The Rialto Bridge is the most famous of the bridges that cross the Grand Canal (the other two are the Accademia Bridge and the Scalzi). In this area, which originally housed the food market, there has always been a canal crossing, at first, a simple bridge of boats, and later a real wooden bridge, made from two inclined ramps with a mobile section in the middle, in order to allow the passage of ships.
The current Rialto Bridge, a stone arch, was constructed under the supervision of Antonio da Ponte, between 1588 and 1591. The construction was made difficult by the conditions of instability and by the height of the sea bottom. The structure, very similar in style to the previous wooden bridge, is formed by two inclined ramps, with shops on each side, covered by a portico.
When Venice was a marine power, that navigated and traded throughout a good part of the modern world, big cargo ships coming from many other countries stopped here in order to unload and sell their merchandise wholesale. Here gathered Venetians, with silk and spices from the Orient, traders from Lombardy and Florence who offered work in metal and textiles, together with Germans and many others coming from other parts of Italy and from across the Alps. Today the Rialto Bridge is one of the most visited tourist attractions of the city.