Ponte di Rialto

Ponte di Rialto (2)

The Ponte di Rialto has the honour of being the oldest bridge crossing the Grand Canal. In fact, before 1854 it was the only way to cross the city’s main thoroughfare from one bank to the other on foot.

In the 12th century, a floating structure guaranteed this link, which, on being judged unstable, was replaced during the first half of the 13th century by a wooden structure. However, with time, and after several accidents caused by wooden bridges sinking in different points of Venice, it was thought that such a busy spot deserved a more solid structure.

Finally, in 1557 the Republic put out a public tender to solve the problem, and some of the most famous artists of the time sent in their projects. After rejecting the proposals of Palladio, Sansovino and even Michelangelo himself, in 1588 the design was chosen that we can see today, which is the work of Antonio da Ponte.

Made up of a large arch that looks like an inverted “V”, the bridge reaches a maximum height of 7.5 metres, since even in its early days it had to let large merchant ships pass through. Da Ponte’s idea of supporting the bridge over a single arch was criticised by contemporaries of the architect such as Scamozzi, who stated that the risky structure would not last long.

Despite the different setbacks it experienced, the Ponte di Rialto was completed in 1591. At the end of the 20th century it was the object of a painstaking restoration and today is one of the main icons of the city. Hundreds of tourists put the structure to the test every day, and thanks to an addition, is flanked by two rows of covered shops that are located on either side of a central portico.

Although it will not be easy for you to find a peaceful corner among the masses of tourists armed with their digital cameras, do not miss the chance to claim your bit of balustrade in order to take in the lovely view from the bridge. It is more than 50 metres wide, so with a bit of determination and perhaps a bit of gentle elbowing too, you will achieve your aim.

If you want eat or have a birra around here, you should be aware that the prices in the cafes and restaurants are the highest in the city, only comparable with those of the Piazza San Marco. It is well worth it though, you are in Venice… enjoy it.

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