Discover Dorsoduro, Venice - The Pugni Bridge !
Departing from Campo San Barnaba, turn left. After a short walk along fondamenta Gerardini, you will come to the "barca", a floating fruits and vegetable shop.
But let's talk about the Pugni bridge. In the past, until 1705, the citizens of Venice were divided into two different factions, the Castellani (those who lived in the Castello, St. Mark - San Marco and Dorsoduro zones) and the Nicolotti (who lived in the Cannaregio, San Polo and Santa Croce areas).
Clashes were frequent and often took place on the city's bridge. These fights, which at times involved hundreds of people, were not repressed or punished by the government, who merely decided the rules. The congflicts could only take place between September and Christmas and they followed a precise set of rules. Once the challenge had been made, referees were chosen, as was the bridge where the fight would take place. On the chosen day, each faction would arrive to a roll of drums and the sounding of trumpets and would present its champion 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.
Fisticuffs were allowed and, until 1574, sticks too. These were sharp people died. The picture you found on the bridge is the shape of a foot which marked teh contestant's startimg point.
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The feast of the Salute - 21st November and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1630 a plague broke out in the city. It was devasting and very contagious. It was said to have started with a carpenter who lived nearby and went to work at San Clemente, an island in the lagoon. The ambassador of the duke of Mantua, who had fallen ill, was kept on the island in isolation. Soon the disease spread to Venice killing a great many people. In October 1630, doge Nicolò Contarini (1630-1631) made a vow to the Madonna: if the plague stopped, he would build a magnificent church dedicated to her. Shortly afterwards, the epidemic died down.
It was decided that the sanctuary should be placed in one of the most pretigious areas of the city, right in front of the basin of St. Mark. On 1 April 1631, doge Contarini laid the foundation stone and, to celebrate the occasion, coins were monted with the image of the doge (who died the following day!) and these were put in a hole in the centre of the curch. Hovewer the shape of the curch had not been decided yet. Something unique was needed, a building no one had ever seen before, and with lots of light. A competition was held.
The design that won was by a young architect called Baldassarre Longhena (1598-1682) and it was decidedly original in comparison with the traditional Venetian churches.
The exterior is white, in Istrian stone and it is covered by a dome. The entrance door, framed by four columns, is enormous and it is opened only on November 21st, the feast day of the Madonna della Salute.
Over a million stakes were used for the foundation of the curch! In 1687 it finally opened and doge Marcantonio Giustinian promised that in future the doge in office and his retinue would make an official visit to the curch on NOvember 21st each year, crossing the Grand Canal on a bridge made of boats. The feast of the Salute is still one of the most important appointments on the calendar in Venice!
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