Monday, March 23, 2020

The Rialto Bridge, Unpeopled: Thursday, March 12, 10:30 am

Ruga dei Oresi, seen from the crown of the Rialto Bridge on Thursday, March 12, 10:30 am.

Donna Leon has said that the moment she finally admitted to herself that Venice had become too packed with tourists for her to bear living here full-time any longer occurred on the Rialto Bridge.

She was crossing the span when she tripped, and instead of falling to the ground--which would have been unpleasant enough--she found herself held up by the densely-packed bodies all around her-- which was, in fact, even more unpleasant.

In recent weeks, since Venice (and Italy) began taking measures to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, there would be almost no one on the Rialto Bridge to catch Ms. Leon's fall. And this new reality, with all of its implications, turns to be the most unpleasant situation of all.

The latest regulations on movement in the city dictate that, except for the most dire necessities, residents are expected to do all of their shopping within 200 meters of their dwelling.

These images of the Rialto (except for the last) were taken on Thursday, March 12, at 10:30 am--on a mild sunny morning when the Rialto Bridge and its environs would have been filling up, if not already filled up, with tourists.

The shops on the bridge would have been opened, as would all the stalls bordering Ruga dei Oresi, on the church of San Giacometto side of the bridge. Tourists would already be lining the bridge's parapets to gaze upon the Grand Canal, or photograph themselves in front of it. A line of vendors' carts would serve as a center divider on Salizzada Pio X, and mass tour groups would clot Campo San Bartolomio.

Seen day after day, for far too much of the year, these kind of sights wear upon some residents, causing them finally to flee the city,

But, as it turns out, there are much worse, more dire reasons to flee the city than tourists.   

Having to jostle for a view from the parapets has become a thing of the past

A view of Salizzada Pio X from the Rialto Bridge

Shuttered stalls line the approach to the Rialto Bridge

By way of contrast, and as example of what drove Donna Leon from Venice, here's the Rialto Bridge just before 1 pm on May 17, 2019


  1. I'd enjoyed the Donna Leon books for years - not sure they're quite as good now - but it was good visualising exactly (or not) we were, in the story, from our knowledge of Venice over the years, and puzzling why some things - i.e. the main police station - were not where we knew they had moved to.
    Do know your images and posts are greatly appreciated, please. They are helping to keep us all sane as we are restricted in what / where we can be, too!

    1. Donna Leon certainly knows Venice--which, alas, is not always a given with books written on the city--and I really appreciate that about her. But as she's writing fiction she can take certain liberties for the sake of the world she's creating in her books; I only have a problem with such things when non-fiction writers do the same.