Wide view of Venice: Piazza San Marco - Riva degli Schiavoni

The Castellani & Nicolotti endless rivalry

... leading to big Carnival fights

The Castellani & Nicolotti started in 1292 a gang feud in the city of Venice, a rivalry based on competitions of courage, skill, agility and balance and also violence fights.

The map here on the right more or less gives an idea of how the town of Venice was divided in the two factions.

Although both factions were working class, there seems to be a very strong social pattern here: outskirts vs the rich downtown, less paid jobs vs better life standing.

The Castellani - red scarves, battle name: Shrimps - were fishermen and merchandise ferrymen, and originals of the area around San Marco, part of Dorsoduro and Cannaregio, the Lido and Castello, whence the name originates, the downtown area, the rich one.

The Nicolotti - black scarves, battle name: Shadows - came from the East zone of the city - the industrial one - from the area of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli, including Santa Croce, San Polo, and part of Dorsoduro and Cannaregio.

They were initially known as the "Canaruoli e Gnatti", but after the October 31, 1548 extremely bloody fight on the San Barnaba bridge (which they lost) they changed their name in Nicolotti.

The rivalry was kept going and encouraged by the government, because it would keep the men always ready and fit to fight in a war, and also to have at least one of the two factions faithful in case of a conspiracy.


"Per antico essercitio del popolo fu introdotto per decreto pubblico de l’inverno si facesse per i ponti di Venezia, la battagliola cobattendosi l’avantaggio del ponte co’ legni et l’uma delle parti si chiama Castellana e l’altra Nicolotta"

"Because of the traditional people's will, it has been ruled with a public decree, that during winter it could be performed, on Venetian bridges, the little fight using sticks, and one of the factions is the Castellana and the other is the Nicolotta."

Where the Castellani & Nicolotti were socially originating
Giacomo Franco: "Ponte dei Bastoni" (Bridge of the Sticks)
engraving (1610)

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