Ponte dei Pugni in Venice: the history of the bridge

In this blog post we will discover the Ponte dei Pugni in Venice (Dorsoduro). Departing from Campo San Barnaba turn left, after a short walk along the fondamenta, you will come to the “barca”.

Have you ever seen a floating fruit and vegetable shop?

The history of the bridge

In the past the citizens of were “divided” into 2 different factions, the Catsellani and the Nicolotti. Clashes were frequent and often took place on the city’s bridges.

These fights, which at times involved hundreds of people were not represses or punished by the governement, who merely decided the rules. The conflicts could only take place between September and Christmas time.

Once the challenge had been made, referees were chosen ,as was the bridge where the fight would take place. On the chosen day wach faction would arrive to a roll of drums and the sounding of trumpets and would present its champions who either fought alone or in small groups.

The real “war” only began after this, It consisted of a gigantic free-for-all with hundreds of men battling to get to and claim the centre of the bridge. Fistcuffs were allowed and, until 1574, sticks too.

These were sharp double-edged reeds. In the figh, which lasted several hours, many people died. You will see the shape of a foot which marked the contestant’s starting point.

Do you want to know more about any bridge in Venice?

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Ponte dei Pugni
Bridge in Venice