The big news from Venice this week is the misfortune that fell upon Sior Antonio Rioba. The head of this iconic Venetian statue was removed and stolen but then recovered. The blog Venice from Beyond the Bridge has a photo of scuba divers searching for the head in the canal in front of the corner where the statue resides, but it was found undamaged in a nearby calle. I trust that head and body will be reunited soon.
This statue dates back to the 13th century, and it's supposed to bring good luck to touch his iron nose. It looks like the head had been removed or broken off before this recent theft, so it probably wasn't that hard to steal.
From A Lover of Venice's beautiful walking tour of Cannaregio comes this description of Campo dei Mori and its famous statues:
This is an enchanted place. The statues of three Moors, plus their servant, seem to come alive from the walls of the buildings. According to legend the three Moors are the Mastelli brothers (Rioba, Sandi and Afani) who came to Venice from Morea (Peloponnese) and owned a palazzo around the corner, on Rio de la Madonna de l'Orto, known as Palazzo Mastelli or del Cammello (of the Camel). The appellative Moors seems to refer to the fact that the brothers were from Morea, and not from North Africa as the term Moor usually indicates. The statue with the iron nose is very popular in Venice and it's known as Sior Antonio Rioba.
Sior Antonio Rioba is often compared to Pasquino, the talking statue of Rome. Like Pasquino, Rioba became a pop culture character in his city. For centuries, people would post anonymous rants and satires on the statue that were signed with the statue's name. The word "Rioba" is carved on the bundle the statue is carrying on his back and is also the name of a nearby trattoria. A few doors down the fondamenta you will find Tintoretto's house, and the church of Madonna dell 'Orto is a bridge or so away.