The Rialto Bridge is one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.
The first dry crossing of the Grand Canal was a pontoon bridge built in 1181 by Nicolò Barattieri. 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.
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 Bajamonte Tiepolo in 1310. In 1444 it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade and it collapsed again in 1524.
The present stone bridge, a single span designed by Antonio da Ponte, was finally completed in 1591.