Venice is known for many things. We may know it for its canals, the famous carnival or the Caffe Florian café. One more option, however, is the Rialto Bridge, one of the most visited parts of Venice. What’s the bridge like? Why is it so important? Let’s go over all of that today.
The Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge is both the most famous and the oldest bridge in Venice hanging over the Grand Canal. It was initially a pontoon bridge, built in 1181. The bridge we see today is actually from 1591, as it replaced the previous wooden iteration. You can actually see the wooden bridge in the famous Miracolo della Croce a Rialto by Vittore Carpaccio.
The designer of the Rialto Bridge was Antonio da Ponte, although the competition to build the bridge involved many famous artists, including the widely known Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola and even Michelangelo himself. In total, the Rialto Bridge collapsed twice before the current iteration, so it was pivotal for the new construction to be sturdy. Funnily enough, the timber bridge first collapsed during the marriage of Marquis of Ferrara, as the crowds heading towards the ceremony overencumbered the structure.
Today, The Rialto Bridge is a pedestrian bridge with a total length of 48 metres and the width of 22,90 metres. It’s one of the four bridges linking the banks of the Grand Canal and, unlike much of the city, this area is actually also visited by locals.
The structure of Venice’s most famous bridge may look like a somewhat frail design, although it has withstood centuries. In 2019, renovation works on the bridge ended, as Renzo Rosso, chairman of the OTB group, decided to fund the overhaul himself. During the renovation work, the good condition of the bridge was confirmed and it was noted that the structure had lowered by 15 centimetres since the day it was commissioned.
The bridge isn’t like most bridges we’re used to. It has a staircase leading up to a few kiosks on the sides. After all, crossings are a perfect place for trade. Today, you can buy souvenirs there.
To visitors of Venice in the high season, do watch out for potential pickpockets and scammers around the area. Though Venice is a safe city and not much can harm you there, crowds around the area of the bridge can sometimes get really massive, so it’s a perfect place for pickpockets to flourish.
The walk-up towards the bridge from St Mark’s Square has one of the most photographed spots in Venice on the left side. It’s an especially amazing spot during sunsets. If you’ve only seen the bridge during the day, we highly recommend you also visit it after dark to see the amazing evening lights.
Of course, if you want an even better view of the Rialto Bridge, you can take a cruise on the canal!