RIALTO BRIDGE is one of the four bridges, together with the Ponte dell’Accademia, Ponte degli Scalzi and Ponte della Costituzione (also known as the Calatrava from the name of the architect who designed it), crossing the Canal Grande.
Of the four, Rialto Bridge is the oldest and most famous and until 1854 the only one across the Canal Grande.
In 1181 when it was first constructed it was a bridge of boats. In 1250 given the growing importance of the Rialto market it was replaced by a wooden bridge with a moving central section to allow the tallest ships to pass through.
Later two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge and their rent helped pay for maintenance. In 1444 the bridge collapsed under the weight of a large crowd gathered to watch the Duke of Ferrara’s wedding procession.
It was then decided to rebuild it in stone and the design by Antonio da Ponte was chosen from among those submitted by great architects such as Palladium, Michelangelo, Sansovino and Vignola.
The bridge was constructed on the same model as the previous one with shops along the sides. It is considered one of the most beautiful bridges ever built and a symbol of Venice.
In the times when Venice was a maritime power, sailing and trading in most of the known world, great merchant ships from many countries moored here to unload and load their bulk cargo.