The Grand Canal has only four bridges along its entire length: the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’ Accademia, the Ponte di Costituzione and the Ponti di Rialto.
1. PONTE DEGLI SCALZI (Bridge of the Barefoot or Discalced Monks), is one of only four bridges in Venice to span the Grand Canal
The bridge connects the districts of Cannaregio to the north and Santa Croce to the south.
On the Cannaregio side at the foot of the bridge, is the Chiesa degli Scalzi (Church of the Barefoot or Discalced Monks); with its fine baroque façade, newly restored. Nearby to the west, is the Santa Lucia Railway Station (Ferrovia); which is the closest water-bus stop. To the south in Santa Croce, the Bus Station (Piazzale Roma), is close by to the west.
It was designed by Eugenio Miozzi, constructed of white stone in a single arch. Finished in 1934, it replaced an Austrian built iron bridge. It clearly borrows the main characteristics of the Rialto bridge, except for the shopping arcades. In this period of political transformation, the design was chosen to replace the old rectilinear iron bridge. All the iron bridges in Venice had been built by Austrians.
2. PONTE DELL’ ACCADEMIA (Academy Bridge), is one of only four bridges in Venice to span the Grand Canal.
It crosses near the southern end of the Grand Canal, and is named after the famous Accademia galleries. The view East, towards the southern entrance of the Grand Canal and the Basin di San Marco, is one of the great classic views of Venice; captured by artists and photographers.
The bridge is located in the final loop of the S-shaped Grand Canal, just before the canal feeds into St. Mark’s Basin. It connects the districts of San Marco with Dorsoduro. It is convenient if you are walking from the Piazza San Marco to the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, or the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
The original Accademia Bridge was built in 1854, when the city inaugurated a steel bridge designed by English architect A.E. Neville (who also designed the original Ponte degli Scalzi, near to the Santa Lucia Railway Station).
The original steel structure, deteriorated into a dangerous condition and was demolished. It was replaced by a wooden bridge in the 1930’s; despite widespread hopes for grander one in stone.
in 1985, the wooden structure was again demolished and replaced by the present bridge, which is identical in construction.
You can see the Accademia water-bus station on the Dorsoduro side of the bridge, with the Accademia art gallery, just behind.
Beneath the entrance to the bridge on the Accademia side of the canal, are attended public pay toilets.
Today, there is speculation over a new plan for a modern replacement for the Accademia Bridge, but there is significant public opposition; due to cost overrun and design deficiencies of the new Ponte di Calatrava bridge, crossing the Grand Canal near to the Ferrovia.
3. PONTE DELLA COSTITUZIONE (Constitution Bridge), is one of only four bridges over the Grand Canal and the latest to be built.
It connects the Santa Lucia train station with the Piazzale Roma parking and the Tronchetto port area; increasing convenience and accessibility for both workers and visitors. The closet water-bus stop is Piazzale Roma in Santa Croce.
In June 1999, the Municipality of Venice drafted a preliminary plan for a fourth bridge over the Grand Canal. Using a public selection process, they commissioned Santiago Calatrava in November 1999, to design the new bridge. Calatrava’s response was an arched bridge with a large radius which was designed to be constructed off-site and installed entirely from the canal. The bridge is situated at a strategic point, connecting the railway station (Stazione Santa Lucia), on the north with the Piazzale Roma (the city’s arrival point by road), on the south side of the Grand Canal. The bridge is important both functionally and symbolically; connecting arriving visitors to the city and welcoming them to Venice with a panoramic view of the Grand Canal.
It was moved into place by a large barge in 2007 and installed finally in 2008. Originally known as the Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande, the official name Ponte della Constituzione; was adopted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Italian Constitution in the same year.
Calatrava design was for an arched truss bridge with a 180 metre radius. The stairway on the bridge is constructed in Istrian stone alternating with tempered glass and illuminated from below by fluorescent lights. The parapet is also glass, with a bronze handrail and concealed lighting. The internal structure can be appreciated by looking at a cross-section of the bridge, exhibited outside at the waterfront; located between the Railway Directorate Headquarters and the Santa Lucia railway station. After fabrication, the bridge was moved into place by a large barge in July 2007.
The bridge received much criticism over inauguration delays. Since opening, many areas of criticism have been widely expressed; difficulty of use for the elderly due to steepness of curvature and the lack of wheelchair access. Also, its modernist-minimalist style thought by many to be incompatible with Venice’s traditional decorative architectural styles and finally its very reason to exist!
The official budget for the project was €6.7 million, but actual costs have escalated significantly, especially in dealing with the bridges functional criticisms mentioned above.
The placement of a new bridge a short distance from the existing Ponte degli Scalzi bridge, has proven controversial; since the distances between Scalzi and Rialto Bridges or between the Rialto and Ponte dell’Accademia bridges are much longer and crossing is limited to water-bus or traghetto points.
Another dissatisfaction is that there is also no permanent connection between Venice and the well-populated Giudecca island, although a tunnel has been proposed at not much greater cost than a bridge; promising better access for tourists and residents.
4. PONTI DI RIALTO (Rialto Bridge), is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal.
The Rialto Bridge links San Marco (the administrative and religious centre) to the San Polo district (the financial and commercial centre) of Venice. It is a central point both within Venice and along the Grand Canal. Conveniently, the Rialto water-bus stop is alongside and the bridge is easily accessible on foot from much of Venice. Wherever you go, you will see signs directing you to the Rialto.
The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. It was called the Ponte della Moneta, presumably because of the Mint that stood near its eastern entrance.
The development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank increased traffic on the floating bridge, so it was replaced in 1255 by a wooden bridge. This structure had two inclined ramps meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of taller boats.
The connection with the market eventually led to a change of name for the bridge. During the first half of the 15th century two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge. The rents brought an income to the State Treasury, which helped maintain the bridge.
Maintenance was vital for the timber bridge. It was partly burnt in the revolt led by Tiepolo in 1310. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade and again in 1524.
The idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed in 1503 and in 1551, the authorities tendered proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge. Plans were submitted by famous architects, including Sansovino, Palladio and Vignola. All involved a classical approach with several arches; which after much consideration was judged to be inappropriate to the setting.
Antonio da Ponte’s design submission was successful and was finally completed in 1591. It is remarkably similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded.
The bridge has a single span and is supported at either end by thousands of buried wooden piles. It is surmounted by a double external row of small arched shops, crowned with larger central arches; allowing pedestrians to pass from the central shopping lane, to the panoramic external steps. The bridge is decorated with stone reliefs towards the base. On one side is the scene of the Annunciation and on the other are Venice’s two patron saints, St. Mark and St. Theodore.
The engineering of the bridge was considered so audacious, that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted future ruin. The bridge has defied its critics to become today one of the architectural icons of Venice.
————-The Grand Canal and its Four Bridges————