Bridge of Punches

The “bridge of  Punches” located in the sestiere of Dorsoduro, near Campo San Barnaba, owes its name to an ancient game that was played periodically on a set day between September and Christmas, in which two factions, the Castellani and Nicolotti, identifiable thanks to the use of a cap and a scarf of different colors, would gather en masse on small bridges without rails and throw punches with the goal of knocking their opponents into the cold and sewage-strewn canal below.

Giving rise to a real fight, and to drop opponents in the Rio, with serious physical consequences for the participants,  sometimes, even death. In 1705, after a bloody battle, the game  was forbidden.

The fights were enormously popular spectacles, and drew huge crowds as shown in the La Guerra Dei Pugni painting by Antonio Stom, now hanging in Venice’s Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia.