Wi­th its mar­ke­ts, ‘oste­rie’ and ar­ti­sa­nal ‘bot­te­ghe’, the an­cient and pic­tu­re­sque nei­gh­bou­rhood of Rial­to re­veals one of the mo­st authentic si­des of Venice.

Where Venice - - News - BY SI­MO­NA P.K. DAVIDDI

The mo­nu­men­tal Rial­to Brid­ge and its sur­roun­dings.

A MO­NU­MEN­TAL LAND­MARK. Rial­to Brid­ge is one of the mo­st fa­mous and wi­de­ly pho­to­gra­phed land­marks of Venice. Not on­ly the un­di­spu­ted icon of post­cards and 'sei­nes', but al­so the ol­de­st brid­ge in the ci­ty (un­til 1854 it was the on­ly means of cros­sing the Grand Ca­nal on foot). Lo­ca­ted in the pic­tu­re­sque Rial­to nei­gh­bou­rhood, it is a hea­dy mix of shops, ea­te­ries and ar­chi­tec­tu­re, whe­re the days are mar­ked by the cries of the ven­dors of its fa­mous, bu­stling mar­ket and by the co­mings and goings of Ve­ne­tians and tou­rists who are ei­ther in search of a tra­di­tio­nal 'oste­ria'or'ba­ca­ro'for an tom­bra de vin'or a 'ci­che­to', or loo­king to ma­ke a pur­cha­se from one of the in­nu­me­ra­ble ar­ti­sa­nal 'bot­te­ghe' that li­ne itsi­cal­li'and tam­piel­li­tand flank bo­th si­des of the brid­ge. FROM HISTORY TO LE­GEND. The history of this ico­nic brid­ge dates back to the year 1000 when it was built as a pon­toon brid­ge at the ca­nal's nar­ro­we­st point. Due to in­crea­sed traf­fic it was re­pla­ced wi­th a woo­den brid­ge in 1181, kno­wn as the'Pon­te del­la Mo­ne­ta' bo­th due to the toll that peo­ple had to pay when cros­sing it and be­cau­se the ci­ty's mint was lo­ca­ted at its ea­stern­mo­st end. In 1250, its woo­den pi­les we­re re­pla­ced by a mo­bi­le struc­tu­re, a sort of dra­w­brid­ge that al­lo­wed lar­ger craft to sail un­der it, and its na­me was chan­ged to the Rial­to brid­ge, pos­si­bly due to its as­so­cia­tion wi­th the near­by di­strict of Ri­val­to, or'hi­gh bank A dark pe­riod fol­lo­wed. In fact, du­ring this ti­me, the brid­ge col­lap­sed and was da­ma­ged se­ve­ral ti­mes. One su­ch epi­so­de oc­cur­red in 1444 when the brid­ge col­lap­sed un­der the weight of the cro­wd whi­ch had ga­the­red to wit­ness the mar­ria­ge pro­ces­sion of the Mar­qui­se of Fer­ra­ra. It was on­ly in 1588 that the Se­na­te of the Se­re­nis­si­ma de­ci­ded to an­noun­ce a com­pe­ti­tion to fi­nal­ly re­build a sto­ne brid­ge. Nu­me­rous re­no­w­ned ar­chi­tec­ts sub­mit­ted their pro­jec­ts, in­clu­ding San­so­vi­no, Vi­gno­la and Pal­la­dio (who ac­tual­ly de­si­gned two dif­fe­rent ver­sions). Ho­we­ver the da­ring but sce­ni­cal­ly im­pact-ma­king de­si­gn sub­mit­ted by the ap­tly na­med An­to­nio da Pon­te was cho­sen. His brid­ge con­si­sted of a sin­gle 22 me­ter sto­ne ar­ch span, sup­por­ted by a broad rec­tan­gu­lar deck car­ry­ing two ar­ca­des of shops and 'bot­te­ghe' fron­ting on th­ree road­ways. Le­gend has it that da Pon­te was vi­si­ted by Sa­tan him­self who, in ex­chan­ge for his help, asked the ar­chi­tect to pled­ge the soul of the fir­st per­son cros­sing the brid­ge to him. The ar­chi­tect thought that he would trick Sa­tan by ha­ving a cock cross the brid­ge for the fir­st ti­me. Ho­we­ver, on lear­ning about this de­cep­tion, Sa­tan vin­di­ca­ted him­self by tric­king da Pon­te's pre­gnant wi­fe in­to cros­sing the brid­ge. Her child was still­born, and ac­cor­ding to le­gend, its soul wan­de­red ha­ples­sly, for years, on the Rial­to brid­ge, un­til a gon­do­lier fi­nal­ly hel­ped it to cross over to the other si­de. Even the fa­mous street mar­ket boasts a sto­ried pa­st. In fact, hi­sto­ric do­cu­men­ts te­sti­fy to its pre­sen­ce way back in 1097 when it was much

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