Bridge Ten - Ponte del Cavallo

If you get to cross the Ponte del Cavallo - Horse Bridge - during your visit to Venice, there's a chance it's because you may be injured or feeling rather ill and are on your way to a doctor. This elegantly weathered stone bridge - the worn look actually adds to its presence in the general decay of Venice - leads to the spacious Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo, bordered on one side by the elaborately decorated Renaissance facade of the Scuola Grande di San Marco building. Today it rather incongruously houses the Ospedale Civile - the city hospital. In its heyday it was home to one of the important guilds of Venice, charitable professional organisations which played an important role in Venetian life.

Ponte Cavallo

Next to the hospital is a church that at the time of our visit resembled a construction site. Look at the Venetian skyline as you approach the city from the mainland or another island, and chances are you'll count up to a dozen construction cranes breaking the regular skyline of orange roofs and campaniles. Venice seems to be under perpetual renovation, and during the time of the Bridge Challenge it was the turn of the Santi Giovanni e Paolo church. First built in 1246 and completed in its present form in 1460, it's one of the most important churches in Venice, among other because it is the final resting place for a 'royal' collection of no less than twenty-five Doges.

Back to the hospital building. Its facade is an impressive, large work of sculptural art that is truly worth taking more than a cursory look at. Which is why we took a coffee break at one of the cafes on the campo and, having no guidebook to know what we were looking at, played guessing games with the carved figures that fill the facade. Easiest to recognise was the familiar winged lion at the summit. But what are the two chaps, each holding rather voluminous books and standing on each side of the building's entrance door reading? What are the names of all the babies and toddlers floating around the facade like cherubs? Shouldn't that naked little one at the top of the door be wearing nappies? Giggling away, we sat there like schoolchildren on a school trip. Never thought a walk across one hundred bridges could be so much fun.

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