Venice is a city of waterways and, consequently, a city of bridges. Did you know that there are more than 400 bridges in the city, connecting the 117 islands and crossing the 150 canals?
These bridges are well-known for their memorable architecture:
- The Bridge of Sighs: A footbridge between the Doge’s Palace and the one-time prison. See my earlier post on this bridge.
- The Rialto Bridge: A wide crossing over the Grand Canal between San Marco and San Polo, first built back in 1175.
- The Academy Bridge: A wooden bridge, rebuilt in 1985, that crosses the Grand Canal at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
- The Calatrava Bridge: Starkly new (2008) and modern in design, this is one of four bridges that spans the Grand Canal. It’s named for its architect, Santiago Calatrava.
Other bridges are interesting for the cultural connections. Last week I wrote of the bridge wars, in which the Ponte dei Pugni (Fighting Bridge) played a prominent role. Venice also boasts:
- The Ponte delle Tette (Bridge of Breasts), so named for the prostitutes of the medieval Venetian red-light district who would bare their breasts at windows on view from the bridge.
- The Ponte degli Scalzi (Bridge of the Barefoot), named for the Scalzi friars, who went barefoot and whose order was situated nearby.
- Ponte della Paglia (Bridge of Straw); the straw reference most probably comes from the fact that bales of straw were unloaded here for the Doge.
- Ponte dell’Inferno, Ponte del Purgatorio and Ponte del Paradiso (Bridges of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise), inspired by Dante’s Inferno.
How many bridges have I crossed when visiting Venice? Many – for they are unavoidable in any exploration of the city. But these bridges are more than physical constructions necessary to pull together a city set on so many separate islands. They are part of the emotional fabric of the city. On bridges Venetians and visitors alike stand: to take in the inspiring views, to people-watch, to daydream, to romance. Their collective beauty is sourced from more than pleasing construction. It comes each bridge’s unique history and, essentially, from its ability to unite a people as one.