Bridges are a favourite stopping place for Venice's beggars.
Like all cities the world over Venice has its share of the poor and pitiful using the streets to appeal to the charity of passers-by (especially since many of them are well-heeled tourists). At Ponte dei Barcaroli o del Cuoridoro (Barcaroli is a nearby gondola station, and Couridoro is a kind of antigue leather-based wall decoration) a Gypsy-looking lady was sitting at the base of the bridge with a small ice cream cup she used as a collection box by her side, and we observed her from a distance for a while. She didn't look particularly down and out or poverty-stricken to my South African eyes and her fund-raising efforts were quite low-key, to put it mildly. While she wasn't dressed straight out of a fashion shop, what she wore in fact spoke of a certain elegance. Television's What to Wear show where they help people with impaired dress sense couldn't lay a finger on her. So I decided that she was mainly here to warm herself in the early spring sunlight and make a few Euros on the side. She was fully part of Venice's colourful palette of life.
Ponte dei Fuseri - the name may have been derived from the Latin word 'Fusor' meaning smelter - connects on one side to the narrow Calle dei Fuseri, runs at an angle across the canal, and then connects to the rather broad Ramo dei Fuseri.
While the Italian word 'Calle' means alley or street, the word Ramo, according to one source, is 'a small branch, one subdivision of a calle'. I've noticed before that a Ramo is often a dead-end alley (which it wasn't in this case) but here it was difficult to distinguish between the two. Venice has quite an extensive vocabulary with which it names its confusing warren of alleys and walkways, narrow and wide, squares big and small and canals broad and tiny, and the exact definition of each remains typically Venice - vague and fluid.
Looking around for landmarks we saw a tall, slightly skew tower with a small crowd of tourists gawking up at it.
It was the Bovolo tower, or as it is called by its proper name, the Scala Contarini del Bovolo. It’s an impressive, audacious structure incorporating Gothic, Byzantine and Romanesque elements into the sort of architecture one associates with eccentric home owners with a sense for the extraordinary. And out of the ordinary it is - tour guides point out it was designed so that a horse could walk all the way to the top using a circular ramp. Venice is filled with these ’believe it or not’ facts.
After the Bovolo tower the navigation got somewhat easier and we reached our next bridge, the Ponte dei Fuseri, after a few minutes and one or two brief unintended detours. Navigating in Venice will always be any rally driver's nightmare.