Facts and History of the Rialto Bridge Venice

Why is the Rialto Bridge famous? It is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal starting from 1181.

Do you wish to know more about the facts and history of Rialto Bridge? We dig further and share our findings of Rialto Bridge for your knowledge.

It Was Formally Built As A Floating Bridge 

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The history of the Grand Canal, Venice, cannot be narrated without the Rialto Bridge. The bridge was built in 1181, for the core aim of a smooth and easy pass to the Rialto Market in the eastern part of the country. It is one of the oldest bridges that cross the Grand Canal, Italy. The pontoon bridge was eventually replaced by a wooden bridge in 1264. 

How Rialto Bridge Gets Its Name

When it was a floating bridge, it was only called Ponte della Moneta (Bridge of the Coin), because people have to pay a toll to pass through it. With the change to the wooden bridge, increased traffic, and connection with the Rialto that the bridge changed its name to Rialto Bridge or Ponte di Rialto.

The bridge has collapsed several times

According to the historical antecedent of the Rialto Bridge, the bridge has collapsed several times. This wooden bridge was destroyed and rebuilt several times: it burned down during an unsuccessful coup by rebels in 1310, and 1444 collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade during a wedding. The last collapse came in 1524, and by then Venice decided it was time to build a more permanent and durable bridge. This collapse has added to the beauty and the huge success that follows the bridge.

Popular Artists including Michelangelo Proposed To Design The Bridge

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From 1542, a vast majority of the famous artists as at that time brought proposals for the design. Among the artists were Jacopo Sansovino, Michelangelo, and Vignola. In 1546, Michelangelo was already appointed architect of St. Peter's Basilica, Rome but his submitted design was not used. Eventually, it was awarded to Swiss-born Venetian engineer Antonio da, Ponte in 1588. 

Antonio da, Ponte, aged about seventy-eight then, was a surprising choice because he was less literate than his colleagues and he was not a supporter of the single-vault option at the outset. But the Salt Office who was in charge of the bridge was impressed by his skillful restoration of the Doge’s Palace (another popular Venice tourist attraction) after the great fire of 1577.

It Took Three Years To Construct

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The Rialto Bridge took three years to build from 1588 and finished in 1591. During the construction process, the engineers encounter a lot of unexpected conditions, the depth of the canal inclusive. It is 75 feet wide with the arch height of 24 feet and its longest span is over 94 feet long

Rialto Bridge Is Built Of Marble

The Rialto bridge's final construction was made of marble due to frequent collapse. Though the present design still looks like the old design which was done with timber. This bridge is the most important attraction throughout Venice, it is full of fascinating and historical stories.

How much did the Rialto bridge cost to build

It cost a lot of money at that time: more than 250,000 ducats, as Francesco Sansovino wrote in his guidebook published in Venice at that time. It was for many centuries the only bridge built across the Grand Canal or Canalazzo, as we call it here.

In 2015, the Rialto Bridge was refurbished and funded by fashion tycoon Renzo Rosso, president of OTB Group, who owns the brands Maison Margiela, Marni, and Diesel among many others. Rosso pledged €5 million to the Rialto project, on condition that the scaffolding covering the bridge will be installed by May 1 and display billboards promoting OTB Group brands.

People Always Fear It Will Collapse

Rialto Bridge Overview

The Rialto Bridge was constructed with a single span, which makes people fear it will collapse. This implies that the bridge does not have any support in the middle except at the edges. In recent times, the Rialto Bridge is seen as the most attractive and best architectural marvels around the world.

In 2013, the city council commissioned a report, which revealed that the bridge is not at risk of collapsing but the area around the adjacent Camerlenghi Palace has sunk 25 centimeters since it was first built.

The painting "The Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi" fetch £26.2m 

View of Rialto Bridge

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This bridge has inspired different artists both old and upcoming architects. It has also appeared in many paintings around the globe. "Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi" was owned by successive generations of the Guinness family before it was sold to an overseas buyer at a Christie’s auction for £26.2m. It was also put on hold (export bar) in the hope of looking for a UK buyer.

Rialto Bridge was featured in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"

Shakespeare uses the Rialto Bridge as a meeting place and an area for people to catch up on the latest local news, which is what many tourists use the bridge today instead.

It includes many shops on the Bridge

Rialto Bridge Grey

There are plenty of shops on the bridge which adds to the weight of the bridge. The bridge is located in Rialto Market where people trade precious metals, silk, and spices. It is one of the must-visit bridge of the 4 bridges in Grand Canal, Venice.

This bridge remains one of the best attraction areas in Venice. It attracts large numbers of visitors on a yearly base.

How to draw and color Rialto Bridge

What better way to visualize the Rialto Bridge than drawing the bridge? There are online resources on Youtube that demonstrate how to draw and even color Rialto Bridge, step-by-step. 

Webcam of Rialto Bridge

At times, websites like skylinewebcam.com might offer a webcam showing the Rialto Bridge. Below is a still image captured showing the popularity and crowd at the bridge (white one at the left).

Webcam View of Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge was in a popular game, Assassin Creed 2 

Assassin Creed 2 Rialto Bridge

The bridge was depicted as a wooden bridge, as the construction did not begin on a stone bridge until 1588. A collectible glyph in the game was located under the bridge too.

Rialto Bridge was considered for Eight Wonder of The World

The Rialto bridge was also considered as the eighth wonder of the world in the year 1594, just a few years after it was erected, between 1588 and 1591. It never crystallized in the end though.

Authority had to stop people from jumping off Rialto Bridge

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Besides the popularity of the scenery, some tourists also tried to jump off the Rialto Bridge. In 2016, a drunkard jumps off the bridge and hit a water taxi. In 2013, four British tourists were photographed leaping off the Rialto Bridge wearing just their underpants. It had become a mystery when people liked to do it since swimming was already banned and despite the smell of the water not enticing.

Dimensions of Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge is 48 meters (around 157ft) in length, 22.9 meters (around 75ft) in width and its height is 7.32 meters (around 24ft). There are 42 steps for each side ramp.

Rialto Bridge Hours and Shops 

The best time to visit the Rialto Bridge is from 9:30 am to 7 pm. Only the supermarket and bakery will open early at 8.30 am in the morning so you might have to wait to visit the other souvenir shops. Some Chinese-owned tourist shops will stay open till 10 pm as long as there is business.

Tour Package With Gondola Ride

Most tour packages bring you a ride around Venice via gondola instead of walking. So you will be unable to appreciate the beauty and the crowd at the bridge (unless it was raining).


We hope you find new facts or learn more about Rialto Bridge because we did when we tried to find out as much as possible about the heritage and information of the Rialto Bridge.

Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
Sky Hoon
Italy Lover. He travel to Europe a few times and loved Italy for its unique language and culture. He loved the idea of Italian food focusing on original taste of the ingredient.
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