Fights on venetian bridges

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Have you ever found strange white marble footprints on some Venetian bridge? Do you know their meaning? Now we will explain it.

For centuries two rival factions of very ancient origins – the Castellani of San Pietro and the Nicolotti of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli – clashed with fists on the top of these bridges. From September until Christmas these groups challenged each other with the aim of making the adversary fall into the water and, clearly, whoever remained on the bridge won.

Obviously, the bridges at the time had no side railings as today and before each collision the one that was going to be used was reinforced and its canal cleaned.


Joseph Heintz il Giovane, Fight on the bridge in San Barnaba,  1673, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Norimberga


On the established day the two teams lined up on either side of the bridge, where the footprints are located, surrounded by  music and the shouting of the spectators who gathered nearby or  who looked out from the windows. According to the rules it was allowed the use of helmets, armor, rods, sticks and sometimes it was possible to struggle with bare hands. In some match about three hundred people fought over the bridge and – sometimes – even the public got involved. This type of competition was prohibited in 1705, after one of the bloodiest battles  because of the use of knives.

The most famous of these bridges is the one near Campo San Barnaba.