Today the banks at the foot of the Rialto Bridge are called Riva del Vin and Riva del Ferro, not far away is the Riva del Carbon, but what few people know is that once the names of the two banks were reversed and that the Riva del Ferro took on a different name, as Marco Antonio Sabellico tells us at the end of the fifteenth century in his book Del sito di Vinegia, describing Rialto:
Ma vassi di qui al luogo onde ora si partimmo et prima che si pervenga al ponte, vi è un portico, ove ferro et altre mercanzie di passo in passo si vendono. Tutta la ripa dà essa maniera di mercanzie, chiamasi Ferraria. Sono ivi piu magistrati della citta, dei quali in un altra opera ampiamente dirassi. Stassi indi il ponte, si come de tutti che sono nella citta è grandissimo, così, non è quasi una hora alcuna del giorno, nella quale per la moltitudine, che di qua et di la passa, non sia stretto il passare.
The ripa, the ancient name to indicate the shore, indicated by Sabellico with the name of Ferrarìa - or place where the sale of iron and not only took place - is what is now called Riva del Vin, while today's Riva del Ferro is located in the opposite side of the Grand Canal - right in front of that of the Vin - which was once described with the term Riva della Moneta, thanks to its proximity to the ancient Mint.
Michele Marieschi, Il Ponte di Rialto dalla Riva del Vin, 1740. Olio su tela, 130x196 cm. Museo dell’Hermitage, San Pietroburgo
The Riva del Vin took its name, as it is easy to guess, from the boats loaded with wine that landed there and stationed there for the unloading, storage and wholesale of this very precious drink brought up by Venetian merchants in all territories where they landed for their commercial traffic. The boats used for these sorting and storage operations were in particular the peàte, that is to say those boats with a flat and very wide bottom that carried the most voluminous and heavy barrels and goods.
The stall near the shore was used to allow the Duty of Wine Office, which had its headquarters here until 1842 when the building that housed it was demolished to build the Lot Management, to carry out all the tax checks by the agents so-called del Palo - so defined thanks to the wooden stake to which the boats assigned to verify the luxurious drink landed.
The barrels were deposited, in most cases, inside the warehouses in the Fondamenta del Vin or found a place in San Luca or Giudecca. Before being placed in the warehouses, the barrels were scrupulously inventoried and - since it was strictly forbidden to sell the bulk wine - after unloading, the boatmen had to withdraw the walkways to prevent intruders from accessing the storage rooms.
(on the cover, a detail of the illustration depicting the Rialto Bridge from an original perspective, a facsimile reproduction of the precious nineteenth-century edition of the Canal Grande e Piazza San Marco, described by Antonio Quadri, recorded and engraved by Dionisio Moretti, published by Supernova Edizioni)