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The Magnificent Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is the most beautiful bridge in Venice. Situated on the Grand Canal, it takes your breath away at first sight, and still, after so many years, I feel the same way every time I see it.

When you actually see the bridge, it always looks a lot bigger than photos would lead you to believe. It is more impressive and beautiful too.

At night, all lit up, it is particularly magical. As the light changes throughout the day, so does the bridge.

Apart from late at night, early morning and sunset are the best times to visit. The light is beautiful, and fewer tourists are around. Later in the day, especially during the summer, it can become very crowded.

Our Tip: One of the loveliest views of the bridge is from the Rialto Hotel, a delightful hotel situated along the Grand Canal and offering "prime position" when it comes to the Rialto Bridge. The view below is from the hotel...

Weird Facts about the Rialto Bridge

1. Hidden Passageways: Beneath the Rialto Bridge, there are hidden passageways and corridors that were once used by merchants to transport goods and supplies. These secret passages allowed for discreet movement without disturbing the bustling marketplace.

2. The First Rialto Bridge: Before the current stone bridge, there were several wooden bridges that spanned the Grand Canal at the Rialto location. The first bridge was built in the 12th century, followed by subsequent wooden bridges until the stone bridge we see today was constructed.

3. The Devil's Contract: Legend has it that Antonio da Ponte made a pact with the devil to complete the construction of the Rialto Bridge in a short period. In return, the devil would claim the soul of the first person to cross the bridge. To outsmart the devil, Antonio sent a dog across the bridge first, saving human lives.

4. An Architectural Marvel: The Rialto Bridge was considered a remarkable engineering feat of its time. It was one of the few bridges in Venice to span the wide Grand Canal, using a single arch design. The bridge is built entirely of marble and, because there is no central support, many believed it would collapse. History has proved the doubters wrong.

Rialto Bridge in Venice

A Little History

This latest bridge is also a lot better built than the previous versions. All the old ones collapsed or burned down at intervals of every hundred years or so. 

The current bridge was built between 1588 and 1591, after the last of the previous wooden versions gave up the ghost in 1524.

Being Italy, it took fifty years of arguing about whether another wooden bridge or a stone one should be built and about who should build it before they actually got started on the current bridge. Finally, they gave the go-ahead to Antonio de Ponte, whose surname means bridge in Italian and whose design is that of the current bridge. Interestingly enough, Michelangelo was also considered at one stage for the job, but his rate was too high and they couldn’t afford him.

The design of Antonio de Ponte is very similar to the previous wooden one. It was considered pretty revolutionary at the time for a stone bridge, and it was the first stone bridge to span the Grand Canal.

Rialto Bridge in Venice

Shopping on the Bridge

The shops along the sides of the bridge were initially built to generate funds for the construction of this iconic landmark. However, over the years, they have transformed into tourist-oriented establishments selling a variety of goods, including glassware, masks, and linen. Although visually captivating, the items they sell often come with a hefty price tag. Unveiling the secrets of authentic shopping experiences, I suggest you discover the true essence of Venice, beyond the tourist traps, in our Venice Shopping Guide.

Local resident, Luca, offers his insights: "Venice is a city of hidden treasures, where genuine craftsmanship and local artisans flourish in the narrow streets and lesser-known districts. It's in these less-frequented corners that the true soul of Venice can be found.

Instead of succumbing to the allure of the Rialto Bridge shops, take a leisurely stroll through the charming districts of Cannaregio or Dorsoduro. Here, you'll encounter a vibrant tapestry of local boutiques and workshops that showcase the authentic essence of Venetian artistry."

If you would like to buy glass, I would suggest that you first read our Venice glass shopping guide and then take the boat trip out to Murano.  

For masks, try some of the shops I mention on the Venice Carnival Mask page.


🚩 Stroll across the Rialto Bridge, take a ride on a traditional gondola along the Grand Canal, see St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace and other magnificent places in just a day!

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Rialto Bridge

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