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Ponte di Rialto, the most famous bridge in Venice

The Rialto bridge is still the most famous bridge in Venice and one of the four that spans over the Grand Canal.

Rialto bridge today, built in 1588-1592

In the 16th century the bridge was built for its last time in a very elegant shape.

But how did the Rialto bridge look like in the past ?

There are no traces left of the first bridge but from ancient documents it is assumed that it was a sort of pontoon bridge used to connect the two sides of the Grand Canal.

It was called “Quartarolo” from the name of the coin, a small quarter, in use in Venice from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 14th century. The bridge was then later replaced with a drawbridge, that let the Venetian

galleys pass through from one end to the other of the Grand Canal.

Detail from Jacopo de Barbari map

Unfortunately the bridge collapsed several times due to fire or to the weight of people who lurked on it during celebrations.

In 1524 the government of Venice decided to reconstruct it in stone.

The bridge was historically documented by a famous painting by Vittore Carpaccio at the Academy Gallery .

Palladio’s project

Many famous architects took part in the competition for its reconstruction such as Palladio, who together with other architects suggested the construction of a 3-arch bridge which was immediately excluded.

The competition was won by a Venetian architect whose name was Ponte, that means bridge. Although he rebuilt it with a single arch, this did not however allow the passage of the galleys under it due to the height of their tree. This decision caused considerable damage to the Venetian trade in crisis for years.

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