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Rialto Bridge | Italy's oldest and most visited Bridge

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

General Info📚

Design: stone arch bridge

Width: 22.90 metres (75.1 ft)

Height: 7.32 metres (24.0 ft)

Construction dates: 1588 - 1591

Engineer: Nicolò Barattieri

👉 Visit Structures Insider's homepage for more stories.👈


In The World of Venice, Jan Morris paints an affectionate picture of the Rialto Bridge:

"Structurally, it was a complete success--during rioting in 1797 they even fired cannon from its steps, to dispel the mobs; and for myself, I would not change a stone of it. I love the quaint old figures of St. Mark and St. Theodore, on the station side of the bridge.
I love the Annunciation on the other side, angel at one end, Virgin at the other, Holy Ghost serenely aloft in the middle. I love the queer whale-back of the bridge, humped above the markets, and its cramped little shops, facing resolutely inwards.
I think one of the great moments of the Grand Canal occurs when you swing around the bend beside the fish market and see the Rialto there before you, precisely as you have imagined it all your life, one of the household images of the world, and one of the few Venetian monuments to possess the quality of geniality."

History 📑 of Engineering 🏗

Maintenance was vital for the timber bridge. It was partly burnt in the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo in 1310. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade and it collapsed again in 1524.

The idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed in 1503. Several projects were considered over the following decades. In 1551, the authorities requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge, among other things.

Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge

The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591. It is similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded.

The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. The bridge has defied its critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.


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