Valentine’s Day in Venice has its own particular scenario: the city seems to be made to welcome and mark the times of lovers. Walking around, it reveals small hidden calli where you can kiss protected from prying eyes, accompanied by the lapping of the lagoon, the light parade of gondolas, the mist that unites the landscape of the lagoon. With the lighting of the first street lamps in the evening, lights and reflections make Venice an enchanted world.
A Venetian legend tells that one night, the fisherman Orio who lives in Castello went out to sea to do his job. When he reached the Malamocco inlet, he cast his nets. Suddenly he heard a female voice begging for help. The young man was very frightened, thinking it was a witch who had fallen into the sea, but from the waves he saw a charming maiden’s face. The young man moved the net and a beautiful mermaid’s tail moved, finally free: the enchanting creature said her name was Melusina.
The two young people immediately fell in love with each other and decided to see each other again every night, except Saturday at Melusina’s will. Weeks passed and Orio fell more and more in love with the sweet girl. Challenging his promise, he went to the meeting place one Saturday night. Anxiously he waited until he saw the water stirring and a sea snake appeared to him. Orio withdrew but the snake spoke to him with the voice of the mermaid. She told him that she was the victim of a curse, so every Saturday she was transformed into a snake.
The meetings continued and finally Melusina came out of the water. Her tail turned into two legs. Shortly afterwards the lovers got married and had three children. Their life went on happily and harmoniously until the sweet mermaid got sick and died.
Orio despaired, but he had the three children to look after and his job as a fisherman. Every night he went to throw his nets and when he returned in the morning, he found the house clean and his children looked after. In his heart he continued to feel the love of his Melusina.
One Saturday he returned earlier than usual and saw a snake in the center of the kitchen. Frightened, he took an axe and killed it. The days passed and Orio noticed that the house was no longer looked after, as were his children. Then he realized with horror that the snake was none other than Melusina, victim of the horrible curse.
In memory of the great love that had united them, allowing the mermaid to continue to remain close to her family, Orio set a red stone heart on the top of the archway at the entrance to the underpass near the Bragora in Castello, right where they lived.
If the red stone of the “Sotoportego dei Zorzi” should never be trampled on, to avoid unimaginable misfortune, the red stone heart of the “Sotoportego dei Preti” brings good luck and is held in the highest consideration by all those who care about their loved one. Anyone can go to see it and remember the sweet, magical, unfortunate but unique and beautiful love between Melusina and Orio. Happy Valentine’s Day to all lovers!!!
Location: Sotoportego dei Preti, Venice