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Home Percorsi Veneziani Quick tour The four bridges over the Grand Canal
The four bridges over the Grand Canal PDF Print E-mail
Alessandro Rizzardini / Monday, 10 January 2011 11:46

The four bridges over the Grand Canal. Four out of more than 400 in the city. But which are the Venetian bridges in truth? How many steps are there to cross them all? In stone, with spires, without parapets, old, new, very new, dedicated to the Devil and Paradise. Bridges that make you cry, bridges where you should kiss or even “red light” bridges.

Let’s begin with the last one to be built, and the first one you see when you enter Venice from Piazzale Roma. It is the Calatrava Bridge, which was dedicated to the Constitution and designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava Valls.
The Constitution Bridge has a span of 81 meters, a base width of 6 meters and central width of 9 meters, with a height of 10 meters at its top, and 94 meters long. It is a spectacular bridge built from precious materials such as glass, steel, Istria stone and bronze. It begins on the canal side in Piazzale Rome, the bus and car terminus for Venice and stretches over to the canal side of the Train Station.
An arrow flying directly to the heart of the pedestrian area, inviting you to continue on foot to S. Geremia, Rio Terà S. Leonardo, Strada Nuova, Mercerie, up to St. Mark’s Square.

calatrava The bridge of Constitution

A route that has created several problems in balancing the tourist flows in Venice, as the eastern side of Piazzale Rome, facing the Tolentini (a spectacularly cultural access to the town) has been somewhat neglected.
Our bridge is the last representation of Venetian modernity that is often hidden, often rejected, and the use and meaning of this bridge were discussed at great length.
Placing a fourth bridge between the (almost) untouchable banks of the Grand Canal was, if nothing else, a work of great cultural mediation between presumed immobility and presumed action, between sterile conservation and empty renewal, to briefly reflect the very heated arguments between the concepts of the different parties.
It was also expensive, as its cost rose considerably above the initial estimate and great focus has also been placed on the conservation of the work.
Let’s forget the Venetian “arguments” though to face the 110 steps that take us to the other side.
Some steps are in glass, frosted glass as well, and give us the impression of being suspended in air, which is accentuated by the transparent glass parapets.
The single span metal structure vibrates under the weight and the summed transparency and movement of the bridge, gives a slightly languid feeling, like the surrounding Canaletto style view with a few modern notes, which can be enjoyed from the top of the bridge.

ponte_degli_scalzi The bridge of Scalzi

After the Constitution Bridge a short walk takes us to the S. Lucia Train Station, from where we walk to the Scalzi Bridge, begun on 4 May 1932 to the design of the Brescia engineer, Eugenio Milozzi (1889-1979), and officially inaugurated only two years later on 28 October 1934.
The bridge is an elegant stone arch, and was built to replace the straight metal bridges, which were built in 1858 under the Hapsburg reign of Venice, and which were cast in Venetian foundries.
The Scalzi Bridge takes its name from the baroque Church and the convent, and it offers a wonderful view through to the first bend in the Grand Canal, next to the Church of S. Geremia and the Cannaregio Canal.
There are forty steps up and forty steps down the other side.

vittore_carpaccio_rialto_miracolo_della_reliquia The bridge of Rialto, Vettor Carpaccio, Il miracolo della reliquia, Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia

From the foot of the Scalzi Bridge, we can follow a maze of alleys and squares (San Zandegolà, S. Maria Mater Domini, S. Cassiano, to name just a few) to reach the Rialto Bridge, passing through a part of Venice which is perhaps less famous but full of artistic features and bustling everyday life.
Initially Rialto was just a bridge formed of boats placed alongside each other (the first in 1181 built by Nicolò Barattieri, was called the Moneta) then since 1250 a safer, better built wooden bridge directly linked the two canal sides.
It was a technologically advanced bridge for its time, with swinging ramps that opened in the centre to allow tall masted ships to pass through.

This bridge can be admired in the large painting by Carpaccio “The miracle of the true Cross” in the Academia Gallery. The bridge was damaged and completely rebuilt several times in the more than two and a half centuries of its life.
During the Renaissance period, the decision was taken to get rid of all this temporary work, and a tender was announced for a stone bridge, which the greatest artists and architects of the period responded to, and Maestro Andrea Palladio’s, from Vicenza, project was very expressive and very daring for the time, in the neo-classic style.

palladio_rialto The project of the bridge of Rialto by Andrea Palladio

Surprisingly perhaps, the project by Antonio Da Ponte (Ponte Capriasca 1515c. – Venice 1597) won. The construction was completed in 1591, with all the shops on the sides of the central section, which was a solution addressed to making the structure more stable.
The debate about the presumed instability of the bridge was often very heated, and not unlike that of today about the Constitution Bridge.

rialto The bridge of Rialto

The Rialto Bridge has 120 steps in the central section, 144 in the sides, and from there we can take a pleasant walk or a brief water bus trip to the fourth crossing bridge in our itinerary, which was “temporarily” built in wood on 15th January 1933, by Engineer Eugenio Milozzi – the Academia Bridge.
104 steps from Campo S. Stefano to the feet of the Charity Convent, the former convent that houses the famous Academy Gallery, with a wealth of masterpieces by the greatest Venetian artists from the Gothic period to late 1700.
From the top of the bridge there is one of the loveliest and most photographed views of the city, with Ca’ Rezzonico Palazzo (to the west), Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Ca’ Dario, the Salute Basilica, the Customs House and St. Mark’s basin, with a 180° panorama.

accademia The bridge of Accademia

After all these steps and a rather tiring itinerary, we can think about going back on one of the water buses that stops at Academia. Or we can continue on foot, but observing the various names and the stories that the Venetian bridges tell us.
There are some beautiful names for all tastes: Diavolo (devil), delle Guglie (spires), della Paglia (straw), dei Pugni (fists), del Paradiso (paradise), dei Sospiri (sighs), delle Tette (tits), delle Muneghe (carts), delle Rasse (?).
Back to our introduction now, how many steps are there on the Venice bridges?
A Guinness record answer! Bridges, names, stories, steps and mysteries, the true essence of Venice.

Last Updated on Monday, 21 November 2011 09:38

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