I've seen pictures of the Rialto Bridge.  I've read about the Rialto Bridge.  I've heard its name spoken, in exotic conversations with exotic travellers.

I was about to make its acquaintance in person...

My sneaky sister and brother-in-law let me know as we strolled the streets of Venice that the bridge was 'around here somewhere'.

I would ask at regular intervals, "Are we there yet?", like a toddler on an extended drive in the country.  

They smirked back like giddy school-children and said we would be there 'soon'. 

At one point, I noticed that the street ahead as getting more crowded.  Tourists crawled thickly, like flies on a steak at a summer picnic.  I glimpsed water ahead and instinctively doubled my pace.

My brother-in-law unaccountably grabbed my arm and took a hard turn left.

I almost informed him that he was going the wrong way, but clamped my mouth shut.  I was the Newbie.  He had been to Venice many times, and surely knew what he was doing.

We rounded the corner.  We rounded another corner.  And another.  And then - there it was...

My guide had made a slight detour in order to come at it from the side, to show it off in its full glory.  Had we kept walking, I would have missed it - entering on the central arch, between crowded rows of shops, I would never have known that I was on a bridge!

I bought a beautiful painting at its foot, the artist and his wares being an irresistible stop. It is one of my favourite mementos of the whole trip.

 I gaped at the shops lining both sides of the huge space.  It looks just like a regular business-lined street from the middle.  Who knew?

  See me?  I'm the stunned smiling tourist between all the smoochers and people draped in cameras...

(There were a LOT of smoochers on that bridge.  After all, this is one of the most romantic spots in Italy, what with the gondoliers, the Grand Canal, and the sound of cash changing hands!)

What an amazing feeling, to come around a corner and be face to face with an Italian icon.  

My fellow travellers did so much to make my first view spectacular - I love them for it!