The Ponte di Rialto
(Rialto Bridge) is the true heart of Venice and the city’s landmark. It is one of the two bridges in Italy that has the shops on it. The current bridge was built in just three years, between 1588 and 1591. It remained the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854. The architect, Antonio da Ponte ("Anthony of the Bridge,") competed against such famous designers as Michelangelo and Palladio for the contract.
The bridge has three walkways: two along the outer balustrades, and a wider central walkway leading between two rows of small shops that sell jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other items for the tourist trade.