Hidden treasures

The model of Barbacano in San Polo district

Historical Curiosities

The model of Barbacano in San Polo district

Every so often, walking along the streets of Venice, you will come across wooden structures that stick out of buildings: these are the so-called ‘Barbacani’.

They are wooden beams used to support the jutting structures of buildings in order to gain space – you could only enlarge the upper floors of houses - without taking up space in the narrow Venetian streets. In the military field, this term indicated a reinforcement structure in military constructions.

The etymology of the word Barbacano is uncertain: some believe it derives from the Arabic b-al-baqàra, which means 'door of cows', a term used to indicate a structure that protected the fence where the livestock were kept, next to the main walls.

In Calle della Madonna, near the Rialto bridge in the San Polo district, you can see an Istrian stone Barbican almost hidden between the facades of the houses, with an engraving on the wall: PER LA IURISDICIOM DE BARBACANI. This is the model that was used for the construction of the wooden ones: the dimensions of the Barbacani were in fact strictly established by the Venetian authorities to avoid misuse!

Venice keeps traces of its past in every corner of the historic center... Are you ready to discover these structures? Book a private guided tour with one of our expert local guides and set off with her for an exciting adventure!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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