The statue of a of a ‘red shadow ghost’, Venice


In 1921, a certain Vinicio Salvi was walking in the gardens near the site of the present-day Venice Biennale, when upon approaching the statue of Garibaldi, he felt a heavy blow on his arm which made him fall to the ground. As he stood up, he saw a “red shadow” disappearing into the distance.

When he told his friends what had happened, they inevitably made fun of him, replying that shadows like that came out of the nearest bar, as in the Venetian dialect the word for shadow ombra, is also used for a “glass of red wine”.

A week later, however, the red shadow would make itself visible again, once more near the statue of Garibaldi. This time it was seen first by a courting couple then by a fisherman, who actually came home with a bump on this head. These incidents caused a certain anxiety and the local police were called in. When they got to the statue, they were suddenly thrown backwards and the red shadow materialised before them, at which point they clearly saw one of Garibaldi’s red-shirted followers. A local resident even recognised the figure as Giuseppe Zolli, who had just recently died. Born in 1838, he had promised Garibaldi during the famous “Expedition of the 1,000”, that he would watch over his chief even after death. Out of a feeling of sympathy for the apparition, the local residents then erected a bronze statue of Giuseppe Zolli to watch over and protect his general.

The apparitions of the red shadow immediately came to and end……..

So next time you are in Venice pay Giuseppe Zolli a visit – you won’t see a red shadow, but you can visit the nearest bar and toast the man who vowed to watch over this chief even after death!


(Adapted from Secret Venice by Thomas Jonglez & Paola Zoffoli, published by JonGlez)

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