Also known as the Ponte della Constituzione, the name elected to honour the 60th anniversary of the Italian constitution in 2008, Venice Italy’s newest bridge is better known as the Ponte di Calatrava. The more popular name was keyed due to its designer, famed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava who has designed 40 bridges worldwide. Calatrava has described the Ponte di Calatrava as his “most beautiful” bridge, which he felt was “an act of love to Venice and of love to Italian civilization in general.”
Despite Calatrava’s fervor for the bridge, enthusiasm did not exactly exude from Venetians who were rightly concerned about the cost of Ponte di Calatgrava—the first bridge built in Venice in 70 years— among other matters. The original budget for the bridge construction was €6.7 million, but the actual costs have spiraled significantly, nearly four times its original cost! But ask any Venice tourist, and they will say it was well worth the cost.
Active protests among Venetians about the Calatrava’s lack of design consideration for handicap access as well as some exclusion of elderly tourists, or otherwise physically challenged pedestrians, have taken place over the years due to the fact that the bridge’s stairs are glass-laden and abrupt.
The city of Venice has listened to its protestors and retrofitted lifts have been installed in the Ponte di Calatrava. The bridge’s stairway was constructed with pietra d'Istria, a stone customarily used in Venice, with intermittent, hard glass steps lit by fluorescent lights from below during its evening use.
The Ponte di Calatrava Bridge was assembled over The Grand Canal and brought to Venice via a sizable barge. In fact, parts of the new bridge passed under the Rialto Bridge and, as they did, they were only centimeters away from touching it.
While it is a moving experience to see reflections of the city and sky from the bridge’s glass steps during the daytime, crossing Ponte di Calatrava can produce optical illusions through its reflections. So the awe-filled pedestrian must pay close attention whilst crossing this commanding and glorious bridge.
Despite its beauty and functionality, other objections of the bridge have included the close proximity between the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge and the Ponte degli Scalzi Bridge. Here Venetians objected to the necessity of the newer bridge since Venice does not yet afford its tourists a bridge link between the city and Giudecca Island. The objections were such that this would have been a more suitable way to spend the city’s tourism money.
Many who were uneasy about the aesthetics of the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge grumbled that its design was too modernistic and that it wouldn’t lend itself well to the traditional Venice architecture of Byzantine, Baroque, Gothic and Neo-Classical. But not all Venetians object to the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge which masterfully merges glass and steel and is an apt gateway to Venice while being completely appropriate for Venice tourism. Indeed, the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge has been hailed by some as re- energizing the canal side of Venice.
No matter one’s opinion or objection, most would agree that the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge unveils a panoramic view of Venice, Italy as well as a wonderfully transparent view of The Grand Canal visible
through the bridge’s curving glass steps. The Ponte di Calatrava is an arched, tethered bridge containing a radius of nearly 94 metres. It holds one large arch, two side arches, and two lower arches.
The Ponte di Calatrava Bridge reaches across the Grand Canal at its most northerly point, joining the Santa Lucia railway station with the car, bus and ferry terminal at Piazzale Roma. Once across the Ponte di Calatrava Bridge, Venice tourism doesn’t get much better with visitors undoubtedly appreciating their comfortable shoes as they participate in the many available Venice tours in this oh-so historic and stunning city.
For aching feet, tourists can take in all that surrounds them during their travel to Venice while resting on the bridge’s abutments which contain seating, a glass deck and access to the new vaporetto landing stages. Venice tourists find the Ponte di Calatrava to be one of the most popular photos of Venice.
The controversial Ponte di Calatrava Bridge, the newest of the four bridges over The Grand Canal in Venice, is not only acknowledged as an important gateway to Venice, but as an innovative and functional form of architecture in which to behold. The Ponte di Calatrava Bridge is free to access and it should not be overlooked when planning things to do in Venice.