Hidden treasures

The bridge of Fists in the Dorsoduro district

Historical Curiosities
ponte-dei-pugni

The bridge of Fists in the Dorsoduro district

The Bridge of Fists, located in the Dorsoduro district, owes its name to an ancient tradition of Venice: the War of Fists.

The inhabitants of two opposing factions, the Castellani of San Pietro di Castello and the Nicoletti of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, used to fight with their 'fists' in a very unusual battlefield... The upper part of the aforementioned bridge, at that time devoid of railings!

The two factions, rival since the 14th century, were distinguished by different trades and customs: the Castellani were dedicated to the naval industry at the Arsenale and wore red berets and scarves, the Nicoletti made a living mostly from fishing and were distinguished by their black hats and scarves.

The origins of the War of Fists are uncertain: it is thought they can be traced back to the civil wars between Eraclea and Jesolo or the killing of a bishop from Castello at the hands of somebody from the area of San Nicolò ... What is certain is that, at one point, the clashes became so frequent that they required regulations. Starting in 1292 the two rival groups could freely fight with fists only from September to Christmas!

The clashes could be of three types: a single boxing match (the Mostra), a multiple fight (the Frota) or a fight for the conquest of the bridge (Guerra Ordinata). Since there were no railings to protect the bridge, the contenders often fell into the water. With the growth of the animosity of the clashes, and consequently an increase in the numbers of the dead and wounded, in 1705 the fights were definitively outlawed.

On the four corners of the bridge the presence of some footprints marks what once used to happen here: on one side you can see where the contenders stood for their fist fights, on the other, the position of the referees who had the task of checking that the rules were being followed.

After being banned at the beginning of the 18th century, the 'fight' between the two factions was replaced by exercises of agility, balance and dexterity in the so-called 'Forze d'Ercole' and the famous Regattas.

Do you want to discover other interesting facts about this wonderful city? On our site you can find many activities in Venice that will allow you to get to know about its most hidden secrets!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

Latest posts

Venice: Veronica Franco: the most talked-about woman in the Serenissima

vf1
Big Names

Among the various Venetian female figures of the past, certainly one of the most interesting and, for many reasons also modern, was Ver...

View

Venice: 10 songs that will make you think of Venice

canzoni-ve
Did you know that...

Sometimes we hear the first few lines of a song and our minds are suddenly transported back to a place, a memory or a dream. We put tog...

View

Padua: Vò Euganeo: a place to be discovered

vò
Unknown places & works

In the last few months there has been much talking around the small town of Vò, in the province of Padua. It was at the center of ever...

View

Venice: 10 must-see movies filmed in Venice

10_film_venezia
Film Locations

Venice is unique amongst world cities and every year it turns into a dream-like experience for scores of tourists thanks to its timeles...

View

Top posts

Chioggia: The Valley of the Seven Dead Men

casone-millecampi-detto-casone-dei-sette-morti
Mysteries & Legends

Halloween is just around the corner: have you already got into the fascinating terrifying aura of the scariest party of the year? No ye...

View

Venice: The stone heart of St Mark’s Basilica

cuore-erizzo
Unknown places & works

If you are visiting St Mark’s Basilica and have just abandoned the wonderful vision of the Pala d'Oro (which is a must-see), just a f...

View

Venice: Map of Venice, what to know before you leave

mappa-venezia
Did you know that...

Did you know that Venice is not a single large island but rather a collection of 117 small islands linked together by over 400 bridges?...

View

Verona: The roman walls of Verona

porta-borsari
Historical Curiosities

Verona has always been considered a city of considerable importance from a military point of view: being at the mouth of the Adige Vall...

View