Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy
The history of Venice is tied to its famous waterways. The first bridge to cross the famous canals was built by Nicolo Barattieri in 1181. This original pontoon bridge was named Ponte della Monetta. Today, it has been replaced by the Rialto Bridge. The Rialto Bridge is located at the narrowest part of the canal.
The second bridge was built in 1255 replacing the pontoon bridge. The wooden bridge was deemed necessary because the area was becoming an important market port. Those living in Venice could easily get silk and spices from the Orient near the Rialto Bridge. Close by those from Lombardy and Florence sold metalwork and textiles. Also near the bridge, those from Germany gathered to sell their wares. The area surrounding the bridge was also the financial center of Venice at that time.
The wooden bridge consisted of two inclined ramps that met a movable central section. The movable central section was necessary to allow the tall merchant ships to pass under it and on down the canal. The wooden bridge was constructed with shops on either side of it. The rent from these shops was used to support the bridge.
This second bridge was not without its problems. A large portion of it was burned in a 1310 revolt. The bridge was reconstructed, but 144 years later, in 1444, the bridge collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade. 80 years later, in 1524, the bridge collapsed again.
In 1503 the decision was made to replace the bridge, but the funds never became available. A contest was held in 1555 to design the new bridge. Many designs were submitted including one by Michelangelo. However, the winning design was submitted by Antonio da Ponte.
Still no one was in a huge hurry to start construction of the new stone bridge. Construction of the current bridge did not begin until 1588. Many merchants were unhappy that it took four years to build the new bridge. It was not completed until 1592. During its construction, many of the merchants predicted that the elegant stone bridge supported on either end by thousands of wooden pillars would fall into the canal. The merchants were supported in their belief by the famous architect Vincenzo Scamozzi.
Getting to the bridge is easy today. From almost any point in the city, tourists will find large yellow signs with an arrow pointing the way to the bridge. The bridge is an easy walk from most locations in Venice. Those choosing to view the bridge from the water can take Vaporettos 1, 4, 8, 82 or N. The best photos of the bridge can be obtained from these ferries.
The stone bridge is built to resemble the old wooden bridge. The bridge consists of two inclined ramps that rise 6.4 meters. Each of the ramps lead to a central portico. Each of the ramps is covered with many small stores selling souvenirs.
The best time to see the Rialto Bridge is before 9 AM. The best experience at the bridge can be had by planning to cross the bridge three times on foot.
The first time, walk along the southern walkway. When the throng of tourists is not too thick, tourists can enjoy a wonderful view of the Grand Canal. This walkway is the busiest. Upon reaching the end of the bridge, turn around and take advantage of the many shops that line the Rialto Bridge.Once you reach the end of the bridge, proceed back across it on the north side. The views from this side are not as good as those from the south side.