Korinth (Corinth), Greece
The Corinth Canal in Greece is an incredible feat of engineering and was once an important navigational route which allowed ships to enter the Aegean Sea.
Carved through the isthmus at sea level, the canal is 6.4 km long with a width of only 25 metres. Impossible for modern ships to go through, the canal has now lost any significant economic importance that it once had.
It is actually one of the longest, if not the longest, construction project in history with initial work starting 300 BC and the actual canal being finally finished in 1893 after many aborted attempts.
Today it is traversed by road & rail bridges, connecting the Peloponnese with the rest of the mainland.
The six bridges that cross the Douro River in Portugal’s second city make for a wonderful spectacle.
The two most celebrated are the Dom Luis I Bridge designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel and completed in 1886 and the oldest bridge in Porto, Maria Pia Bridge designed by Eiffel himself and completed in 1877.
Other less celebrated bridges that are nonetheless pretty impressive are the Arrabida, Infante D. Henrique, São João & Freixo Bridges.
A great way to appreciate all the bridges is to take a river cruise, as we did with a good value open-topped bus, port production tour and cruise combination ticket.
Staying with Portugal, the 25 de Abril Bridge in the capital is a suspension bridge across to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tagus river.
It was completed in 1966, whilst a train platform was added in 1999. Built by the American Bridge Company, it is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge due to its design & colour.
Its total length is an impressive 2,277 metres, but this surprisingly makes it only the 32nd largest suspension bridge in the world.
The upper deck carries six car lanes, while the lower deck carries the two train tracks.
Originally the bridge was named Salazar Bridge, but was changed in 1974 to commemorate the Carnation Revolution, the military coup which took place on 25 April 1974 that escalated to civil resistance to eventually see the overthrow of the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo.
The Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe (including viaducts) with a total length of 12.3 kilometres , including 0.8 kilometres for the main bridge and 11.5 kilometres in viaducts.
You cannot visit Venice without taking a gondola ride under the Rialto Bridge. Can you?
The fabulous arched bridge built in 12th Century is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal and is as synonymous to Venice as the Colosseum is to Rome or the Leaning Tower to Pisa. It connects the districts of San Marco & San Polo and has been rebuilt several times over the centuries.
That iconic gondola ride will set you back about €100 for 45 minutes, but you can equally get a wonderful view along the whole Grand Canal by taking one of the inexpensive vaporetto public boat taxis.
Think of the Rialto and you may well think of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice as this was the area that Shylock used to lend out money. It’s more tourist trap than financial centre nowadays, but perhaps the hustle & bustle is much the same.
Apart from the Rialto, there are other fine bridges crossing both the vast Grand Canal and also the smaller waterways dotted about Venice as you can see below.
Talking of Shakespeare, not far from Venice you find the Verona house of the Bard’s most famed female lover Juliet, where she was wooed by Romeo. Best known for the warring Montague & Capulet families as well as the impressive colosseum which nowadays hosts opera & classical music rather than gladiatorial contests, it also has some fine bridges over the Adige River.
The Castel Vecchio Bridge is a fortified bridge which featured the world’s largest span at the time of its construction, at nearly 49 metres, and the Ponte Pietra (Italian for Stone Bridge) is a Roman arch bridge which was completed in 100 BC and formed part of the ancient Via Postumia from Genoa to Aquileia.
Firenze is famous for many things such as the pink hued duomo, the amazing Ufizi gallery with its Renaissance art and Michelangelo’s larger than life sculpture called David.
Spanning the River Arno at its narrowest point, the Ponta Vecchio is equally famous as one of the few covered bridges in existence in Europe. Built in Roman times, it formed a small part of the Via Cassia (historic road starting in Rome).
The current medieval stone bridge originally had butchers shops built upon it, but unsurprisingly these now house jewellers & souvenir shops.
The bridge first appears in a document of 996, but after being destroyed by a flood in 1117 it was reconstructed in stone but swept away again in 1333 apart from two of its central piers, which form part of the present bridge reconstructed for a final time in 1345.
Think of Bilbao and you will probably conjure visions of the amazing Guggenheim Museum.
The Basque capital is also home to some very pleasant bridges crossing the River Nervión, including the Zubizuri Bridge shown below.
Flamenco, tapas, oranges and bull fighting are what Seville is most famous for. Add in an almighty cathedral and a fabulous Alcazar all makes the Andalusian city perhaps my favourite in Spain.
There are also some architecturally pleasing bridges crossing the River Guadalquivir, most notably the one connecting the main city with the ceramic district of Triana.
The official name of the main route across is Isabel II Bridge and it also happens to be Seville’s oldest bridge being constructed between 1847 & 1852.
The Eternal City has so many iconic highlights that the bridges over the Tiber barely get a mention.
However, there are some gems to cross when moving from Rome itself to the Vatican City.
Dating from the 1st century AD, this Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir river in Córdoba is now pedestrian only.
It has been rebuilt in places and most of what remains was built in the medieval period.
Coming next – Part Two, Northern Europe
Do you have any Southern European favourites that I haven’t shown?