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Whilst not a sestiere in its own right, the area around Venice’s most famous bridge is often treated as such. The name ‘Rialto’ derives from Rivoaltus, meaning ‘high bank’, and this area was the first to be settled by the proto-Venetians leaving behind the islands of Torcello and the Lido, sowing the seeds of what would later become Venice. Fittingly, this area is home to Venice’s oldest church, San Giacomo di Rialto which some people claim is as old as the city itself (though it was more likely consecrated in the 11th century).
Straddling the Grand Canal between the sestieri of San Marco and San Polo, the iconic Rialto Bridge shines like a beacon at the core of the city, acting as a funnel for much of Venice’s waterborne and pedestrian traffic. Designed by Andrea da Ponte and completed in 1591, the stone bridge we see today is just the latest in a long line of Rialto bridges, its predecessors being simpler wooden structures and floating pontoons. Much of the Rialto area’s importance stems from the fact that it laid claim to the only bridge joining the two sides of the city for nearly 700 years.
This important historical and strategic position led Rialto to become the financial and commercial heart of the city, and much of what we see here today reflects that. On the San Polo side you’ll find the Rialto Market, a bustling atmosphere that showcases the best produce of both the Adriatic sea and the Veneto region, though get here before midday to see it at its best. The San Marco side hosts a thriving shopping area that extends towards Piazza San Marco. Nestling up to the bridge is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a great symbol of this area’s enterprising spirit and a stunning example of the Venetian palace-cum-warehouse where wealthy mercantile families amassed their riches from all over the known world. The palace has now been converted into a luxury department store with stunning views over the city from its own observation deck.
Serving the throngs of shoppers and tourists looking for a moment’s respite are a plethora of excellent restaurants and bacari, traditional Venetian bars that often serve tapas-like chicchetti. Staying here guarantees being close to the action, and Truly Venice offers a range of the best apartments in the Rialto area, including luxurious properties with views of the Rialto Bridge itself.
Cluster of apartments located in the same Palazzo, offering hospitality to larger groups of guests