The Historic Rialto Bridge in Venice – Top Sights, Attractions

by vacationideaz
rialto bridge

Rialto Bridge or the Ponte di Rialto is the oldest bridge in Venice over the Grand Canal. An iconic landmark in the city, it was first constructed as a pontoon bridge in 1181. The present structure, a stone arch footbridge, goes back to the 16th century. It stands over the narrowest point over the Grand Canal, in the heart of Venice. The bridge has a width of 29.2 feet or 8.90 meters and a height of 24 feet or 7.32 meters, only the arch. You will find many restaurants and shops on the Ponte di Rialto.

The bridge has been rebuilt several times. It had to accommodate ships bringing in different products to Venice. In the morning, the locals come here for shopping – fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. In fact, the bridge was constructed so that the Venetians could reach the Rialto market, which has been there for a long time.

The Rialto Bridge goes by many names. It was initially called ‘Ponte della Moneta’ after the mint in its east. Its present name, Ponte di Rialto, is after the Rialto market, popular with locals and traders. It has also been called ‘Shylock’s bridge’, in the A Toccata of Galuppi’s poem by Robert Browning.

Now, a symbol of the city, you will get very good views of the Grand Canal from the Ponte di Rialto. You will also see many gondolas here. It’s a wonderful place to take photographs, especially early in the morning or during sunset. You will also have fewer people at these times.

Rialto Bridge – Quick Facts

Ponte di Rialto16th century stone arch bridge in Venice over the Grand Canal
First ConstructedAs a pontoon bridge in 1181
Present BridgeConstructed between 1588 and 1591
Longest Span104.3 feet or 31.80 meters
Main AttractionsShops and restaurants, views of the Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge Construction

The first Rialto Bridge was constructed in 1181 at the narrowest point on the Grand Canal. It was a floating bridge. However, it became very popular, so a new, better bridge had to be constructed. A new wooden bridge came up in 1255. It had two ramps and a movable platform at the center, which could be raised so that ships could pass under the bridge. Shop licenses were issued to raise money for maintenance. Click this link for more information on the history of the Rialto Bridge.

rialto bridge venice

The bridge you will now see is in Gothic style with curved arches. It is supported by 12,000 wooden pilings rooted deep in the canal bed below. The highest point of the bridge arches 7.5 meters and spans 48 meters.

Fish Market

There has been a fish market (Pescheria) at Ponte di Rialto since 1907, which sold fresh fish and other marine creatures. It was very popular with the locals. Many people, including chefs, would come here to source the produce.

You will still find many shops on the bridge, but hardly any fish, vegetables or fruits. Most of the shops now sell gift items and souvenirs of Venice for tourists. Prices, though, are on the higher side. Walk into the side streets and you will get better prices. There are also many restaurants on the bridge. The atmosphere is electric.

rialto bridge shops

There is a fish market nearby every Friday morning. It also sells vegetables and fruits every day. You can go there for fresh produce.

Rialto Bridge FAQ

Why is the Rialto bridge so famous?

Rialto Bridge is the oldest bridge across the Grand Canal. It was constructed at the end of the 16th century. The bridge is famous for its engineering and architectural feat during the Renaissance era. The Rialto Bridge was designed and constructed by Antonio da Ponte and Antonio Contino, his nephew. The design was inspired by a competition held in Venice.

How much does the Rialto Bridge cost?

It cost more than 250,000 ducats to build the Rialto Bridge, which was a lot of money at the time.

What is the purpose of the Rialto Bridge?

The Ponte di Rialto or Rialto Bridge crosses the Grand Canal at one of its narrowest points. There used to be an earlier bridge at the site called the Ponte della Moneta. It was named after the city’s mint that was located at its entrance. The Rialto is the city’s oldest bridge that is still operational.

How many arches does the Rialto Bridge?

The Rialto Bridge is the most famous bridge in Venice and one of the world’s most popular bridges. It is 18 meters long, has two ramps, and has a single 22-meter span stone-made arch.

How old is the Rialto Bridge?

Construction of the Rialto Bridge was completed in July 1591. It is 430 years old as of 2021.

rialto bridge history
Old Photo of the Rialto Bridge

How many bridges are in Venice?

The city of Venice has 400 bridges.

Which city has the most bridges?

Pittsburgh has 446 bridges. It is often called the “City of Bridges”.

What is the Rialto in The Merchant of Venice?

In the William Shakespeare play The Merchant of Venice, the Rialto is a business club or gathering where merchants meet. It is the city’s main trading center.

Where is the Bridge of Sighs?

The Bridge of Sighs is a popular bridge in Venice. It is made of white limestone, has stone bars and windows. It connects to the Doge’s Palace, passing over the Rio di Palazzo.

Why do they call it the Bridge of Sighs?

The bridge was constructed at the beginning of the 17th century. Spanning over the Rio di Palazzo, it connected to the prison at the Doge’s Palace. It was said that those who crossed this bridge were likely to be imprisoned. This is why it was referred to as the Bridge of Sighs.

What is the name of the oldest market in Venice?

The fish market in Rialto is the oldest market in Venice. It is located in the city’s oldest part. The market has been operational since 1097. You will now find a lot of things in the Rialto market, including fish, vegetables, groceries, clothing, and souvenirs.

rialto market
Rialto Market

Fondaco dei Tedeschi

German merchants who did business in Venice lived and worked in this prime location at the San Marco end of the Rialto Bridge. Venice paid for its rebuilding after a fire. Titian was employed to decorate the interiors. In return, Venice received money against all transactions. This used to be both the place of business and residence of the merchants. The merchants were not allowed to do any business outside the Fondaco.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi Venice

See the façade on the right, facing the Grand Canal. There is a five-arched Portico in the middle. On the ground floor, there were shops and storage facilities, while the upper floors used to be the living quarters and offices.

Now the building houses a shopping mall with a rooftop platform. You can get good views of the city and the Grand Canal from here.

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