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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 on 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, more 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 summer, it can become very crowded.

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

Rialto Bridge viewed from the Rialto HotelRialto Bridge viewed from the Rialto Hotel

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. 

Rialto Bridge

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 was the first stone bridge to span the Grand Canal .

Shopping on the Bridge

The shops along the sides of the bridge were built to pay for its construction and they now sell glass, masks and linen at horribly inflated prices. Browse but don’t buy is my advice. 

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 or in our Venice shopping guide.

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