The small shrines around the city are apparently called capitelli, which is the same word used to describe the capitol at the top of a column. Of course both words derive from the Latin word caput, meaning head from which capital letters, capital cities, the Capitol and more derive. Presumably such shrines were representations of heads and then developed into busts, torsos and full length representations of respected saints. This one has a rusting canopy to keep the rain off the divine heads and is somewhere in the vicinity of Rialto, but on a post lunch dash through the calli in pursuit of a teenager desperately following blue and white WC signs there was no time to get my bearings for the image, though I know it was taken somewhere between Campo Manin and Campo San Salvador.
Even Google Street Map was of new use to me in finding its precise location, though it did tell me there’s a shopping area in the vicinity called Merceria del Capitello. Perhaps this research is going to my head?!
Of the estimated 60,000 visitors per day that wash in and out of Venice like the tides of the lagoon, a good proportion will visit the Rialto Bridge, and many of these will spill into the Campo San Giacomo and the trinket and handbag stalls that proliferate between the arches of Ruga degli Orefice. The colonnades that are disguised behind these stalls are ignored by those in search of a gift to take home from the city, but it wasn’t always so; one of Turner’s sketchbooks in The Tate, show that he considered the view looking back towards the bridge as potential subject matter, and historically these arches are where the bankers and moneylenders operated, and where the invention of the Bill of Exchange took place. (Sorry, but I’m a former banker). It was such a money-lender that provided Shakespeare with his inspiration for The Merchant of Venice of course.
Stepping behind these stalls and under the portico, there are still traces of former glory in the fading ceiling frescos, but I wonder just how many of the 60,000 never see them.
- Il fumatore (Venezia 14) (aphotogenicworld.wordpress.com)
In the UK if you wish to describe something as never-ending, you might say “It’s like painting the Forth Bridge” (Not the road bridge or its pending replacement, but the magnificent steel network that is the rail bridge).
The point of the saying is that it takes so long to complete the job, that by the time you complete the final strokes at one end, the other end is in need of a new coat. Maintenance and repair must be like that in Venice, with so many grand edifices stretched out along the Grand Canal, there will always be some that are in need of repair, though it seemed that this year it was some of the most important that were blighted by scaffolding and tarpaulin screening. The Basilica of St Mark being a case in point.
Several others have taken to a camouflage approach, covering the building with what is effectively a picture of what lies underneath. Nice idea, but we’re someway off the point where this actually resembles a building, so shots of the Rialto Bridge feature a building site in the background, and as you approach the Piazzetta it gets even worse. A picture of the covered building, but with a huge advert for a luxury Italian fashion house. I hope they are paying for the restoration behind it.
Perhaps I exaggerate. Can you spot the fake?
The steps that form the arch on either side of the Rialto bridge are lined with shops; something that seems guaranteed to make a bridge into a tourist attraction as according to Wikipedia there are only four such bridges in the world. (I’ve visited the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, but do you know where to find the fourth and largest of this select group?)
The commerce here serves a valuable purpose as apparently the city authorities decreed that the 16th century structure’s upkeep should be funded by the rental of the premises. An indirect taxation on the tourists who cause most of the wear and tear these days!
The Rialto Bridge. For over four hundred years an icon of Venice; the stuff of picture postcards.
At least it would have been if the sun was shining.
Or the gondolier was smiling (or singing). And wearing a boater.
If his passengers had been an attractive loving couple instead of surly young men.
And if I hadn’t had to Photoshop a crane out of the background that was part of the renovation of the structure behind the bridge.
It’s not too much to ask is it?
In 2007 the Grand Canal gained another crossing point. The Rialto Bridge is the most famous, Accademia beloved by Venetians, Ponte degli Scalzi is a beautiful demonstration of how stonework can be both strong and slender. And then there is the Ponte della Costituzione. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava the bridge has been controversial for a number of reasons; its proximity to Scalzi when there are much longer stretches of the canal with no crossing option but the traghetto ferries or the vaporetti; its modernist design seeming completely at odds with a medieval city, and finally because its numerous steps rendered it an impossible challenge for wheelchair users.
A few years later and that last issue has been addressed. A small circular pod arises from the canal side, attaches itself to the bridge parapet, arcs across to the other side and gradually descends again. Very sedate, but I wonder just how many trips it could accommodate in a day. I can confirm that it’s not much fun to walk over either, the breadth and depth of the steps feel very unnatural.
I did like the look of it though.
Many of my favourite images shot in Venice are of the people I saw there, and though there are some beautiful women amongst them, this man stopping for a quick cigarette in the Campo San Giacomo di Rialto is my favourite. It’s partly his expression, partly the tones in the picture, but for me it really works; let me know what you think.
Attitudes to smoking are now one of the things that distinguish cultures I find; as we Brits continue to make life difficult for the tobacco lover we have become accustomed to smoke free public spaces, and it’s easy to forget that our enthusiasm for clean air isn’t universally shared. In Venice there is a law preventing smoking on public transport and the landing stages, but as far as I can see any other restriction is at the discretion of the owner of the premises.
The city council passed a by-law making it compulsory to provide a no-smoking area. It’s just for show, to keep the tourists happy. Normally no one pays any attention in a place like this, but every once in a while some arsehole insists on the letter of the law.
Dead Lagoon – Michael Dibdin