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 - - Contents - BY SI­MO­NA P.K. DAVIDDI

Venice is a pho­to­gra­pher's pa­ra­di­se: Whe­re® of­fers you a short gui­de that will help you capture im­pres­si­ve sho­ts to show back ho­me as a re­min­der of your un­for­get­ta­ble ex­pe­rien­ce…

Rial­to Brid­ge is one of the mo­st fa­mous and wi­de­ly pho­to­gra­phed land­marks of Venice. Not on­ly the un­di­spu­ted icon of post­cards and ‘sel­fies', 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 ‘om­bra de vin' or a ‘ci­che­to', or loo­king to ma­ke a pur­cha­se from one of the in­nu­me­ra­ble ar­ti­sa­nal ‘bot­te­ghe' that li­ne its ‘cal­li' and ‘cam­piel­li' and flank bo­th si­des of the brid­ge.


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. The da­ring but sce­ni­cal­ly im­pact-ma­king new de­si­gn (1591) sub­mit­ted by An­to­nio da Pon­te 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.


Cur­ren­tly Venice's mar­ket par ex­cel­len­ce, it is di­vi­ded in­to the Pe­sca­ria, whe­re fi­sh caught in the la­goon are sold, and the Er­ba­ria, who­se ven­dors sell on­ly the fre­she­st, seasonal fruit and ve­ge­ta­bles.

Al­thou­gh a vi­sit to this mar­ket means el­bo­wing one's way among th­rongs of Ve­ne­tian shop­pers, the mar­ket ne­ver­the­less boasts two gems of hi­sto­ric and ar­ti­stic in­te­re­st: a log­gia da­ting back to 1907 fea­tu­ring a bla­ze of ma­ri­ti­me and sym­bo­lic de­co­ra­tions, in­clu­ding a num­ber of eso­te­ric ele­men­ts that are mi­xed in with the fi­sh, lob­sters and oc­to­pi sculp­ted on the ca­pi­tals of its co­lon­na­de. Mo­re at­ten­ti­ve vi­si­tors will al­so no­ti­ce a mar­ble pla­que em­bed­ded in one of its red brick fa­ca­des, whi­ch sho­ws re­gu­la­tions set cen­tu­ries ago for mi­ni­mum al­lo­wa­ble si­zes for la­goon fi­sh.


Ho­we­ver, Rial­to al­so means shop­ping. Whi­le strolling through the ‘rio­ne's' ti­ny stree­ts or when cros­sing its brid­ge, you'll co­me across se­ve­ral unu­sual shops that are im­bued with the at­mo­sphe­re of a by­go­ne era.

The­se in­clu­de an­ti­que shops, ar­ti­sans' work­shops, old book bin­ding shops whe­re books are still bound ac­cor­ding to ti­me­ho­nou­red tra­di­tion, and jewel­ry sto­res sel­ling ori­gi­nal crea­tions ma­de from Mu­ra­no glass beads. On the other hand, tho­se in search of an ama­zing ex­pe­rien­ce, should head to the old po­st of­fi­ce whi­ch now hou­ses the re­cen­tly ope­ned T Fon­da­co dei Te­de­schi, a la­vi­sh, hi­ghend shop­ping cen­ter and a ma­gni­fi­cent feat of ar­chi­tec­tu­re that has been up­da­ted to bril­lian­tly ba­lan­ce the old with new. The buil­ding boasts a mar­ve­lous ter­ra­ce of­fe­ring vi­si­tors a 360-de­gree view over Venice.

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