Travel: Ponte di Rialto, the Oldest Bridge on the Grand Canal

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One of the most remarkable sites and a must to see while touring Italy, the Ponte di Rialto carries with it some incredible history. Initially only a set of pontoons, Ponte di Rialto is not an arch bridge that connects the Venetian districts of San Polo and San Marcos. Millions of tourists make the journey across the bridge each year, stepping one foot in front of the next on a structure with one of the richest backgrounds in all of Italy. 400 years after its original construction, the “Heart of Venice” stands on the same wooden supports which were used to reconstruct it in the late 1500s.

Rialto Market

On the eastern side of Ponte di Rialto remains flourishing as a center for trade. Some of the main commodities sold at the market include fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, Venetian masks, jewelry, and other souvenirs. Many different seafood varieties are sold at the market, including octopus, shrimp and salmon along with unique seafood as well including flounder, turbot, and Mediterranean sea bass. Surprisingly the market doesn’t smell like a fish market. The streets are clean and the shopkeepers do a very good job at making sure products are washed and walkways are clear. The market is easy to find and is only a short walk away after crossing the bridge.

The First Bridge across the Grand Canal

Nicolo Barattieri designed the proto-version of the modern day Ponte di Rialto. What was initially constructed was far from what exists in Venice today. Constructed in 1178, it is much better characterized as a pontoon bridge that allowed for those on the west side of the canal to travel to Rialto, on the eastern side of the canal.

Modern-Day Structuring

As a result of collapsing twice in 1310 and 1444, there was some question as to the stability of the structure and its reliability. So the first proposal to rebuild the bridge came about in 1503. It wasn’t until the late end of the century that the bridge was finished. It was constructed of stone with a ramp on each side, meeting at the center of the canal 24 feet above the water. The bridge’s design was the brainchild of many famous architects. This included the likes of Vignola and Palladio. The bridge’s design was so extravagant that many wondered how long it would stand.

When touring Venice, one cannot miss Ponte di Rialto. Whether your chief motive to travel to the Rialto market and buy unique seafood, to walk across the very first and oldest bridge that stretches across the Grand Canal, or to stand at the portico and overlook the canal as you hold hands with a loved one, The Ponte di Rialto is an extraordinary sight of which all those passing through must see.

Author: Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and travel junkie by nature, she regularly travels to Italy for both business and to experience some of the Rome tours, where she mostly spends her time in search of the perfect gelato.



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