Tom writes, "Little old lady with the flowerpot: Cool, I remember you saying that was commemerated as a bas relief somewhere in Venice... I seem to recall this other Venetian legend of a little old lady saving Venice (although now I forget the details), leading to my theory that it was the same little old lady, she's like a Highlander Immortal, always there to save the day in different time periods. Our Lady of Venice."
Except in the case of the Highlander, there can be only one... while of little ol' Venetian ladies, there are gazillions! But they are a force of nature to be reckoned with, and apparently have been for centuries!!
The other story Tom's alluding to is when, in the very early history of Venice, the Franks--under the command of Charlemagne's son, Pepin--were supposed to have invaded this area. All the inhabitants of the island village of Malamocco had fled before his navy arrived, all except one little old lady who refused to budge from her home. Pepin apparently learned of her presence, had her brought to him, and asked her, "Which way to the Rialto?" (which, at the time didn't have the famous bridge [above right], but was the Rivo Alto, or "high bank," where there was another Venetian settlement). Legend has it that she smiled sweetly, pointed, and spoke the seemingly helpful words that Venetians have been telling hapless foreign visitors for eons: "It's straight ahead!"
Now, in Venice, there is never any "straight ahead." Ever. But while most of us just get irrevocably lost, the Franks' fate was much worse... Since the Venetian lagoon is usually only about 3 feet deep beyond the few navigable channels, it wasn't long before the ships ran aground, and the Frankish invasion was foiled.
As for "Our Ladies," there are boatloads of them in Venice, too. But that's another story!