The three letters on the railingsby Fondazione Neri
In this issue of Arredo & Città (2-2022), dedicated to the historical illumination of Venice, we have included an ample discussion of metal bridges. Dozens of these were constructed, bearing witness to the fundamental role of cast iron in the urban development of Venice, affecting pedestrian and traffic circulation no less than the lighting sector. Giampietro Zucchetta, in his valuable book, Venezia ponte per ponte, documents the presence of more than eighty pedestrian bridges in iron still extant along the canals and banks of Venice, some large and essential for the road system, others small and hidden away.
From the mid-19th century, industrial development and new construction techniques led to the use of iron and its alloy, cast iron, for urban structures. The Venetian city landscape was soon transformed by the presence of bridges made entirely of metal, or mixed structures combining stone with iron and/or cast iron railings decorated with geometrical and vegetable motifs. They were often created by celebrated foundries located around the Lagoon itself, and in particular those of Neville, Collalto and Layet.
A typical mixed structure was the Ponte Borgoloco, on the Rio del Paradiso, in the Castello zone. Its iron railing is a unique case, on account of its ornamental motif. This consists of three “letters”: a W placed above a V and two Es mirroring each other. From whichever side you look, you can recognize the three letters W-V-E repeated on each element of the railings and supported, in their turn, by slender cast iron columns. In the absence of any archival documents, the only plausible hypothesis is that, during the Austrian domination of Venice, this pseudo-ornamental design sought to conceal a clearly patriotic message.