ABOVE: This November, 2007 photo shows the
bridge's prefabricated sections in place, with final construction proceeding bit
by bit. The bridge finally opened ten months later.
By Durant Imboden
After years of
construction delays and cost overruns, Venice has a fourth bridge across the
Grand Canal. The bridge is officially named the Ponte della
but nearly everyone in Venice calls it the
Ponte di Calatrava.
The bridge was designed by the Spanish architect
Santiago Calatrava, whose past projects have included the City of Arts and
Sciences in Valencia, Spain, the Olympic Sports Complex in Athens, and the
precedent-setting "twisting torso" skyscraper in Malmö,
In January, 2007, construction crews began driving piles for the
new bridge in the Canale Grande between the
Piazzale Roma and the Santa Lucia
Railroad Station. The bridge's prefabricated sections were floated to the
construction site by barge in August. Some progress had been made on final
assembly when the photo above was taken in November, 2007, and the bridge opened
to the public on September 11, 2008.
The Ponte di Calatrava is a long, sweeping curve of glass and steel
that is designed to complement both the historic buildings on the Piazzale Roma side of
the canal and the 1950s modernity of Venice's main railway station. Now that
it's open, travelers won't have to go out of their way to
cross the canal via the Ponte dei Scalzi or pay to ride the
vaporetto as they've been forced to do
in the past.
The bridge has provoked its share of controversies,
including concerns about the bridge's accessibility to locals and tourists in
wheelchairs. The Comune di Venezia has worked slowly to install a system
of egg-shaped gondola lifts
for the disabled, but whether they'll be more reliable than Venice's earlier
platform lifts on several smaller bridges (which were removed after years of
being non-functioning eyesores) remains to be seen.
Tips for using the bridge:
Although the Calatrava Bridge looks high, the
steps are low, and it's fairly easy to cross on a dry day (even with heavy
Be careful on wet or icy days, when the glass
steps can be slippery. (Walking in the middle, where the steps are made of
stone, is safer.)