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RIALTO BRIDGE, ST. MARK'S SIDE

Hi, I'm Venetiansoul, and today I'll accompany you through the Rialto Bridge, which is one of the most symbolic monuments in Venice!

Until the second half of the 19th century, the Rialto Bridge was the only passage between the two sides of the Grand Canal. Throughout the rest of the city, the only way to get to the other side was to rely on the many "ferries", or rowboat services; even today, if you want to experience the thrill of a gondola ride for a few euros, you can use one of these ferries.

Of course the best viewpoint of the Rialto Bridge is from the water, and you've probably already seen it from a boat; even if the bridge is quite impressive when you pass under it, it's just as beautiful when you pass over it, coming from the Vin Shore or San Bartolomeo Square. Firstly, let me explain that "Rialto" comes from "rivo alto", which is the deep and navigable canal of the lagoon archipelago. The Rialto Bridge is located exactly in the middle of the Grand Canal, at the most ancient point in the city, where the market has been held for more than a millennium. In a beautiful painting by Carpaccio which you may have seen in the Accadamie Gallery, you'll discover that the bridge was made of wood until the 1500s, and the central part was made of movable walkways that could be raised and withdrawn to allow for the passage of larger ships.

The bridge you are admiring now dates back to the end of the 15th century and connects the St. Mark's and San Polo districts. The reconstruction in masonry, decisive for the "modern" image of the city, came only after an exciting contest that the great architect Palladio participated in, but didn't win. Palladio's design was elegant, but frankly unworkable: it included three arches, and as you can imagine the pillars would have been a major obstacle for boats.




RIALTO BRIDGE, SAN POLO SIDE


On the side that goes towards St. Mark's district, near the bridge you can see a large building with a crenellated roof called Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which you probably already noticed from a vaporetto. The "Fondaco" or "warehouse" was in fact a kind of chamber of commerce, where the important merchant community of Germanic residents gathered in Venice. At the beginning of the 1500s it was half destroyed by fire, but rebuilt soon after in a much more grandiose fashion with offices, warehouses, and retail space, partially referencing the traditional appearances of the Venetian trading "fondaci" since the Byzantine era. Unfortunately you can no longer see the exterior decorations of the early 1500s that had been entrusted to Giorgione and Titian: only a few traces remain, and are preserved at Ca' d'Oro. For this reason, the palace may seem a bit bare.

On the opposite side, the stairs of the bridge will lead you into a bustling market area at the entrance to the San Polo district. The area was arranged with long wings of sixteenth-century porticoes, the so-called "old factories" where even today you can see shops and stalls with the characteristic white awnings. As you'll notice, the market is crowded at all hours, but with different crowds: in the early morning the Venetians will go shopping there, in the middle of the day it's full of tourists heading to the Basilica of the Frari, while in the evening it becomes an obligatory point for anyone enjoying Venice's nightlife thanks to the many clubs in the area, the typical "bàcari" (Venetian popular bars), and the restaurants overlooking the Grand Canal.


FUN FACT: to finance the construction of the bridge, the Venetians provided covered workshops which were rented out at a high price considering their location with maximum urban passage. These Venetians definitely had commercial genius!

FUN FACT: one of the Rialto market's landmarks which will surely fascinate you is the curious church preceded by a portico, called San Giacomo di Rialto, or more popularly "San Giacometo". You may have already seen it in the works of the great painters of the seventeenth century, from Guardi to Canaletto. Yet looking at it today, after the many renovations it has undergone, you'll find it hard to recognize it as the oldest church in Venice, founded nearly 1700 years ago! (or at least, that's what the legend says...).



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