The Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge in Venice. It connects San Marco and the namesake piazza with the Rialto area, crossing over the Grand Canal. In fact, the necessary connection between Piazza San Marco and Rialto was the one which determined the authorities to commission the construction of the bridge, Rialto being home to the largest market area in Venice, and San Marco being the political and social center of Venice since the foundation of the city.

The first Rialto Bridge was built in 1181, following a design by Nicolo Barattieri, but this one perished in a fire. It was, in fact, a pontoon bridge, and its lack of reliability pushed the authorities to have a wooden bridge built after the first Ponte di Rialto (called Ponte della Moneta) was removed. Parts of the second bridge perished in a fire during a rebellion in 1310, and the event opened a series of other similar happenings which finally led to the full collapse of the structure, in 1524.

The decision to build the present bridge was made in 1551, and the construction works started in 1588, being completed in 1591. The bridge was to be made of stone (a material much more reliable and suited for a structure as important as the Rialto Bridge) following a design by Antonio da Ponte whose plans bettered, so to speak, the designs suggested by much more reputed architects (the likes of Andrea Palladio, Jacopo da Vignola, Jacopo Sansovino, and even Michelangelo).

The bridge is lined with tourist-oriented shops selling lace, Murano glass and jewels, remaining, architecturally speaking, a symbol of Venice, and a tourist sight just as famous as the Doge’s Palace and the Saint Mark’s Basilica.

Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto)
San Polo, Venice, Italy
Go to top