Four Fun Facts About the Rialto Bridge

Venice is a city of canals. And when you’ve got canals, you’ve got bridges. The most famous Venetian bridge, of course, is the Rialto Bridge, which has a long, storied history. It’s also just stunningly gorgeous.

Rialto Bridge Venice

As I mentioned in my previous Venice post, we visited the floating city in the first week of January 2002, which resulted in thinner crowds and better views. That doesn’t mean the bridge wasn’t bustling with tourists, but it was easier to walk along and take in the different shops that lined the bridge. I was lured into a stationery shop where I bought a beautiful letter opener. From a friend’s relatively recent visit, it seems that that shop may still be there.

rialto bridge shopping

While looking up some of the bridge’s history, I came across various facts and trivia bits that I thought were pretty interesting and thought I’d share them. So here goes, four fun facts about the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

Age and Beauty

The Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The earliest form of bridge in that spot was built in 1181, although it was only a floating pontoon bridge.

Ups and Downs

By 1255, as the Rialto Market grew in importance, a more permanent wooden bridge was built. Unfortunately, over the centuries, it had its ups and downs, having to be rebuilt from time to time. It was partially burned during a revolt in 1310. It also collapsed a couple of times. In 1444, a wedding was being held for the Marquis Ferrara. As the wedding crowd took to the bridge to watch a passing boat parade, the bridge collapsed. It was rebuilt, but collapsed once again in 1524.

Marble and Michelangelo

Building the bridge in stone had been discussed as early as 1503, but it took most of the century to finally decide on a plan. Even some great artists and architects like Palladio and Michelangelo submitted ideas, but the final winner was Antonio da Ponte, who finally finished construction in 1591 after working on it for three years. The marble bridge follows the original wooden design fairly closely, with two inclined ramps leading up to a central portico. It’s single span arch and marble material had people placing bets on it collapsing, but it’s still standing!

Family Connections

Probably the second most famous bridge in Venice is the Bridge of Sighs, which¬† connected the prison to the interrogation room in the Doge’s palace. The designer of the Bridge of Sighs was Antonio Contino, who was the nephew of Antonio da Ponte, the designer of the Rialto Bridge.

Bonus Silliness

The Rialto was built across the narrowest stretch of the Grand Canal. It ended up connecting the districts of San Marco and San Polo. Marco and Polo. Marco Polo. Venetian explorer and the name of a popular water tag game. No one knows the origins of the name of the water tag game. Me? I like to imagine people in the two districts standing at each end of the bridge, shouting out their district’s name in a show of civic pride. Which district is better? Marco! Polo! Perhaps add in a bit of drunken rowdiness and someone ends up falling into the canal, still shouting their district’s name.

Rialto Bridge Venice

Rialto Bridge Venice Venezia single arch bridge

I particularly like the couple in the photo above seated on the steps down by the canal.

romantic couple rialto bridge venice

And one last view from the back of the shops on the bridge …

behind rialto bridge venice venezia shopping

 

The Gondolas of Venice

On a hot summer day, what better way to cool off than to revisit some old photos of the Venice gondolas one bright winter morning.

Well, I can think of plenty of more effective ways of cooling off, but they don’t make for interesting blog posts about Italy.

So yes, it’s been pretty warm recently, and despite my Florida heritage, this flamingo does not like the heat. The animals and I are slowly melting. Even my cats who love the heat are looking a bit more limp and lethargic. We do have a portable air conditioner, which helps a little, but on days like today when it’s 35C/95F, there’s only so much it can do.

venice venezia harbor st marks gondolas

Since this blog is about Italy, not just Bologna, and because I haven’t been out much to explore due to the heat and work, I thought I’d go through some of my old photos taken during my one day-trip to Venice one January many years ago. We happened to be there on an actual holiday, so we lucked out even more with the smaller crowds. On the downside, being a holiday, the restaurant we wanted to go to wasn’t open. Still, Venice in the off season is absolutely worth a visit and it’s a relatively short train ride from Bologna.

I joke that it’s nearly impossible to take bad photos in Venice and going through my many many photos taken that day, I’m really surprised by how many turned out well, even with my old point-and-shoot film camera I was using. I must have gone through quite a few rolls of film, though! But how can you not with such beautiful scenery everywhere you look.

The architecture of Venice was a huge draw for me, but I also found myself photographing the boats moored up or floating by. And of course I couldn’t resist taking photos of the famous gondolas of Venice! We didn’t ride one — it seemed extra touristy and probably pretty cold that close to the water in early January — but I loved getting some of the photos that day. There’s one with a rainbow reflection off the water that is one of my favorites.

So here are a handful of gondola photos from my visit to Venice. Have you been? Did you take a gondola ride? Is it hell on earth during the summer season with all of the tourists?

venetian gondolas venice

venice gondolas venezia rainbow reflection

venice gondola venezia

venice gondola canal boats

venice gondolas venezia

And a few gondoliers hanging out …

venice gondoliers gondolas venezia

 

Bologna Cycling: Not Necessarily for Novices

Cycling in Bologna is being taken more seriously than in decades past as there are now more cycling paths, not to mention the Dynamo Velostazione, where you can rent, store, and repair all sorts of bikes, particularly helpful if part of your commute is by train. But that doesn’t mean Bologna cycling is a piece of cake. While out the other day, I saw a couple of instances where Bologna cycling looked more like an introduction to extreme sports.

cycling in bologna cycling bicycles

First off was the combination walking and cycling path next to a relatively busy road. These are fairly common in the Netherlands in park areas and large bridges, though not so common along regular roads, where the bicycles tend to have their own lane and pedestrians have a full sidewalk. Here in Bologna I’ve seen a few of these combo paths where the pedestrians are farthest from the street and the cyclists are next to the street. They’re essentially normal sidewalks that have been divided to serve double duty. The result is that the cycle path is often unbelievably narrow. Yet people do use them.

cycling in bologna

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling italy shared path

In another instance, the cyclists do finally have their own segregated lanes away from traffic, though what would typically be one lane in the Netherlands is two lanes here, for cycle traffic in both directions. Challenging, but not that bad, as the bike traffic isn’t heavy. The real challenge in one spot comes from the lamp poles. This is not a one-off, either. They tend to ignore obstacles that might impede bicycles. Think of it as a good reason not to text and bike; you definitely need to be paying attention!

cycling in bologna cycling bike path

I do see people cycling around town almost every time I’m out, although nowhere near the volume that I saw in the Netherlands, of course. There is obviously interest, and people willing to use whatever infrastructure there is. As the old Kevin Costner film said, “If you build it, they will come.” If Bologna continues to make more of an effort in creating truly useful, cycle-friendly infrastructure that is consistent — another key issue — I think you could find even more people cycling. There’s certainly no shortage of bike shops in the city center. I can think of three or four just in my immediate neighborhood. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to see some effort.

cycling in bologna cycling bike rack

At Bologna Bus Station. Next Stop Marrakech.

It’s pretty impressive the places you can get to from the Bologna bus station. When we moved here, we drove from Utrecht to Bologna, splitting the ride into two days, particularly as we were traveling with two cats and a dog that gets carsick. The second day felt particularly long thanks to some less-than-ideal driving conditions in Switzerland and a stationary traffic jam due to an accident outside Milan. But it could have been worse. It could have been a bus ride from Bologna to Marrakech. According to Google, in a regular car, that’s a 29 hour drive covering almost 3000 km or around 1800 miles.

bologna bus station marrakech

It might not sound enjoyable, but it is a travel option. We walk through the Bologna bus station occasionally since it’s behind the park where we take Charlie and an easy way to get to Dynamo, where The Garage urban market is held. It’s always interesting to see some of the destinations available. Some are obvious enough, such as Rome, but others are much more far flung and I can’t help but feel for the people having to endure some of the rides that obviously take days. In a bus. Although there’s probably a bit more room than in most of today’s economy-class planes.

Yet for all the tedium involved, there’s still something of a thrill at the thought of hopping on a bus for some far-off land. Would you go?

Bologna bus station

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