Hidden treasures

Why do they say ‘If you can't sleep, count sheep’?

Figures of speech
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Why do they say ‘If you can't sleep, count sheep’?

It all started in Romano d’Ezzelino in the province of Vicenza when Ezzelino da Romano, who suffered from insomnia, hired a storyteller to entertain him every evening with tales and stories to help him fall asleep.

Due to the long nights spent with his Lord who always struggled to fall asleep, the poor troubadour was so exhausted that one evening, when Ezzelino ordered him to tell a story, began to tell a story whose protagonist was a peasant who owned a hundred bison and who took them to the market to exchange them for sheep, two for each one of them. On his way back, the villain noticed that, due to a strong thunderstorm, the river he would have had to wade, had swelled to such an extent as to prevent him from crossing it. The only way to cross it, was to use a fisherman's boat where only he and one sheep could enter at one time. The farmer did not lose heart: he loaded the first sheep onto the boat and began rowing. With strength and patience, he managed to reach the opposite shore, put down the first sheep and went back to retrieve another one and so on ... while he was talking, the storyteller fell asleep. Ezzelino got annoyed so he shook him and told him to continue the story. But the storyteller replied: "Sir, let the sheep pass first, then we will continue to tell the story!" Hearing those words, Ezzelino da Romano laughed: it would take all night for the whole flock to pass to the other side of the river! So, that night the troubadour could finally fall asleep at a suitable time.

This beautiful story featuring Ezzelino da Romano is told in a late 13th century book entitled ‘Il Novellino’ and since then it has become customary to count sheep to be able to abandon ourselves into the arms of Morpheus...

If you like these stories and quirky facts, Vicenza and its province are really interesting! If you want to find out more, try one of our customized tours in Vicenza and your curiosity will be satisfied!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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