In Venice there are 354 bridges, each one offering a different view of the city, a particular framing, a piece of modern history such as the Liberty Bridge, other a piece of ancient times, such as the Rialto Bridge.
In the lagoon city, it has always been inevitable and necessary to build bridges in order to facilitate transfers from one bank to another. But Venetians were able to transform a need into an opportunity of embellishment of an already beautiful city. The two banks of the Grand Canal, the main waterway of the city, are connected by three bridges: the Rialto, the Accademiaand the Scalzi. To these we have to add the Calatrava Bridge, the most recent one. All the other bridges connect other parts of the city, passing over the more than 150 channels that run through Venice.
The Rialto Bridge, the first bridge over the Grand Canal
In 1181 NicolòBarattieri was commissioned to build the first connection between the two banks of the Grand Canal. The bridge was built using the disused vessels and called “Ponte della Moneta”, probably because of the proximity of the Venetian Mint. After the development of the Rialto district, where it was moved the market, it became necessary to give more stability to the construction, because of the large traffic. So in 1250 the boats were replaced by a more solid wood structure. The bridge had a movable central section, that was raised to allow the passage of the highest boats. Following these works, the “Ponte della Moneta” became the “Rialto Bridge”, thus indicating the direction to take to enter into the market. But the wooden structure, required a meticulous maintenance. To support the costs of the works were built two rows of shops along the banks, and the profits were used for the Rialto Bridge. In 1310 the fire made by Bajamonte Tiepolo men created several doubts on the material used for construction. After 1444 and two collapses of the bridge people began to evaluate several projects which included the construction of a stone bridge.
The current bridge was completed in 1591, designed by Antonio da Ponte ( “ponte” in Italian means “Bridge” so who better than him!). After the Venetian authorities had rejected proposals by famous architects such as Sansovino and Vignola. The new Rialto Bridge is not far from the former wooden structure with two ramps and a central section, all covered by an elegant portico. There were many controversy in the construction by some architects who considered it dangerous. The Rialto Bridge, however, has survived many the centuries and today looks like the majestic example of Venetian architecture.
Il Ponte dell’Accademia - The Accademia Bridge
Because of the growing popularity of Venice , people understood they had to increase the connections between the two banks of the Grand Canal. In 1854 it was inaugurated the new passage, called Ponte dell’Accademia. The new bridge was made completely of iron, but the proximity to water and high humidity, underlined soon the unhappy choice of material. A competition was held for the construction of new public work, but the ambitious winning project was never realized. In its place it was built by engineer Eugenio Mozzi an anonymous wooden bridge, opened in 1933. The structure visible today is virtually the original, to which were added various metal parts, to improve its stability. It is certainly one of the most beautiful bridges of Venice, but the view that you can appreciate is really very impressive: the Grand Canal is admired for several kilometres and on its banks you can watch itscolored buildings with the sky as background and the Dome of the beautiful Church of Santa Maria della Salute.
Il Ponte degli Scalzi – The Scalzi Bridge
The “Ponte degliScalzi” is the first land connection that you meet when you come into town from the station. A few years after the construction of the “Academy” Bridge, it was decided the construction of the third land connection between the two banks of the Grand Canal. The “Scalzi Bridge” was built in 1858 to facilitate the connection with the train station, commissioned by the recently Habsburg . Known also with the name of “the Station Bridge,” had a significant renovation in 1934, when it was replaced by a new one built in Istrian stone, widely used materials in Venice, by engineer Eugenio Mozzi, who built also the “Accademia Bridge”. The railing supported by low columns, in Istria stone, gives to the bridge a royal and elegant aspect well harmonized with the surrounding landscape.
Other bridges, other stories
Many other bridges will allow you to walk around, looking at the Venice canals and beautiful buildings from different angles, but they will also tell you the story of the city and the transformations that, over the centuries, it had. For example the “Freedom Bridge” which connect Venice to the mainland and was designed by engineer Miozzi in 1931. Opened in 1933 by Benito Mussolini as the “Littorio Bridge” it allowed, for the first time in history, to reach Venice by car, connecting it to the mainland. After the end of World War II, the bridge was renamed “Freedom Bridge” in honor of the liberation from the Nazis. Other bridges tell about customs of Venetian society. The “Bridge of Pungi” for example on which the inhabitants of the factions of St. Peter and St. Nicholas of Mendicoli used to fight . The team with more men on the bridge was the winner . The “Ponte delleTette”, however, placed in Carampane area, a real red light district back in time, so called because of prostitutes looking out from their apartments, showed their breasts to potential customers on the bridge.
Ponte dei Sospiri – Bridge of Sighs
Another bridge that represent a tradition is the Bridge of Sighs. It connects Palazzo Ducale to the PrigioniNove. The legend tells that the indicted people, once convicted, had to cross the bridge to go to jail, and from that point they used to sigh looking at Venice. Today couples from around the world use to kiss and they think that the bridge is the one of lovers…