Ponte dei Zogatoli

Although you won’t find this name written on any nizioeto—the characteristic black and white street signs you see all over the city—ask any Venetian directions to the Ponte dei Zogatoli and they will all oblige.

This is the name by which Venetians know the Ponte San Giovanni Grisostomo, not far from the Rialto, where there used to be a toy shop: zogatoli (giocattoli in standard Italian) is the Venetian word for toys. Today, sadly, the shop sells tourist souvenirs, but there is still a lego Dewey Duck (Donald Duck’s nephew is called Quo in Italian)  window above the shop to act as a memorial. For many Venetians he is a symbol of resistance against the ravages of mass tourism.

I have a further memory of the Ponte dei Zogatoli from my teenage years. Back in the 1980s there used to be an old man begging on the bridge. He never looked anything but happy and would say, ‘Buongiorno!’ with a wide smile to all passers-by. One day, I’d just bought a large pizza slice and was crossing the bridge. ‘Buon appetito!’ he called out to me. This had such a profound effect on me that the next day, I went and bought two pizza slices. You can guess what I did. The smile it brought to that old man’s face and his words of thanks will remain in my memory forever.

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