Rialto bridge and its fascinating history


Rialto bridge was the first one built on the Grand Canal and it is the most famous bridge of the city. Why?

It all began with the foundation of Venice. The first settlements took place in this very area that was called Rivoalto, literally high land. With the development of the city, Rivoalto became the headquarter of the political and commercial life. The area was full of markets, storehouses, shops of jewels, precious fabrics, spices and so on. At that time people used a boat, called “traghetto”, to cross the Grand Canal. They had to pay a toll for this service; they built the first bridge in this location in 1180 and it was called the “toll bridge” because people still had to pay in order to cross it.

The bridge was made with boats that were connected together with some wooden tables and in the middle it was a drawbridge, in order to allow big boats to pass underneath it. They completely rebuilt it in 1255, with wood, piles as foundations, the drawbridge in the middle and with shops on both sides. People started calling it the Rialto bridge, from the contraction of the area’s name Rivoalto.

Tiepolo’s conspirancy

This bridge will remain unaltered until 1310, this year sadly became famous because of the conspiracy of Bajamonte Tiepolo: some Venetian aristocrats organized it as they wanted to rebel against the Doge.

Their plan was to attack the Doge’s palace (headquarter of the government) and to kill the Doge but it failed: the army of the Doge discovered the conspirators and forced them to retire. They crossed Rialto bridge during their escape and, in order to stop the army that was after them, they set the wooden bridge on fire. The army caught all the members of the conspiracy and exiled them from Venice; they condemned the leaders to death and repaired the Rialto bridge.

The bridge was then able to survive until 1444 when Venice hosted the wedding of the marquis of Ferrara; they set a beautiful parade of boats on the Grand Canal and everybody wanted to see the bride. A lot of people gathered on the bridge to see the parade… so many that the bridge collapsed! Luckily there were no victims, except for the bridge


Antonio da Ponte

They rebuilt the bridge with wood in 1450 but still, it wasn’t so stable, so the Republic of Venice finally thought: why don’t we built a bridge made of stone, that maybe will be stronger than wood?

They announced a contest to choose the architect that would have been in charge of the entire project. There were different participants, a lot of them were great names of Italian architecture such as Palladio, Michelangelo and Sansovino.

The winner was Antonio da Ponte (it’s ironic that its surname actually means bridge in Italian) who proposed the best solution to all the requests of the Republic. They completed the bridge in 1591, they made it with Istrian stone and based it on 12000 wooden poles; the arch measures 28 meters and there are 24 shops (12 per side).


Rialto bridge is divided in three lanes: the central lane is 10 meters wide and with bigger steps; the two lanes on the sides are 3 meters wide. Here the steps are lower and smaller in order to facilitate the transit of men with carts that transport and deliver goods all over Venice. To built this bridge the Republic of Venice spent 250,000 ducats. That means 10 times the price that they paid for the previous wooden bridge.

Today you can admire the bridge in all its magnificence because they recently restored it. It is also one of the most photographed sites of Venice and a must-see for all visitors. Come and discover more curiosities and legends about Rialto bridge and the area nearby during one of our tours! We have plenty of stories to share with you!


The best 10 churches in Venice


The best 10 churches in Venice

There are 137 churches in Venice, they can be considered as museums of the city because they contain works of the greatest artist, were designed by the main architects, reflect all the different architectural styles that affected buildings in Venice over the centuries.

churches you must see in Venice

Some of them have mysterious legends, myths about their foundation, secrets hidden inside their paintings and statues…come and discover them during our tours! In the meantime, here’s our top 10 churches that you can see in Venice:

Saint Mark's basilica

This is the most famous church of the city. The construction started in 828 but the works to add magnificence to this church will last a few centuries more. The Basilica today reflects different styles: Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance; it’s a treasure chest of all the most important facts and victories of Venice. The marbles, the gold imported from the East, all the statues and columns brought back as spoils of war, they all contributed to create the gorgeous Basilica that became one of the symbols of the city. Visit the inside, with its 4,000 square meters of mosaics, it will be an astonishing experience! You will learn more about the church during our paid tour of Saint Mark Square. Entrance: FREE. Inside specific sites a ticket is required: Saint Mark’s Treasure, Golden Pall, Museum on the first floor.

Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: or simply Basilica dei Frari. Frari in Venetian dialect means friars; the church in fact was built by Franciscan Friars in 1250. That’s why from the outside the style looks pretty simple: Italian Gothic style with red bricks and few decorations, to respect the rules of the Franciscan order, based on poverty and simplicity. But on the inside this church is an authentic jewel: it contains artworks of Titian (Pesaro Madonna and Assumption of the Virgin), Giovanni Bellini, Bartolomeo Vivarini and Donatello. Titian is buried here, his grave is in front of the funeral monument of another great artist: Antonio Canova. Entrance: 3 €

Santa Maria della Salute

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, also known as the Salute: the most beloved by Venetians. This Basilica was built as a vow after the plague that struck Venice in 1630. Designed by the architect Baldassare Longhena, it was completed in 1687, today with its beautiful Baroque style it dominates the final part of the Gran Canal. You will learn more about the church during our free tour in the Southern part of Venice. Entrance: FREE.

Mary of Miracles Church

Chiesa dei Miracoli: a hidden treasure in the middle of Venetian alleys. This church was built between 1481 and 1489 to host a painting of the Virgin Mary that was considered responsible of some miracles, it’s a masterpiece of Renaissance style, decorated with precious marbles and stones. Today it’s the favorite church for weddings: all brides want to get married inside this church because of the gorgeous pictures they can take there… but the waiting list is very long, you need to book the church at least two years in advance! You will learn more about the church during our free tour in the Northern part of Venice. Entrance: 3€

the Jesuits

Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta or dei Gesuiti: located in Cannaregio district, this church was built by the religious order of the Gesuits during the 18th century. The inside is really astonishing, ceiling and paving are decorated with baroque style with green and white marbles, the altar is the masterpiece of the church. Inside there are paintings of Titian, Tintoretto and Palma il Giovane. A lot of visitors miss this church because of its location. You will learn more about the church during our free tour in the Northern part of Venice. Entrance: 1€

San Zanipolo

Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo: the biggest church in Venice, this church is also called “the Venetian Pantheon” because inside there are the graves of some heroes of the Republic of Venice: soldiers and commanders, Doges and other important members of Venice society. If you are interested in the history of the city and want to know more about it, this is a good place to start! The campo in front of the church is one of the most beautiful in Venice! Entrance: 3 €


Madonna dell'orto

Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto: another jewel of Cannaregio district, built during the 14th century and originally dedicated to Saint Cristopher. There is a legend that explains why the name of the church was then changed into “Madonna dell’Orto”, literally “Virgin of the garden”, discover it during our tours! This church contains a lot of paintings made by the great painter Tintoretto who lived nearby and this was his favorite church in Venice. His grave is inside the church, close to the main altar. Entrance: 3€

San Pantalon

Chiesa di San Pantalon: this church is very simple from the outside, the facade is still incomplete, but on the inside there is a surprise: it contains the biggest canvas in the world. A huge ceiling painting represents the history of the martyrdom of Saint Pantalon, made by Giovanni Antonio Fumiani who painted it from 1680 to 1704. Entrance: FREE

Santa Maria del Giglio

Chiesa di Santa Maria del Giglio: first built in the 10th century and then rebuilt in the 17th century, it was financed by the noble Antonio Barbaro, he is represented together with his brothers on the facade of the church. There you can also see six columns, their bases are decorated with the maps of the six cities where Antonio worked during his life. Inside the church there is only painting in Venice made by the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Entrance: 3€

San Simeone Piccolo

Chiesa di San Simeone Piccolo: with its green dome, this church will be the first thing that you see when you arrive in Venice from either the bus or the train station. The church is very simple, but we recommend that you ask the custodian to visit the crypt. The crypt of this church is a unique example in Venice, with a small candle you can walk around the small tunnels and see the old frescoes on the walls…an experience that you won’t forget! Entrance: FREE, to visit the crypt the entrance will cost 3€.

If you are interested in visiting many churches, you can buy the Chorus pass: it’s a ticket that will give you access to 18 churches. The pass costs 12€ for adults (8€ for students) and you can buy it inside the churches, at the tourist information offices or online.