Perhaps, the most beautiful of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal is the Rialto Bridge. The Rialto Bridge isn’t only the most beautiful bridge, it is also the first and the oldest bridge connecting the banks of the Grand Canal.
The Rialto Bridge was designed by the architect Antonio da Ponte in 1588, and for 266 years, until 1854, it was the only bridge over the Grand Canal. The bridge was built in the narrowest place of the Canal. For the purpose there were used several thousand piles hammered in the bottom of the lagoon.
The Rialto Bridge has got its name from the market of the same name located in the immediate vicinity of the bridge. Actually, the first bridge appeared there in 11 century, and since then its structure was changed several times.
Today the Rialto Bridge has only one arch of 28 meters long and 7.5 meters high. Since the time of its construction there were shops on both sides of the bridge, and for centuries the Rialto Bridge itself and the nearby market were the center of brisk trade.
Generally, bridges with shops along of them were widely spread in the Middle Ages, but only few such bridges survived until our time, for example, the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) in Florence or the Pulteney Bridge at Bath (England).