Tunnel of the priests and the heart-shaped stone // Castello, Venice
The tunnel of the priests and the heart-shaped stone are located in the Castello district, near the Church of San Giovanni in Bragora. Under the arch of this tunnel there is a reddish, heart-shaped stone. Local folklore says that couples who touch it together will remain in love forever.
The legend says that one night, Orio, a young fisherman who owned the house, found himself fishing near Malamocco (Lido) when he heard a voice from the sea calling for help. He looked around to see where this voice came from until he realized it was of a beautiful girl, Melusina. Fearful as he was, he immediately thought of a witch, but she told him she was a mermaid and reassured by her sweet words he fell madly in love with her. The night passed quickly and the two promised to meet again the next night.
So many nights passed and their love became more and more important. Until one day when Orio asked Melusina to marry him. She agreed but with only if he promised that before the wedding they should never met on a Saturday.
At the beginning everything went smoothly until the third Saturday, when Orio, taken by the desire to see her, shows up at the usual meeting place.
Unfortunately, instead of a beautiful mermaid, Orio sees a huge sea snake coming out of the water. The serpent is none other than his beloved, who explains him that, because of a curse, every Saturday, she loses the appearance of the beautiful mermaid turning into a snake. The curse would have ended if Orio would agreed to marry her. And so it was. Melusina turned into a woman. They were happily married and had three children. But one day Melusina fell ill with an incurable disease and unfortunately died. Orio remained alone with his work and his children, sure he could not cope with it all. But every day, when he returned home, he always found the house in perfect order as if someone had come while he was away to clean and tidy everything. Orio did not understand and he believed that a very kind neighbor was secretly helping him with his affairs, by secretly entering the house. Therefore Orio one day decided to get home earlier than expected to find out who it was and to thank this person. But on his return he found only a snake in the house. Scared for his children, he took an ax and killed the snake. But from that day, the house suddenly stayed neglected. And there he understood. That the snake he killed was none other than Melusina, now dead forever. In memory of this story, a heart in stone was placed where it was originally the home of Orio and Melusina.