I still can’t quite get over how beautiful the light was in Venice, how it softly flowed from between its dilapidated buildings, in between its battered alleyways, how it reflected gently over the water of its canals and the glass of the windows that dotted the shabby façades. And Venice really is shabby, but proudly so, relishing in its faded buildings, in its narrow canals littered with old, unkempt boats, and the streets soaked in darkness when night falls over the city. It is, as I’ve said, picturesque, each corner an ancient painting, the theatrical set of an old play, a fragment of inspiration waiting to be captured or admired by a passerby…
Once known as the Canałasso, the Grand Canal of Venice is one of the city’s major waterways. It is 3.8km (2.4mi) long, with an average depth of about 5 meters (16 feet). The canal is lined with more than 170 buildings, most of them dating from the 13th-18th centuries, a veritable contest by the most affluent citizens to show off their wealth and civic pride. The Fondaco dei Turchi, for example, which houses the Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia, is situated right on the Grand Canal.
It is likely that the canal follows the course of an ancient river that once flowed into the lagoon, and it is believed that it was once much wider and flowed between small islands connected by wooden bridges.
Several local events take place along the Grand Canal, including the Historical Regatta, a competition between Venetian boats as spectators watch from the banks or floating stands. Until the 19th century, only one bridge crossed the entirety of the canal, though today there are three more: the Ponte degli Scalzi, the Ponte dell’Accademia, and the Ponte della Costituzione.
Ponte di Rialto
Originally built as a pontoon bridge in 1173, the Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges that cut across the Grand Canal. The bridge burned and collapsed several times before it was proposed, in 1503, that it be rebuilt in stone.
Various architects submitted designs, including Jacopo Sansovino, Andrea Palladio, and Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola, whose designs, with a Classical approach, were deemed inappropriate. The present bridge was begun in 1588 following a design by Antonio da Ponte (I mean, come on, this joke tells itself), and was completed in 1591.