One of Venice's most iconic sights, the Rialto bridge is also one of only four spans that cross the nearly 4km length of the Grand Canal. Taking its name from the the historical financial and commercial district found in its immediate area (which itself is derived from the Italian for 'high bank'), the bridge's first incarnation was as a floating pontoon structure built at the end of 12th century, which was shortly upgraded to a more permanent wooden bridge in 1255. However, in the three centuries that followed, the bridge was destroyed and rebuilt no less than three times - once by the great fire of 1514 that engulfed the whole Rialto neighbourhood, and twice collapsing under the weight of spectators watching a boat regatta.
In the mid-16th century, local authorities finally decided that the construction of a more resilient stone bridge was called for, and received proposals from many of the top Italian architects of the period, including the none other than Michelangelo himself. However, the commission was won by the little known, but aptly named, Venetian architect Antonio da Ponte, whose design was considered quite audacious at the time, and openly ridiculed by several of his contemporaries. Of course it was da Ponte who got the proverbial last laugh, as his magnum opus went on to become one the most famous and photographed bridges in the world.