Honest woman and loving friends

Ponte de Donna Onesta

A sword-maker in Venice, sometimes in the later 1400s, had a gracious wife.

Venetian Stories

This post is an issue of our newsletter — Venetian Stories — which goes out every few weeks, to keep in touch and share stories and titbits from and about Venice and its history.

One day a young nobleman entered his workshop to order a misericordia, a kind of stiletto meant to deliver the coup de grace in battle.

Before he left he caught a glimpse of the artisan’s beautiful wife.

In the following weeks the nobleman returned repeatedly to inquire on the progress of his order, until one day he found the woman alone in the workshop. The sword-maker had left on an errand.

He tried to seduce her, but to no avail. He tried to impose himself on her using his superior station in life, but he obtain little more. Finally, he forced himself on her and raped her.

The young nobleman left the shop.

Sometime later the sword-maker came back, and found his wife in obvious distress.

She told him calmly what had happened. Then, when she had finished, she grabbed the misercordia that the nobleman had left behind, and pierced her own heart.

In the Sestiere San Polo there’s a calle, a bridge and a fondamenta (side walk on a canal) all called Dona Onesta – honest woman, which is supposedly where the sword-maker and his honourable wife lived.

Ponte de Donna Onesta
Ponte de Donna Onesta

There’s a variation of this story, where the honest woman is saved and doesn’t kill herself out of dishonour.

The sword-maker had a dear friend in the area, who was a bareter, a hatter. His friend had ordered a fuseto, which another type of stiletto meant for work, with measuring marks along the blade.

Just as the nobleman tried to force himself on the pretty wife of the sword-maker, the hatter entered. He immediately understood what was happening. He grabbed the fuseto which was lying ready on the worktable, and stabbed the nobleman several times.

The wounded assailant escaped the house.

However, a commoner cannot attack a nobleman like that. The nobleman dragged the hatter in front of a judge. Given the circumstances he got away with six months in exile from Venice.

Since then, the narrow alleyway where the hatter had his workshop, and the nearby bridge were called Amor dei Amici – Love of Friends.

Calle Amor dei Amici
Calle Amor dei Amici

Now, if you don’t believe me, come to Venice and find these places yourself.

Venice is full of such strange names, like the Alleyways of Fire and Big Eye Alleyway.


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