The Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It is the oldest bridge across the canal and it had been the only one up to 1854 when the Ponte dell'Accademia was built. Ponte dell'Accademia was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.
The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181. The development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank increased traffic on the floating bridge, so it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge. This structure had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall ships. It is named for its connection with the Rialto market. During the first half of the 15th century two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the timber bridge.
The bridge was partly burnt during the revolt in 1310. Then it also collapsed severel times, e.g. in 1444 under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade. As a consequence to all those happenings, the idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed in 1503. Over the following decades plans were offered by famous architects such as Jacopo Sansovino, Palladio and Vignola, but all involved a Classical approach with several arches, which was judged inappropriate to the situation. Michelangelo also was considered as designer of the bridge.
The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded. Two inclined ramps lead up to a central portico. On either side of the portico the covered ramps carry rows of shops. The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. However, the bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.
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|Geographical coordinates||45.4380370, 12.3358950|
|Address||30125 Venice, Sestiere San Polo 125|
|Construction dates||1588 - 1591|