The Bridge of Pugni (or fists)

The Bridge of Pugni (or fists)This bridge in Dorsoduro, not far from Campo San Barnaba, was once without railings.  It was used in competitive boxing fights between two rival factions in Venice with the prime aim to wrestle your opponent into the water.  The two factions were the Nicolotti from San Nicolò dei Mendicoli  and the Castellani from San Pietro di Castello.
The battle became known as the War of Fists.
The battle always attracted an excited crowd but the Republic, after it became more and more violent and competitors suffered bad injuries, and even death, stopped the fighting in the 18th century.

The bridge was completely rebuilt in the 1870s and railings of wrought iron fixed to the sides.  The traditional battle though was remembered by four imprints of feet in Istrian Stone in the bridge steps. The Bridge of Pugni (or fists)

There are other bridges that were used in fights, a lesser known one is the Bridge of Pugni in Santa Fosca in Canareggio which also has the imprints of feet on its steps.

The battles have been immortalised in Venetian poetry.  The following is by  Attilio Sarfatti (1863 - 1900):
 
Davanti a un mar de zente, a una gran fraca
Che ziga, urla, se move in qua e in là;
I se varda, i se stùzzega, i se taca,
E ga razon chi più resiste e dà.

Za molti casca in aqua, trema el ponte,
I Castelani no pol far fronte.

El popolo no sta drento la pele,
E i Nicoloti el porta fin le stele.

Se fussimo a quei tempi de bacan,
A quei tempi de pugni e de legnae,
Che bòte, Paulo mio, che sancassan,
Quante da le to man teste segnae!

Diese contro ti solo, vinti, çento,
Cane se pararia sbatue da 'l vento.

Cane che no resiste, ma se sbassa,
Co la tempesta ruza, infuria e passa.
 
The Bridge of Pugni (or fists)In the canal leading up the bridge in San Barnaba is one of the last boat-shops in Venice.  It belongs to a green grocer who receives his orders from customers on the waterfront while he remains in his vegetable and fruit boat-shop.
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