The Bridges of Venice
The bridges of Venice
Venice: Water and land in between a bridge or maybe more than one
The bridges of Venice: Venice is a city born and built on the water and its inhabitants, since the sixth century, always have carried out their everyday business on water.
Bridges were the normal means of communication between the strips of land and the little inlets.
You might not know this, but there are more than 430 bridges in Venice.
I am going to try to list some of the most famous and explain to you why they have been named that way.
A little bit of History
Originally all bridges were made of wood or stone and they did not have any side protection, which in Venetian is called “Bande”.
Many years ago, for security reason, it was decided to put on every bridge some side protection to avoid people falling into the water after a night out and few drinks in the Osterie, the local bars in Venice where you can enjoy a glass of local house wine called Ombra together with some Cicchetti, the local small snacks which all Venetian enjoy for an aperitif.
The names of the bridges of Venice were given according to their function, their history or maybe because of some particular event which might have occurred there.
The names of the Bridges of Venice
I will try now to explain some of the most famous ones and some of the strangest – let me know which one you found more interesting!
- Ponte Dei Pugni or Bridge of Fists – the bridge, located in San Barnaba, preserves on the four corners of the floor, the marble imprint of a foot. The bridge, in fact, was used like a boxing ring for the famous fists fights. The game involved two men of the two opposing factions of the Castellani (from the district of Castello) and the Nicolotti ( from San Nicolo dei Mendicoli) to fight for hours and hours on the bridge, which once had no railing.
The aim of each wrestler was to throw the opponent into the water, while the population was rooting from the balcony of the houses, the boats and from the shore. The fights were prohibited from 1705, due to the fact that the fights got more violent and people actually died.
- Ponte de l’Aséo or Vinegar Bridge – obviously in the past, a very long time ago, there used to be a vinegar workshop nearby.
- Ponte de le Becarie or Butchers Bridge – the bridge which lead to the abattoir in Rialto, where all the butchers used to work.
- Ponte dei Bareteri or Hatters Bridge – in this area, situated right in the centre of Venice, there used to be many hatter shops.
- Ponte Dei Squartai or The Bridge of the dismembered – in Venice, in the old days, in order to give the public an idea of the severity of justice, the Venetian government had ordered that some sentences, such as the cutting off of hands, tongue and the execution of quartering, had to be carried out on some bridges. Of such unedifying displays, there remains the memory on the Ponte Dei Squartai near the Tolentini. Back then, it was not enough just to sentence the criminal to death with a single blow of the ax, but once dead the body of the unfortunate was torn to pieces, quartered and then exposed in four parts of the city so the citizens knew the name, the crime committed and the punishment of the guilty party.
- Ponte de ‘a Calsina or Mortar Bridge – it was called this way because many boats full of mortar used to pass underneath, going to a nearby mortar warehouse.
- Ponte de la Cerarìa or Wax Bridge – because there used to a be a wax candle shop which was using wax from Asia and from Romania to make candles.
- Ponte Marco Polo or Marco Polo Bridge – there was the house of the Polo family where Marco Polo spent his childhood and the last years of his troubled existence.
- Ponte dei Ferali or Light Bridge – because nearby there used to be a place where they made the street lamps for the city.
- Ponte de la Furàtola or Corner Shop Bridge – of course here there used to be a corner shop selling very cheap food.
- Ponte dei Lustraferi or Metal Shiner Bridge – situated near Fondmenta degli Ormesini, here were located all the shops of the artisans who used to repair, clean and shine the metal used on the gondolas, like the frontal part called “Pettine” and the end part, the “ricciolo”.
- Ponte de l’Ogio or Oil Bridge – here there used to be the warehouses which housed all the oil which arrived from Asia and Greece.
- Ponte Storto or Crooked Bridge – in the district of San Marco is not an unsafe or badly done structure, but simply a bridge that crosses the Rio Verona obliquely.
- Ponte de le Ostreghe or Oyster Bridge, since here the fishermen used to stop and sell the shellfish they just caught.
- Ponte de la Paja or Straw Bridge – this is where all the boats which carried the straw to feed the animals or to make beds used to stop. It is probably the most crowded bridge in Venice, since it is the bridge where tourists stop to take a photo of the Bridge of Sighs.
- Ponte de le Pignate or Pans Bridge – on this bridge there used to be a shop which sold pots and pans.
- Ponte dei Pignoli or Pine Nuts Bridge – here a family used to trade in pine nuts, which were used for cooking.
- Ponte dei Sartori or Tailors Bridge, it belong to the tailors corporation which helped the tailors in difficulty.
- Ponte del Tintor or Dyers Bridge – the dyer shops used to be all located in this area.
- Ponte de le Vele or Sail Bridge – nearby there used to be a shop which made sails for the boats and ships.
- Ponte de le Veste or Dress Bridge – here a tailor used to make clothes for rich noblemen.
- Ponte del Vin or Wine Bridge – this is where the boat carrying wine used to stop here.
- Ponte del Diavolo or Devil Bridge – it got its name from a legend. It seems that the devil himself appears on the 24th December at Midnight every year as a black cat.
- Ponte dei Sospiri or Bridge of Sighs – it is the famous bridge which connects the Doge’s palace to the Dungeons, called this way because the prisoners, looking through a little opening on the bridge, used to sigh seeing Venice for the last time on their way to their cell.
- Ponte dee Guglie or Spires Bridge – because there are two long spires on each side of the bridge.
- Ponte dei Tre Archi or Three Arches Bridge – it is one of the most unique in Venice, because it is the only one with three arches, as you might guess from the name. The original structure dates back to 1503, although it was completely renovated in 1688. It is the largest bridge excluding those that cross the Grand Canal.
- Ponte dee Tette or Tits Bridge – the bridge is located in the area called Carampane, the old red light district of Venice. Legend has it that the ladies of the brothels overlooking the bridge tried to lure men in showing their naked breasts, hence the name of the bridge!
- Ponte de Rialto or Rialto Bridge – the site of the famous Rialto Market but also the site of many shops and artisans. Before taking the name from the famous market, the Rialto bridge was called Ponte della Moneta, due to the proximity to the Mint that once stood nearby. The current stone bridge dates back to 1591 and follows the form of the original wood one. Dal ponte, the architect, added a colonnade and maintained the shops on the sides which, through paying the rent to the city, participated actively in the preservation of the bridge.
- Ponte dei Scalzi or Barefooted Bridge – because it connects with the Church of the Barefoot on the other side of the water.
A little curiosity: in the Castello there are 88 bridges, 75 in Cannaregio, 67 in Dorsoduro, in the central district of Saint Mark 44, 42 in Santa Croce and 16 in San Polo. Giudecca island has only 12 bridges.
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