Tucked away under a portico in the Campo San Giacomo di Rialto is something of a curiosity.  A contorted figure, supposedly a hunchback, though that isn’t entirely clear because of the burden on his back, supports a set of steps which lead up to a small platform atop a stunted marble pillar.  From the mid 16th Century official proclamations were made from that platform.

Il Gobbo di Rialto (The Hunchback of Rialto) may have been an inspiration for Shakespeare, who created two characters in The Merchant of Venice with the surname; Shylock’s servant Launcelot and his aged father Old Gobbo.  Despite the surname, there is no reference to any physical deformity.

There is one more interesting feature of the statue.  Apparently those guilty of minor misdemeanours within the city were made to run naked from Piazza San Marco to Rialto, but could end their humiliation by kissing the statue.  Given its location in Rialto that seems like little consolation.  Give me community service please!


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