Sunday, June 28
Traditional Venetian Entertainments
"Such as pushing one another off bridges, a popular team sport and tourist attraction in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Two rival factions, the Nicollotti (in the black hats), who occupied the half of Venice nearest the mainland and were mostly fisherman, and the Castellani (in the red hats), who occupied the parts towards the lagoon and mostly worked at the Arsenal, would amass in groups on opposing sides of a small bridge and go at one another with baboo staffs until weapons were outlawed and fists substituted. As the bridges at the time lacked parapets, people kept tumbling over, and someone always put a damper on the fun by getting bludgeoned to death. The state vacillated between trying to control these events, and in 1574, proudly featuring a bridge battle as part of its VIP treatment for a visiting dignitary, Henry III of Poland, who was taking a memorable detour on his way to becoming King of France. This fight was not a success, as the king's reaction was to ask them to please stop that, right now. Bridge fights were banned altogether on Saint Girolamo [Jerome]'s Day in 1705, when the factions were going at it so intently that nobody wanted to leave to put out the fire at Saint Girolamo's convent church, which was thus destroyed from neglect on its very own saint's day."