The Rialto Bridge - or Ponte di Rialto - with its rows of shops and central portico, is one of the most iconic symbols of Venice.
Crossing Venice’s major waterway, the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the 4 water crossings.
A pontoon bridge was constructed in 1181where today stands the Rialto Bridge. Around 75 years later, this was replaced with a wood bridge to accommodated the increase in passage due to the new Rialto market. Initially, it was possible to raise the centre parts of the bridge to allow for the passing of ships below. However eventually shops were constructed on both sides of the bridge, right across the top, leaving it closed for good.
Being of wood, the Rialto burnt down in the 14th century and even collapsed twice due to the crowding of people atop to watch a boat parade, firstly in the 1400s and again in the 1500s.
Add into this the need for constant maintenance due to the corrosion of the sea water, it was eventually decided to rebuild in stone. The result was the Rialto that stands to this day, in a design by the appropriately named Antonio da Ponte.
It was completed in 1591 in a design that mimicked the pre-existing wooden structure. Despite naysayers predicting the collapse of the Rialto Bridge, this has fortunately not occurred.