Empress Sissi (1837-1898), wife of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph of Habsburg, remained in the collective imagination as a beautiful and fascinating woman. Many remember her through the interpretation of Romy Schneider in Ernst Marischka’s “Sissi” trilogy. The young empress hated her role and her life at court. So, when she could, she fled Vienna for long journeys.
The first time she spent a period in Venice she was 16 years old. It was 1856 and she arrived in the lagoon to stay there for 38 days. In the city everything was ready to welcome her and her young husband. At the Royal Palace, the same one that was previously Napoleon’s and later Savoy’s, all possible works had been done to pay homage to the sovereigns. They were not well seen in Venice and the people welcomed them in San Marco square with an embarrassing silence. But officially, for the young rulers, the ceremonial was impeccable.
Empress Sissi did not stay in Venice only those 38 days in 1856, when she visited schools, orphanages and charitable institutions. She took part in many parties in the palaces, in some shows at La Fenice Theatre and in the Historical Regatta from Balbi Palace. Despite the lack of affectionate reception from the Venetian people, she chose to return, staying there for seven months, in October 1861. She had recently lost her little daughter Sophie and Venice represented a refuge for the Empress Sissi. She arrived there with her other daughter Gisela and her only son, Rudolf. That was the period in which she had the opportunity to better enjoy the apartments of the Royal Palace, the current Correr Museum.
Back in Austria, Empress Sissi returned to the lagoon only in 1895. After Rudolf’s death, she became even more sad and closed in on herself. Having fled from the Viennese court, Sissi began to take refuge wherever to find some peace. In Venice, which in the meantime had fallen (1866) under the dominion of the Savoys, she came incognito to visit the Art Biennale. In the same period, however, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy were also in the city. The empress was thus forced to make her visit public and pay homage to the two sovereigns, new tenants of the Royal Palace.
Still today, visiting the Correr Museum in St. Mark’s Square, you can visit Sissi’s apartments, including her dressing room, decorated with lilies, the empress’s favorite flowers. In the center of the ceiling there is a decoration depicting the “patron goddess of the arts”, which looks like a portrait of Sissi. Her apartments are now the museum’s unmissable attraction.
Location: Correr Museum, Venice