Renato de Rossir is a local Venetian artist who has been painting for the last 40 years. Don’t be deceived by the look of serenity on his face. For a man in the winter of his life, he was spewing one witty line after another.
One minute into our conversation and he had already declared I was “foxy” and “diplomatic”. He asked me about my faith, a question which was probably prompted by my head covering. I told him I was Muslim, after which he exclaimed all of a sudden:
“I want to be Muslim!”
“Yes, because then I can have two wives!”
“Oh Renato one spouse is hard enough, why would you want two?”
“Why don’t you give me your number?”
“You’re old enough to be my grandfather!”
“Oh you are a foxy one. You’re clever you know, but not as much as me. Or maybe you are, I don’t know.”
For him, the only perk of being Muslim was, hilariously enough, polygamy.
In an attempt to steer the conversation onto safer ground, I said: “How do you say “wow” in Italian?”
“Wow? You say “Mama Mia”!”
“Of course! Your paintings make me want to say Mama Mia, Renato!”
Isn’t it incredible how a small moustachioed video game character with a red flat cap called Mario, has popularised that one expression?