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The Piazza di San Marco may be more famous, but the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge, Venice Grand Canal) is the true heart of Venice. The current structure was built in just three years, between 1588 and 1591, as a permanent replacement for the boat bridge and three wooden bridges that had spanned the Grand Canal at various times since the 12th Century. It remained the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854.
The Rialto Bridge's 24-foot arch was designed to allow passage of galleys, and the massive structure was built on some 12,000 wooden pilings that still support the bridge more than 400 years later. The architect, Antonio da Ponte ("Anthony of the Bridge," appropriately enough), competed against such eminent designers as Michelangelo and Palladio for the contract.
The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other items for the tourist trade. (NOTE: The bridge consists primarily of steps, making it a challenge for tourists with strollers or wheelchairs.)
Over the centuries, the Ponte di Rialto has earned both praise and scorn from critics. Consider this description from Ian Littlewood's Venice: A Literary Companion:
The bridge of the Rialto has had a mixed press. In the judgement of the Venetians, says Moryson, it 'deserves to be reputed the eighth miracle of the world.' Coryate, while deploring the 'vicious and licentious varlets' who worked the traghetto underneath it, was in agreement--'the fairest bridge by many degrees for one arch that ever I saw, or heard of.' But then both Moryson and Coryate were there within a few years of the bridge's completion. Others have since been less charitable, condemning it as top-heavy and ungraceful. The dispute is academic. Like the Eiffel Tower, the Rialto has acquired a symbolic status that puts it well beyond the reach of aesthetic judgements.
Along with your Venice gondola souvenir, we include a Venice postcard and gift from Italy... FREE of Charge!
Poly-resin, 3" x 8" x 4".