As everybody who visited Venice knows, this city is a marvellous place, where many magical things happened over the course of centuries. One of those mysterious happenings is testified by the statue of a merchant called Sior Rioba [Mr Rioba in Venetian dialect], located next to Ponte dei Mori [Bridge of the Saracens] in the borough of Cannargio in North of the old town.
The statue, a piece of white stone, one and sixty five centimetres tall, represents a local merchant who, it is told, was turned into stone by an old lady after the merchant refused to grant her a loan. The statue has always been much loved by local inhabitants. So much so that the locals decided to make him an iron nose when the original one got lost. A similar sign of love and appreciation occurred recently, when the local population gave a party to celebrate the finding of the head of the statue after it missed for three long nights.
At the time of the finding many people spoke about vandalism or robbery. Few people really know what happened on the night of the disappearance. What I am going to tell here is the whole story of Sior Rioba became a statue and of what really happened on the night when his head disappeared.
“Since young age Sior Rioba had always shown a developed business acumen. Being the oldest of three orphan brothers, Rioba had soon to put his talent into practice to ensure a livelihood. While being initially among the poorest of the families of his borough, Rioba immediately experienced a fair amount of success in his business. Following an occasion given by a batch that got lost from an Arab boat and that Rioba found, he managed to establish his first spicy business.
With the help of his two brothers his business grew and grew. It grew so much that Rioba became one of the wealthiest men of the area. He became so wealthy that he managed to start a local bank, giving credit to all the other businesses nearby.
While his initial drive for his business had been necessity, Rioba quickly recognised that what was truly leading him was the fun felt by growing his activity and by making more and more money. Despite this deep passion of him, Sior Rioba was not an evil fellow, he was in fact quite liked by his neighbours. Let’s just say that, sometimes, he had a flexible view of what was to be considered financially appropriate and what not. This was particularly true for the conditions under which he would give loans to his customers which, in his view, were only the ones who could afford his rates.
It is not well known that Venice had always been a city of magic and mystery. Despite being a touristic hub nowadays, the city has been home of many magicians, scholars of occult and especially alchemists. It is precisely an alchemist, Siora Isabella [Miss Isabella] who defined the fate of Sior Rioba.
An alchemist’s life was indeed an hard one at that time. In those days, in fact, Alchemists didn’t yet found the Sorcerer’s Stone, the magical stone able to transform metals into gold. For this reason they always struggled to find the money to pay for their expensive experiments. Siora Isabella did not reduce her struggle, after that Rioba refused her a loan.
“Te podesi sentir el peso de i to schei e che el naso te se aruginisca!” [May you feel the weight of your own money and may your nose rust!]. Those were the words that Siora Isabella used to respond to Rioba’s rejection.
Rioba did not understand the meaning of those words from the very beginning. He completely ingored that Isabella was an alchemist, had he knew he would perhaps reduced the interest rate! It was only when night came that he felt a strange noise coming from his bank. He ran out in the street and he found Isabella under a heavy column falling above her. Rioba, a stingy man when it came to money but kind when it came to help, did not think about it twice. He run towards Isabella, he rolled away the column and lifted up the heavy stone above his shoulders to give Isabella a chance to escape the inevitable fall of the house.
Isabella could not believe it, the same man who refused her the money in the morning just saved her life in the evening! Despite the surprise Isabella knew it was too late to recall the spell she casted on Rioba as he was turning into stone. Poor Rioba, who was now turning white and cold, heard from her these last words: “Che i te daga da ber almanco!” [May somebody give you a drink, at least!].
Centuries had past from that day. In those many years the statue of Rioba always brought a sense of happiness and community among the locals, perhaps as a sign of his selfless act of courage. But it took quite a while for the second spell of Siora Isabella to be finally fulfilled (again, alchemists at that time did have much of a clue on how to perform their art).
On the night of Tuesday 30th of April 2013, the night of Saint Pio V, a notorious inflexible and morally rigid Catholic saint, Sior Rioba finally started to be thirsty.
“Cio’ che se’!” [Gosh, how thirsty!] those were Rioba’s first words once he found himself awake. Rioba remembered that the weight of the whole house was relying on him, hence he had no choice but to wait for somebody to pass by to take him for a drink to the local pub. It was only at about 3 am that Marea [Tide in Venetian], a local whacky fellow, passed in front of the statue.
You could imagine the surprise on Marea’s face when he saw the statue talking to him. “Cio’, ma ti parli?” [Gosh, how come you speak?] said Marea. “Cio’! E go anca se!” [Of course! And I am very thirsty!] said Sior Rioba. [TN the word cio’ is often used in the Venetian language to indicate both stupor and assertion].
Marea always loved the sense of peace brought by Sior Rioba and he could not leave him there thirsty. Yet it was clear even to a whacky fellow that he could not take away all of his body, otherwise the whole house would have fallen. It it for this reason that Marea brought only the head of head of Sior Rioba with himself.
The only drawback of those who are a little bit crazy is that they get distracted too easily and, sometimes, they tend to forget what they carry. In this case taking the head of poor Rioba to the local pub.
As the statue was much loved by villagers the whole town was in turmoil once the morning after it saw that the head of Sior Rioba disappeared. Even the mayor, who soon after the events resigned due to a financial scandal, intervened to find the head of the beloved statue.
Despite the efforts, nobody could find the head of old statue. It took three days to poor Rioba to get out of the Hostaria and to roll towards his standing stone body before being found in Calle della Racheta [Racheta street] few days later.
Upon the finding, the villagers restored the stone head and gave a huge party in Rioba’s honour who, after this terrible event, decided not to drink no more.”
This story is reported here exactly as I’ve heard it. You might decide whether you believe it or not. I do, because I know that Venice is a magic place were anything can be real. And remember, if you will get turned into stone, decide well who to go for a drink with!
<a href=”http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g187870-d1537846-i60080084-Ostaria_Da_Rioba-Venice_Veneto.html#60080084″><img alt=”” src=”http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/03/94/bf/d4/ostaria-da-rioba.jpg”/></a><br/> The photo of Ostaria Da Rioba is courtesy of TripAdvisor