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25th of March: happy 1600th birthday Venice!

25th of March: Happy birthday Venice

Every year, on March 25th, Venice celebrates its birthday! This year, like for many of us, it will be the second birthday celebrated during covid-19 lockdown! But this is a very special anniversary for Venice, the city turns 1600 years old! It’s a very important birthday! Why was Venice founded in the middle of the water? Let’s look at the most important stages in the growth of Venice!

The myth of the 25th of March

According to tradition, Venice was founded on the 25th of March 421 AD. On that day, at Noon, they positioned the first stone of the church of San Giacometo. The 25th of March is also the day of the Annunciation. Venetians entrusted themselves to the protection of the Virgin Mary, the one who was able to give birth to the Son of God and his message of salvation. Of course, the most beautiful city in the world couldn’t have humble origins!

Building on water

The first area where people started settling was the area of Rivoaltus. The name is due to the fact that it was located on an island slightly higher than the others. This is the area around the current Rialto bridge. The bridge was named after the Rivoaltus area. How come that people decided to settle and built a city in the middle of a lagoon? They had to face sand, water and mud, it wasn’t the perfect habitat for humans! You have to know that during the 5th and 6th centuries Barbarian invasions began. Italy was the scene of the ferocious raids of the barbarians and the lagoon was an ideal place to take refuge. That’s why people started escaping from the mainland and started settling in the islands of the lagoon. They had to work a lot to shape the islands and find the right technique to built resistant buildings. It is thanks to the hard work and commitment of those people that today we can admire the magnificent palaces and churches of Venice!

1600 years old

From the first settlements that started in the 6th century, the expansion of urban soil in Venice will continue for centuries. It was a long, hard and complex process. Venice overcame many challenges, some problems still require hard work and commitment! Thanks to the Mose project the city finally seems to be protected for the high tide and they are promoting new plans to encourage sustainable tourism. The city now is quiet and calm, covid-19 crisis has hit the economy of the city very hard! Venice will celebrate 1600 years with a sober party! But fingers crossed for next year! We are expecting you to come and enjoy the beauty of Venice soon with one of our tours! In the meantime…Happy Birthday Venice!

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Rialto bridge and its fascinating history

rialto-bridge

Rialto bridge

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: it 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; the first bridge in this location was then built 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. It was completely rebuilt in 1255, it was made with wood, with 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: it was organized by some Venetian aristocrats who 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 conspirators were discovered by the army of the Doge and were forced 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. All the members of the conspiracy were then caught and exiled from Venice; the leaders were condemned to death, while Rialto bridge , that had been damaged by the fire, was repaired. The bridge was then able to survive until 1444 when Venice hosted the wedding of the marquis of Ferrara; on the Grand Canal there was a beautiful parade of boats 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

It was rebuilt 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. The bridge was completed in 1591, made with Istrian stone and based on 12000 wooden poles, the arch measures 28 meters and with 24 shops (12 per side).

Rialto bridge restoration

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 it has been recently restored. 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!