Campo San Boldo, one of Venice’s many hidden gems. A tale from la Serenissima to be savoured with a glass of Prosecco Superiore DOCG di Masottina
Year after year, the true face of Venice seems to sink a little further under the weight of the thousands of visitors who gather here every day. In this extravaganza of selfie sticks, endless queues, it is increasingly harder to get at the city’s true essence, the authentic, picaresque, mysterious and colourful soul of la Serenissima. Such an atmosphere could have stifled the imagination of those who, like the comic book artist Hugo Pratt, regarded the city as an inexhaustible source of inspiration for his adventures and characters. Perhaps, only a glass of good wine, such as Prosecco Superiore DOCG di Masottina, could have consoled the great Italian author. But is it only in the marvellous pages of Corto Maltese that we can still find those hidden sides of Venice that are fading from the collective imagination? Indeed, Venice still holds many secrets, hidden gems that often escape the insatiable curiosity of its tourists. One of them is Campo San Boldo, on the border between San Polo and Santa Croce, a small treasure which has borne witness to the city’s many rebirths. Campo San Boldo (short for Ubaldo) too, has lived many lives, and what we see today is the result of the many transformations it has undergone over centuries. The church that gives its name to the Campo, erected in the 11th century , was initially dedicated to Saint Agatha. Having been appointed parish in the 12th century, it was subsequently dedicated to Saint Ubaldo at the turn of the 15th century. Later, following the French occupation and subsequent Napoleonic reprisals , the parish was transferred to the nearby church of San Giacomo dall'Orio, so San Boldo was closed and demolished. Today, only the truncated remains of its bell-tower survive, incorporated in the beautiful and quirky residential building known as Palazzo Grioni.
And now it is time to treat ourselves, as Hugo Pratt would have done, to a chilled glass of Masottina Prosecco Superiore DOCG, as we ponder a small, unsolved mystery at the heart of the hidden Campo and its bell-tower: just like Corto Maltese drifting off to sleep in a nearby, famous court, we can listen to this strange tale as if in a dream.
In the summer of 1929, local newspapers ran a story about a house in Campo San Boldo which, according to the gentleman who lived there, Tullio Gioppo, had been hit by a hail of stones every night for over twenty days. The man had reported the problem to the fascist police, who immediately put the building under surveillance. According to the local paper, the Gazzetta di Venezia, the police officers patrolling the building were mostly kept busy by the crowds of onlookers which began congregating here every evening to witness this incredible phenomenon: the chronicles of the time quote witnesses declaring that the stones seemed to literally "rain down from the sky". As stones kept falling on the house, in late summer someone noticed that holes had opened in the perimeter wall of the building. It was from these openings that the stones that struck the house of Tullio Gioppo came through, but the culprit was never discovered. The police and the locals soon began to think it was all the work of a ghost, a poltergeist – until, the following autumn, just as it had started the phenomenon mysteriously stopped. No one will ever know if it was all the work of a ghost, an elaborate hoax or the product of a collective hallucination. But it is not hard to imagine that the unfortunate Tullio Gioppo, just like us today with our Masottina's Prosecco Superiore DOCG, must have uncorked a bottle of good wine to celebrate his newfound nights of peaceful sleep.