8 August 2007

Ponte di Calatrava - Venice's fourth bridge arrives

After 11 years of controversy, Venice's new bridge -only the fourth bridge over the Grand Canal - is due to open this winter. The 'Ponte di Calatrava' as it is currently known (its final official name has yet to be decided) was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and crosses the Grand Canal at its busy entrance alongside Piazzale Roma.

Major issues of contention have included the lack of disabled provision, and the over-budget expenditure of public funds. The location is hotly debated too. There have been three bridges over the Grand Canal since the early twentieth century, and there are certainly big gaps between them where an extra crossing might be convenient. But this new bridge is very close to the existing Ponte degli Scalzi, and it is hard to see what additional function it can contribute. It links rather more directly the bus terminal at Piazzale Roma and the railway station. But it's hard to see who'd want to race from one to the other; they are both at the end of the same route over the lagoon and so no-one would need to change from bus to train.

Anyway, the Travelling Blonde watched the side sections of the bridge arrive in Venice a week and a half ago - a major operation since they had to be transported up the Grand Canal overnight, around bends and under the existing bridges. Venetians and surprised tourists crowded the canalside to watch the big transport barge manoeuvring, which all went incredibly smoothly. There were some protests and some cheers as it squeezed under the Rialto Bridge, and a lot of applause for the workers who managed the tricky feat. Last night was the big date for the arrival of the central part of the new bridge, which also seems to have been transported without causing any harm along the way.

> New bridge over the Grand Canal: our latest article and photos
> Side sections arrive: Photos from the Repubblica newspaper
> Repubblica article describing the bridge's journey (in Italian)
> Central section arrives: more photos from the Repubblica
> Slightly oddly-written article from the Telegraph which describes the bridge as 'much-needed'!
> Our full travel guide to Venice

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