Small-town Italian lottery winner: still a mystery. A jackpot worth 146.9m euros, roughly $211.8 million: thought to be a record for Europe.
I don't know why I like this story so much; maybe it's because of the sense of community that just busts out of it as you read that people are out in the town square rejoicing, all old-timey like, for one of their own, and it's a mystery as to for whom they are happy.
As the BBC story puts it, "Candidates include a woodcutter, builder and shopkeeper." It goes on to say that Italian lottery winners are rarely named in public, so... the speculation could go on forever. But it's a deliciously juicy secret that each of the town's 2,000 residents wants to know.
Crowds filled the town's main square on Saturday night, converging on the cafe where the winning ticket was sold, and celebrating late into the night. The festive mood continued on Sunday.
The mayor said he could not glean any clues as to the identity of the winner.
"I know all of them, I saw them party yesterday, I looked into their eyes, but I could not see any revealing detail," he told Rai TV.
The lucky resident also came up during the Sunday sermon at church.
"I hope he will be able to look after this fortune well, and do good with it and use it to help others through generous acts," Father Marco Giuntini was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Italian state news agency Ansa reported that the winner - who bought the winning ticket at the Biffi coffee bar in Bagnone - had spent just two euros on the ticket.
The exuberance of the townsfolk, plus a grainy photo of the person purported to have bought the ticket, are highlights of this YouTube newsreel from Al Jazeera. Yes, Al Jazeera ... I couldn't resist seeing the spin on that story, but it goes to show you that a lottery story is the same no matter where you are:
I think another one of the reasons this story makes me smile is that it reminds me of the movie "Waking Ned Devine." The IMDb summary says "When word reaches two elderly best friends that someone in their tiny Irish village has won the national lottery, they go to great lengths to find the winner so they can share the wealth. When they discover the "lucky" winner, Ned Devine, they find he has died of shock upon discovering his win. Not wanting the money to go to waste, the village enters a pact to pretend Ned is still alive by having another man pose as him, and then to divide the money between them."
The visual of the elderly Mr. Devine sitting on his couch with the ticket and a look of surprise frozen on his very dead face -- TV still blaring -- was priceless.
I got a little more detail from the Times Online UK website that adds to the intrigue:
On Friday night Vanni Simonetti, the owner of Bar Biffi in the centre of Bagnone, sold three lottery tickets to three locals. The Italian lottery had not been won since January and the jackpot had risen to €147.8 million.
“Three locals showed up,” he said. “Two men and a woman. All played, each one bought a ticket for €2. The winner is one of those three.”
He is a local of the small town, and he is in his late forties. He is also single. I bet that will change (oh, if he wants it to!) The story continues...
But rumours were spreading through the tiny medieval town and out into the surrounding hills, where hundreds came hoping to see the man who had won €147.8 million (£128million) in the Italian lottery.
There was talk that a local builder, Ugo Verni, had looked suspiciously elated while watching a football match. Others fingered another man, identified by the initials AB, who entered the town on a tractor yesterday morning and waved to the townsfolk like a visiting Duke. The people of Bagnone celebrated, hoping that some of the luck, or better, some of the cash, would rub off on the rest of the town. Gianfranco Lazzeroni, the mayor, said: “It’s given us unbelievable joy to be struck by this good fortune.”
Simonetti, the owner of the coffee shop which sold the ticket, says the lottery winner called him and tried to disguise his voice but Simonetti recognized it. Small town, indeed! I think it's Ugo, the construction guy. He apparently jumped up and shouted during a boring part of a football game in the same bar the ticket was sold, and inexplicably ran outside. Later, he told people in the square he was the winner -- but then denied it when reporters asked him about it. He had said something about "buying a new bed tonight," implying he wouldn't be single for much longer. He may never come forward publicly, but if Joe Schmo builder-guy ends up with a supermodel on his arm and a diamond-crusted grill, well ... we may have our answer.