Flash! Breaking news … update on the pissotte saga

You know how some folks say those things in the corners in Venice are to deter the male of the human species from relieving themselves?

And others say, “No, they were there in the bad old days, before Edison had his light-bulb moment, and the streets were all dark, and these things stopped the thugs from hiding and leaping out to do whatever thugs do”.  (Are you still with me?)

Here’s a thing in a corner, to refresh your memory:


Well, someone posted a photo of one of these things on Facebook, and the battle was on, with the respondents (all Venetians) firmly split into one of the 2 camps. But, the comment I liked best (probably because I agreed with the fellow) had this to say:

Avete ragione tutti e due. i più antichi, spesso ornati con immagini sacre sulla sommità, servivano da deterrente ai criminali. quelli più moderni (spesso delle semplici tavole marmoree inclinate) hanno la funzione di far scivolare la pipì addosso a chi la fa. infatti il nomignolo veneziano è “pissabraga”.

What he said was that both camps could be correct. In really old times, the things were decorated with a sacred image, which was supposed to help deter the aforementioned thugs.  I looked through my cache of photos of pissotte, and the nearest illustration of this was one from the Zattere, right by the Gesuati.


I also have a few to illustrate the second point made in the comment, namely that the more modern ones have a simple form, usually an inclined top. (I really liked the rest of the sentence, which says that those who pee on these, will have that liquid slide onto him!)

So, here are some of these functional objects.

P1070625 With "Scratchy" Sotoportego Carampane SP

And, just to make my day complete, the final part of the comment gave the Venetian slang word for what I call pissotte. In Venetian, this source says they are called “pissabraga”.

Now, I know this will never settle the issue, because after this most sensible comment, the debate raged on for ages. What I like about all this, is that we can theorise until the cows come home, but we’ll NEVER know the truth of the matter.

And, we’ve all learned a new word in Venetian.


Filed under Venice

19 responses to “Flash! Breaking news … update on the pissotte saga

  1. Our Adventure in Croatia

    bellissimo post!! LOL I never knew this…. I will try and spot them when I next go to Venice!


  2. Reblogged this on My New Shy and commented:
    Now these aren’t items you usually come across!
    Some more of those ‘little things in life’, this time in Venice, reblogged from ytaba36


  3. Caroline

    I’d heard that deterring footpads was the reason you often find a shrine in dark corners, especially in sotoportegi.


  4. Andrew. perhaps a project for “next time” will be to find more of those little fences. Siggie, I agree with the concept, but who will be the first of our mob to put it into practice?


  5. Sig Nonloso

    I know there are only 2 officially-sanctioned explanations of their use, but I definitely think Linda Bailey Zimmerman’s idea of “courtesy stools” should be added as a third! I love that idea, and it makes perfect sense to me.


  6. Andrew

    I’ve seen little metal fences across corners which would deter muggers from hiding.


  7. I had fun writing this post, so I’m gratified that readers have found it entertaining, not to mention highly educational.

    It’s interesting that these objects so polarise opinion amongst the Venetians!

    Please, whoever is looking at the blog from Haiti, introduce yourself!


  8. Yvonne…what a hoot!! I love these things…it was years before I realized that they weren’t little courtesy stools for older Venetians/travelers….”oh how civilized”!! lol


  9. Barb,
    That is my thought exactly. My first trip I never noticed them. My second trip I was with Yvonne….sooo…couldn’t help but notice and then last time….they were everywhere!


  10. LOL – this whole post is a hoot and I love your comment, Barb.


  11. Barb

    There is just one problem with this pissotte education you are providing. Now each time I pass one, the thought comes to mind “Has Yvonne seen this one? Do I need to take a picture?” You’ve definitely raised my pissotte consciousness. 🙂


  12. Not only is your blog entertaining, it is educational!


  13. Bert

    Several of your photos show internal corners where no thug in his right mind would try to hide. The only function of the pissotta in such a corner is the obvious one. I remain convinced that the anti-assassin theory was dreamt up by somebody to give to delicately minded individuals to spare their blushes. A man in a hurry and in desperate need will not be deterred by any sacred image. Your second photo shows a bocca di leone, not a sacred image, but, as you said, it was the nearest you could find. I wonder whether the bocca could be used for another purpose.


  14. I think both uses are very helpful to the general walking public.
    Thank you for your continued extensive research into this subject.


Now let's hear it from you, folks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s