. . . what you call . . . Shylock's bridge with houses on it, where they kept the carnival- Robert Browning 'A Toccata of Galuppi's' (1855)
Shylock's bridge is the Rialto Bridge, Ponte di Rialto to the Italians. It was the first and therefore is the oldest of Venice's bridges that cross the Grand Canal. The bridge that is used today replaced a boat bridge and three wooden foot bridges in 1591 and remained the only way to walk across the canal until the Accademia was built 263 years later. Like most of Venice's bridges big and small it is an arched bridge designed to allow the passage of galleys, much smaller boats on the smaller canals of course. The architect, who beat out the likes of Michelangelo and Palladio for the honour, became known as, appropriately enough, Antonio da Ponte, or 'Anthony of the Bridge'.
The bridge is pretty big for a footbridge. It has a walkway on each side along the inside of the balustrades and a wider pathway through the middle with an almost uninterupted threadlike row of narrow shops in the arches lining the steps both up and down. At the top is a taller arch open to each side to allow access to the outside paths and the view.
Here we are on the steps at night. Notice my clenched fists? It was very cold!
On the picture below you can see an embellishment. The bridge has, on one side the Virgin and an angel with the Holy Ghost in the middle and on the other side the two Saints, Mark and Teodoro. I am guessing this is one of the Saints although I'm not sure which.
Many people it seems think the bridge is a bit overrated as an 'attraction' with it's dirt and graffiti, hordes of tourists and tourist orientated shops and market stalls and it is all that (although a lot less tourists when we were there) but I think for the views alone it is worth the climb.
This is looking towards all the eateries that can claim a bridge view, for a small surcharge of course.
And this is looking in the other direction.
We visited the bridge a few times in the two full days we were in Venice during the day and at night and even bought some Murano earrings and a couple of pairs of cufflinks from the shops on the steps and Mac bought a harlequin mask from one of the stalls at the bottom of the steps for about the same as we'd seen them everywhere else.
Not far from the Rialto Bridge is the Rialto Market the reason for the present permanent location of the bridge.
The Rialto area has been settled since the 9th century but it's significance was secured when the market moved there in 1097. The market grew and warehouses were built, shops selling upmarket goods, banks and insurance agents and even the city's abattoir.
Even Venice's tax office moved to be where all the action was. In 1514 a huge fire destroyed all but the San Giacomo di Rialto church.
This is the fishy part of the market, campo della pescheria, strewn with ice still even though it is late in the afternoon.
But still stalls around and about selling fresh fish for the Christmas table.
Artichokes at the erberia, the greengrocers.
Never one to shy away from potential communication difficulties here is J buying some fresh fruit for the train ride to Rome the next day.