Before my trip, I read a sweet little book called The Other Venice by Predrag Matvejevic, recently translated from Croatian to English. It’s a dreamy, poetic book by a guy who obviously loves Venice very much and loves obscure details as much as I do. Nice black-and-white photos by Sarah Quill too.
There’s a chapter about “wall flora,” the herbs and weeds that grow in the crevices of all those old buildings as well as info about the outdoor sculptures and reliefs all over the city. My favorite parts are the stories told to the author by an old blind Venetian man; this is one of them:
Near the Salizada del Pignater…as you pass through the Sotoportego dei Preti, you’ll come upon the “heart in brick” (cuore in mattone). Press it and make a wish; in a year at the most your wish will be answered, if it’s respectful and harms no one. The city’s old inhabitants have taught this to their grandchildren and they in turn to theirs. ‘Go and make sure it’s still there.’
Well, thanks to the maps on Venice Explorer and some good luck, I found the "heart in brick" in Castello not far from the church of San Giovanni in Bragora. And yes, I pressed it and made a wish. We’ll see what happens.