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

Treviso: The curious legends about the origin of Treviso Red Chicory

radicchio_CC.Mon CEil
Did you know that...

Did you know that, according to an ancient popular saying, red chicory (radicchio as it is known in Italy) seems to have been born as a...

View

Venice: Acqua Alta: when a normal phenomenon becomes tragic

Acqua-alta-a-Venezia
Did you know that...

Did you know that ‘Acqua Alta’ is an expression of Venetian dialect used by its inhabitants to describe the high tides that occur p...

View

Venice: Mars, Adam and Eve: the Doge's Palace celebrates their return

restauro-adamo-eva-ducale
Unknown places & works

After four years of delicate restoration work, the three fifteenth-century statues by the great artist Antonio Rizzo will be exceptiona...

View

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

contare-le-pecore
Figures of speech

It all started in Romano d’Ezzelino in the province of Vicenza when Ezzelino da Romano, who suffered from insomnia, hired a storytell...

View

Top posts

Venice: The red lights of St Mark’s Basilica in memory of the poor ‘fornareto’

il_fornareto
Mysteries & Legends

If you find yourself wandering around St Mark’s Basilica in the evening, take a look at its southern façade ... you will notice two ...

View

Treviso: Why is Prosecco wine called precisely Prosecco?

colline-del-prosecco
Did you know that...

On 7 July 2019, Veneto and the whole of Italy toasted to the Prosecco Hills, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site! The World Heritage Commi...

View

Venice: The origins of the Spritz cocktail

spritz-veneziano
Local Traditions

Spritz, the typical Venetian aperitif, has nowadays become the iconic cocktail of Happy hour not only in Italy, but all over the world....

View

Belluno: The mystery of the Pietrificatore from Sospirolo

pietrificatore
Mysteries & Legends

Nestled inside the Dolomiti National Park, in the province of Belluno lies the small village of Sospirolo. A peculiar man was born here...

View