Bridge Sixty-Six - Ponte della Costituzione

And then, ten steps further, we were at the bridge we've been looking forward to for most of the day - Ponte della Costituzione, that is,  Constitution Bridge, or as it's colloquially called, the Calatrava Bridge, after the Spanish architect who designed it. The bridge has a modern, minimalist design that's a mix of the old. It has Istrian stone steps that are a traditional Venetian bridge feature set in a trendy steel frame with glass balustrades. 

Ponte della Costituzione

Apparently it was controversial from the start with complaints about its out-of-place design, lack of wheelchair access, and the fact that it duplicates the function of the Ponte Scalzi which is only a stone's throw away. But then, a few  thousand people a day use it to cross from Piazza Roma to the station area and onwards into Venice along the Grand Canal's left bank, so it can't be that bad.

Ponte della Costituzione

Bridge Thirty-Eight - Ponte Storto

Next we encountered another Ponte Storto, one of those skewed bridges that crosses at an elbow in the canal, and thus at an odd angle. 

Ponte Storto

It leads into a small, quiet square, the Campiello dei Callegheri, with an ornamental, traditional water well-head located prominently in the middle of it only metres from the bridge. The well-head has a Romanesque design which means it's probably very old, since many such structures predate those with Byzantine and Renaissance designs. For many years these wells were the hub of the community and the place to catch up on the latest news and gossip as people gathered around to collect a bucket or two of water for their homes. Some wells in the city still have that function, complete with water on tap, and are much appreciated by the dogs of the city, who stop by for a quick drink during their morning and afternoon walks. 

Bridge Thirty-Seven - Ponte della Malvasia Vecchia

While walking across the last bridge we inevitably got propositioned by the Vu Cumpra and their handbag bargains while looking the bridge over, but left behind their calls to negotiate a good price quite quickly as we moved on. We now entered a fairly quiet residential neighbourhood that provided one of the most picturesque settings for our next bridge, the Ponte della Malvasia Vecchia. It's the second 'Malvasia' bridge we crossed today, so we assumed there was once a winery or wine shop in the area.

Ponte de la Malvasia Vechia

The bridge was rebuilt in cast iron in the nineteenth century, when many bridges received a makeover, and has particularly artistic hand-railings with leaf and flower patterns around lion's head emblems. The red bricks in the wall, Victorian street lamp and Byzantine window frames provided a perfect backdrop for this small, pretty bridge.

Also, in the photo you'll see a banner announcing yet another art exhibition hanging from a wall adjacent to the bridge. I really believe one can spend an entire year in Venice going to a different arts venue every day and not see the same exhibition twice, that's how many are there. They're advertised everywhere - on banners like this, on bridges, rubbish bins, vaporetto stations, any space that can hold a poster or placard. Of course they all charge an entry fee, but they're a staple and popular rendezvous for most tourists, especially events featuring world-renowned artists.

Bridge Thirty-Six - Ponte Zaguri o Corner

Not far from the twin bridges is the Ponte Zaguri o Corner, named after two noble families from the seventeenth century who owned palaces in the area. We reached the bridge around one o'clock in the afternoon, and  the sun was drenching the bridge and its scenery in a bright early spring light.

Ponte Zaguri o Corner

On top of the bridge were two or three dark figures that are another piece in the mosaic of life on bridges in the areas most frequented by tourists: The Vu Cumpra. The apt name for these guys - they're all male - is a kind of  slang interpretation of the Italian for 'do you want to buy?' and refers to the illegal fake label handbags they sell to gullible tourists. They're often seen on bridges or campos, one eye watching out for potential clients and the other for the Venetian police, with whom they play an endless cat and mouse game.

Bridge Thirty-Four and Thirty-Five - Ponte della Feltrina and Ponte Duodo o Barbarigo

The next two lookalike bridges sit next to each other like Siamese twins, sharing a common staircase. They are literally metres away from each other on the same canal, and share a similar design too.

Ponte de la Feltrina and Ponte Duodo o Barbarigo

We found these two, the Ponte della Feltrina and Ponte Duodo o Barbarigo, towards the back and side of one of the most splendidly decorated churches in Venice, Santa Maria del Giglio o Zobenigo ('giglio' means lily, and Zobenigo (or Jubanico) is the name of the family who founded the neighbourhood church of Santa Maria del Giglio in the ninth century). So we did the right thing and gave each an equal amount of attention, walking a circle to cross each one at least once before spending some time looking at the decorations of the church facade.

Santa Maria del Giglio o Zobenigo

Bridge Thirty-Three - Ponte delle Ostreghe

Walking from the Ponte delle Veste to the next bridge, Ponte delle Ostreghe, I  took a photo of the church of San Moise at the far end of the Calle Larga XXII Marzo. After the relatively austere facade of the La Fenice theatre this seemed ostentatious and overwrought, to say the least. But it also fitted in with the scenery, a huge structure keeping watch over the busy streets and canals surrounding it.

Ponte delle Ostreghe

The Ponte delle Ostreghe got its name from the oysters ('ostreghe' in Venetian) delivered by fishing boats here in days gone by. Look at the bridge photo - it is filled with a patchwork of the vibrancy of life that surrounds the bridges in Venice. There is an old lady - obviously Venetian - crossing the bridge (how many times has she done that in her lifetime, I wonder?); there's a Carabinieri policeman on top of the bridge keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings; there's the ubiquitous tourist taking photos next to him; a clothing shop is displaying its wares in the window; and just visible to the left a gondola is getting ready to pass under the bridge.

Note the rather oddly placed white stones in the building wall to the right. These are often seen in newer buildings, and are Istrian stone taken from a previous building that stood here perhaps hundreds of years ago, and that are used when constructing this newer one in its place. Sometimes these stones have ornate artwork reminiscent of past decorating fashions. There is a sign attached to the lower part of the bridge railing imploring the tourist hordes please not to sit on the steps and cause traffic blockages. It's clearly not an official sign, perhaps it was erected by a frustrated local resident or shop-owner. La vie de Venise, as the French would say.

Bridge Thirty-Two - Ponte delle Veste

La Fenise

Venice's famous La Fenice theatre, inaugurated in 1792, is on the way to the next bridge, the Ponte delle Veste. I tried to secure tickets for us months ago but no luck - it was all booked out. And that's not even for a show featuring any well-known artists. While the music would have been a good bonus, I wanted to experience what it felt like to sit in one of those fancy boxes on the side, act like royalty, and look down on the theatre-goers downstairs watching us while trying to figure out what aristocracy we're from. So now all we could do was admire the legendary theatre's classy facade that I thought was surprisingly understated; not too opulent and sumptuous, but just the right mix of straight lines and decoration.

Ponte delle Veste

The Ponte delle Veste is a stone bridge with smoothly worn iron railings that have familiar cast iron cones as decoration mounted on it. It's named after a men's clothing shop that existed in the area in the olden days. Above it is one of many similar memorials throughout the city, this one commemorating war heroes. It's dedicated to Amerigo Perini, who (loosely translating the wording) 'fell at this spot on 26 November 1944 in the fight against Fascism during the Second World War'. Since it was close to the day of remembrance in Italy, the plaque was decorated with a laurel wreath and a ribbon with the colours of the Italian flag. Venice's time as a Nazi-occupied city is an oft-neglected section in most tourist guides, I believe.

Bridge Thirty-One - Ponte dei Barcaroli o del Cuoridoro

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 Cuoridoro is a kind of antique 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.

Bridge Thirty - Ponte dei Fuseri

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. 

Ponte 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 Venetian - vague and fluid.

We get lost. Sort of.

After retracing our steps to get onto our planned route, we had quite a task getting to the next bridge. It was a zig-zag route that was difficult at times as the GPS program on Adeline's iPad lost its signal in the narrow alleys, our position jumping around wildly on the map on the screen, similar to a analogue compass when brought near a magnet.

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.

Bridge Twenty-Five - Ponte dei Ferai

Ponte dei Ferai was our next bridge. It was much the same design as the others we recently crossed but had sturdy round stone pillars to which the metal railings were fixed. The bridge, which is dated 1876, is named for nearby shops which in days of old made lighting for the city - 'ferai' meaning lights. Before that it was called the Bridge of the Armenians, being close to a church of theirs that stands nearby.

The past few bridges all share a similar look, probably because they'd all been rebuilt during the 1800s, and this is the style that was in fashion then. Most had existed long before that as stone bridges, some dating back to the 1300s.

Bridge Twenty-Nine - Ponte del Teatro

After a welcome break at the previous bridge we took a small detour to the Ponte del Teatro.

Ponte de Teatro

Given the obvious-sounding name of the bridge we were expecting to find a theatre next to it, but what was once a place of arts and culture originally built in 1755 and named after the composer Rossini is now a supermarket. Is that a sign of the times? Not really, since there are a myriad other grand venues earning their keep as spaces for music and performance, and anyway, the rather ordinary architecture hardly made for an impressive building worthy of an arts venue.

Ponte del Teatro is one of very, very few bridges that are wheelchair friendly, and one of even fewer that has a wheelchair lift. Whether the lift works is another question of course.