“La salizzada Pio X” leads to the foot of the Rialto bridge, one of the most famous in the city, which spans the Grand Canal at it’s narrowest point. Finished in the nineteenth century, it creates a unique pedestrian path to connect two parts of the city. It’s origins date back to the use of a pontoon bridge in 1181, but because of increasing commercial traffic, something more permanent was needed. The first structure was made of wood, and later rebuilt in stone between 1588 and 1591, as a project under the direction of Antonio Da Ponte. Da Ponte was chosen from a competition held between the famous architects of the period (Sansovino, Palladio, Michelangelo, Vignola, Scamozzi, Boldu and Da Ponte). Da Ponte designed an imposing, single span structure with two inclined ramps leading to a central arch…somewhat similar to the old wooden bridge. The arch measures 28 meters long and 7.50 meters high. The bridge is divided into three pedestrian routes with rows of shops along either side of the portico connected by a central arch. (on the flanks, bas-reliefs from the end of the 16th century: announcing Archangel Gabriel by Agostino Rubini; and S. Marco and S. Teodoro by Tiziano Aspetti). By changing the axis of the bridge, the city managed to connect two central business districts on either side of the canal…one around S. Bartolomeo and the other around the market as well as the line of jewelers on the bridge itself. There were considerable technical problems due to the weight of the heavy arches, and subsequently, they were reinforced by 6,000 piles under every bridgehead.
Despite the cries of critics saying the bridge was top-heavy, ungraceful and ugly, the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto bridge) has overcome its questionable history to achieve iconic status in a city well known for incredible sights. For centuries, the Rialto Bridge in Venice was the only of its kind to cross the Grand Canal, thus cementing its place as a defining structure during the rise of the city to a world power. Nowadays it stands alongside St. Mark's square as a top Venice attraction, ferrying most every tourist in the city across its stony backside. The history of the Rialto Bridge began in 1181, when it was merely a series of floating pontoons. Located on the eastern bank of the canal, the Rialto market was one of the main centers for trade in the city, and eventually the number of footsteps across the pontoons wore it down. A wooden bridge dutifully replaced it in 1250. This was only the beginning of the bridge's tenuous history, however, as the Ponte di Rialto burned during a revolution in 1310, before collapsing twice, once in 1444, and again in 1524. Finally, the city decided to rebuild the bridge with stone, finishing in 1591. Even then, one of the leading architects of Venice predicted it was only a matter of time before the stones of the newly constructed Ponte di Rialto crumbled into the Grand Canal. He likened this top Venice attraction to an accident waiting to happen.