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Rialto - Second only to San Marco as the hub of Venetian life, the Rialto area was a thriving centre of business and trade even in the the earliest centuries. Originally, Rialto Bridge was the only means of crossing the Grand Canal -which cuts right through the city - on foot. From the time of the first settlers, the area in which the bridge was built has been the heart of Venetian life and commerce. The first version, erected in the eleventh century, was a bridge of boats (named "Quartarolo" after the small coin which had to be paid to cross it, or after the "moneta" issued by the nearby mint).
Towards the middle of the thirteenth century, this was replaced by a bridge constructed on wooden piles. After collapsing in the mid-fifteenth century, a larger, wooden bridge was constructed. This had shops on either side and a central drawbridge to allow bigger vessels to pass beneath it, as portrayed in a late fifteenth-century painting by Vittore Carpaccio, "The Reliquary Borne by Francesco Querini, the Patriarch of Grado, Cures a Possessed Man", (Accademia Galleries).