Il Ponte di Rialto tra storia e natura

by Tullio Padovese

Il Ponte di Rialto tra storia e naturaIf by any chance, passing over Rialto Bridge, your hand runs over the thick stone railing, smoothed from centuries of similar hands, you can say you have touched history but also something else…something that goes beyond history.

Geology in Venice exists in reference to the architecture, like a puddle might leave its mark in the earth. On Rialto Bridge, the balustrade railing has signs on its surface, polygon in shape, that come from a wholly natural drying and fossilisation of the surface. The railing is made from a stone with very particular components that is found all over Venice. Istrian Stone is a hardy sediment stone that is retains its shape and form even in the extreme weather found in Venice. It is chalky stone (formed by almost pure calcium carbonate), a bright white and very compact.

More than 100 million years ago, when Istrian stone was not yet rock, it was a muddy paste made of calcium carbonate.  The shallow floor on which it was formed went under periodic outcroppings in which polygon shaped cracks, like those we might see in a dried puddle, formed.  The rapid drying and the further rapid cementing of these cracks have preserved the polygon shapes, called ‘mud-cracks’ across millions of years. Right up to the present day and now found on the Rialto Bridge where history and nature really do go hand in hand.  In the most unusual of ways.


by Tullio Padovese

Mr Padovese has a degree in Geological Science from the University of Ferrara in 2001.  He wrote a thesis on Paleontology  and has worked for three years in environmental geology specialising in Venice lagoon’s subsoil. He now teaches Science and Mathematics at intermediate schools for whom he has created a teaching course on stones used in the construction of historic buildings and monuments in Venice.

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