The Rialto Bridge

In this chapter we discuss one of the most photographed and admired structures in the world, elegant and extraordinary, the Rialto Bridge.

The Rialto Bridge, the oldest and most famous in the city, has always been one of the most crowded areas. In every moment of the day, in fact, you see crowds of people crossing it, photographing it and rummage among the adjacent souvenir shops. Together with the Accademia bridge, the Scalzi bridge and the Constitution bridge, it is one of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. One of the first crossings was done in wood, which collapsed in 1444 under the weight of the spectators during a wedding ceremony.

A painting by Vittore Carpaccio, dated 1496, shows how the fourth bridge was an unstable structure with a movable central part to let the trees of the boats pass. In the sixteenth century, when it was in an very bad state, a competition was announced for a new bridge, this time in stone, with an arch high enough for the passage of the Bucintoro, the galley of the Venetian doges. Michelangelo, Palladio and Sansovino were among the competitors, but after a few months the competition was won by Antonio da Ponte. It remained until 1854, the date of construction of the Accademia bridge, the only way to cross the Grand Canal.

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