDBITE 5 – Andrea Dal Mas, upholsterer (male, Italian, 12 sec): “Knowing the wandering spirit of the princess, it remains to be seen whether she would have stayed here or changed residence again!”
SOUNDBITE 6 – Gea Storace, restorer (female, Italian, 31 sec): “First of all, a conservation intervention was carried out. This means that we fixed the places where the colour was lifting, where the gilding was lifting, which in this case was not dramatic I must say, and we also fixed parts of these carved and gilded elements, which in some cases were coming loose and moving.”