Bridges Ninety-Four and Ninety-Five - Ponte Ubaldo Belli and Ponte Chiodo

In order to make the most of the fading light we carried on straight-away to the Ponte Ubaldo Belli, named after one of the 'Martyrs of Cannaregio' who lost his life during a particularly bloody massacre that took place in the sestiere during 7-8 July 1944, in reprisal for the assassination of a local fascist leader. One often sees plaques on buildings commemorating war heroes here in Venice, a sad reminder of the city's turbulent, recent past.

We then took a small detour along the canal to pay a quick visit to a unique bridge in Venice, the Ponte Chiodo.

This rather delapidated-looking stone bridge is the oldest bridge in Venice without railings, dating from around the year 800. It's quite a popular landmark tourist in Venice due to this fact, and we had to wait our turn as visitors ahead of us at the bridge sat down on its roughly hewn steps and posed for a quick snapshot before we could do the same. It's a private bridge leading to a residence, so strictly speaking we didn't cross it, but it was still good to add it to the list.

As we were looking at the bridge the house owner appeared at the door and got into his motorboat that was moored by the side of the door. He turned the key, but the motor merely coughed and spluttered. He tried a few times more, gave up, and disappeared into the house. It was past eight at night, so I doubt, knowing the work-hours of  Italians, whether he'd be able to raise a mechanic to help out at this hour. Perhaps I could start an after-hours boat mechanic shop in Venice....

Bridge Ninety-Three - Ponte Priuli

Despite our tiredness we were now moving along at quite a pace - the winning post, so to speak, was in sight. So we moved on quickly from our previous bridge, the Ponte Molin de la Racheta and walked down the Calle de la Racheta to the Ponte Priuli, an iron bridge surrounded by apartment buildings where window boxes were showing the first colourful signs of spring with white, yellow and pink blooms, and succulents draping the sides in shades of grey and green.

Ponte priuli

The Priuli family were immigrants from Hungary, who rose to become part of the aristocracy and from whom were born several doges and cardinals. Not sure if they're still in the Venice telephone book though. Should check when we're done here, which should be in about an hour or so...

Bridge Ninety-Two - Ponte Molin de la Racheta

After walking alongside the Rio de Santa Caterina for a while, we made a U-turn back across the canal using the Ponte Molin de la Racheta. It's a relatively new bridge, dating from 1901.

Ponte de la Racheta

Walking along the Rio de Santa Caterina towards the Racheta Bridge, as it is commonly known, a splash of purple and green adorning the top of a high wall hinted at one the small, hidden treasures that subliminally dot the Venetian landscape - a walled garden. Apart from the Giardini and two or three other public gardens, there are no parcels of open greenery visible in Venice; it's all built-up and crammed together tightly, and the only breathing space is the occasional paved campo. Yet there are many plots in the backyards of palaces enclosed by three-metre-high walls where trees and shrubbery thrive. This is what the bright purple wisteria we're seeing now is about; it gives a hint of the patch of serenity that exists inside.
'Racheta' is a racket-and-ball game that used to be played in this area, perhaps in the small campo adjacent to the bridge. Right now we could hear and see a few youngsters kicking a football around in the campo, while two or three young mothers with their prams were watching from the benches on the perimeter. The game being played may have changed, but the rest of the scene was probably much the same as five hundred years ago.

Bridge Ninety-One - Ponte dei Gesuiti

Our next bridge, the Ponte dei Gesuiti, was only a few steps away along a street named Salizada Seriman. 'Salizada' means 'paved street', so it must have been unique and upmarket in an era - we're talking thirteenth century here - when streets generally consisted mostly of mud and dirt. The Ponte dei Gesuiti - Bridge of the Jesuits - is a broad stone-and-red-brick bridge across the Rio de Santa Caterina that, after the twilight of the salizada, opens up across the canal onto the light of the Campo dei Gesuiti, where the Jesuits once had a monastery.

The Jesuits had mixed fortunes in Venice, having been banned from the city in 1606 and again in 1773. Now there's a Carabinieri station in a building at the foot of the bridge; two buildings along the canal were cloaked in protective construction netting; a smartly dressed lady was taking her pooch for his afternoon walk across the campo, and generally I don't think anyone every crossing the bridge today would ever give a second thought to the idea that there was once religious strife. Such is the nature of time gone by, during which we have learnt how to live and let live. Or have we?

Bridge Ninety - Ponte dei Sartori

We left the Campo dei Santi Apostoli behind and joined the Strada Nova, home to Venice's only McDonald's outlet. Its presence sets the tone for the general shopping experience in this area - it's geared towards the immediate gratification of day tourists, and little more. But perhaps this was a fortunate thing: for the past hour or so I've been running out of space on my camera's memory card, and have been stopping every now and then to delete unwanted photos - much to the chagrin of Adeline, who still kept an eye on our timing and reminded me of the impending nightfall. Fortunately we walked past a camera shop - one of surprisingly few in Venice - where I could quickly pop in and buy an additional memory card. Up to now, with about ten bridges to go, I've taken forty gigabytes' worth of photos, which equates to about nine hundred high resolution images. It's been a fruitful day so far!

Soon we swung right out of the Strada Nova, leaving behind most of the tourists and entering a quieter neighbourhood. Minutes later we were at the foot of our next bridge, the Ponte dei Sartori, that once was a stone bridge but is now a rusty-looking iron bridge with long, twirly-patterned railings. It connects a narrow alley, the Salizada del Spezier, at an angle over the Rio del Gozzi with the Fondamenta dei Sartori. 'Sartori' means 'tailors', and the bridge is named that way most likely because there was a hospice for poor tailors as well as the Scuola dei Sartori nearby.

We were footsore and tired, but there were only ten bridges to go before we're finished!