Far more interesting than the less-than-mesmerizing Ponte delle Tette, is the story hiding behind the curious bridge’s name – which, translated literally, means ‘Bridge of Tits.’
During the Serenissima’s heyday, the part of town behind the Rialto bridge was considered a red-light district. According to a census completed in 1509, 11,164 prostitutes were offering their services in the city, practically the equivalent of a tenth of the population of the day. However, vice being what it is, it’s always subject to strict stipulations on the part of authorities.
That applied to Venice too – even though the tax paid by the working girls provided the funds for the expansion of the Arsenal. One decree, however, was demanded by the prostitutes themselves: when, in the 16th century, there were far too many prostitutes in the city, their income sank dramatically.
Also, homosexuality was so widespread in Venice at the time, that these women of the night asked the Patriarch of the day, a certain Contarini, to take measures against it. Homosexuality represented a far bigger problem for them than inflation, making the men far less likely to need these female prostitutes for their sexual satisfaction.
As the Venitian government, too, preferred men to engage in the pleasures of the flesh with women rather than with other men, they ordered the prostitutes to show off their wares, with bare breasts or legs spread wide, to try to awaken the gay men’s inner heterosexual lust. The countless streetwalkers, with all of their bared breasts and gathered-up skirts, must have presented an eccentric sight, indeed, of which today only the name of the bridge remains.
MUSIC: AL PONTE DE LE TETTE (Giorgio Polacco)
Crossing over the bridge, you’ll reach Rio Terà delle Carampane, named after a noble family’s house (Ca’ Rampani) that became notorious as a meeting place for local streetwalkers, who to this day are known as carampane. Instead of hanging out in windows, more-ambitious working girls might be found studying: for educated conversation, courtesans might charge 60 times the basic rates of the average carampane.
Also near the Ponte delle Tette you have the famous restaurant, Trattoria Antiche Carampane, the name of which will give you another indication of just how widespread prostitution was at the time.
Alongside the Ponte delle Tette there’s also a Fondamenta and a Calle delle Tette.
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