Venice, often called the "City of Canals," and the "Floating City," is also known as the "City of Bridges" because of the numerous spans that crisscross its waterways. While many of Venice's 400-plus bridges are nondescript and practical, many embody the beauty and history of this fascinating photographic city.
Here are the bridges to seek out on a trip to Venice.
This infamous footbridge connects the Doge's Palace with the Prigioni (prisons). Though many visitors find this bridge and its name romantic, it offered prisoners of the Venetian Republic a final opportunity to view the city before they were led to their cells or to the executioner. The Italian name for the Bridge of Sighs is Ponte dei Sospiri. The canal beneath the bridge is one of the most popular places to kiss in Venice.
Just as famous as the Bridge of Sighs and equally photogenic, the Rialto Bridge is the main pedestrian crossing over the Grand Canal. Rows of shops line this wide, arched bridge and the famous Rialto fish and food market is nearby.
The Academy Bridge (Ponte dell Accademia) is so named because it crosses the Grand Canal at the Galleria dell Accademia, one of the top museums in Venice.
While the Ponte dell Accademia is not a new bridge – it was first erected in the mid-19th century then replaced in the 1930s – it is interesting for its high arch construction and the fact that it is made of wood. The current Academy Bridge dates from 1985, when the 1930s bridge was rebuilt after being deemed too dangerous.
Named for the nearby Chiesa degli Scalzi, literally the "church of the barefoot monks," the Scalzi Bridge is an elegant stone span that links the Santa Croce and Cannaregio neighborhoods.
The Scalzi Bridge dates from 1934 and is one of four bridges over the Grand Canal. If you are arriving in Venice via rail to the Santa Lucia Station, the Scalzi Bridge will be one of the first bridges you will cross after disembarking.
Completed in 2008, the Calatrava Bridge was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The final of four bridges to span the Grand Canal, the Calatrava Bridge has been a controversial addition to Venice's architectural landscape because of its modern appearance, its cost (approximately 10 million euros) and its necessity. Yet, the bridge, whose official name is Ponte della Constituzione, has served a purpose: it links the Santa Lucia Rail Station to Piazzale Roma, a bus depot, and car park.
Ponte delle Guglie
The Ponte delle Guglie is one of two bridges that span the Cannaregio Canal, situated at its western end, near where it joins with the Grand Canal. It's close to the Venezia Santa Lucia train station, not far from the Rialto Bridge. This stone-and-brick bridge has ornate decoration, including gargoyles, on its arch. It's also known as the "Bridge of Spires" because of its metal spires (the only bridge in Venice with this architectural detail).
Ponte della Paglia
If you want to view the Bridge of Sighs, the best vantage point is this bridge, which dates back to 1847. Local folklore has it that the bridge gets its name because boats used to dock it in order to bring their cargo of Paglia (straw) into Venice.
Ponte della Liberta
This bridge connects the mainland to the islands that make up Venice's city center. The Ponte della Liberta used to be known as the Ponte Littorio. It was opened by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1933 and renamed after World War II to mark the liberation of Italy from Fascism. If you arrive in Venice Santa Lucia station by train, you will cross this bridge first.