Il Fondaco dei Tedeschi

First constructed in 1228, the Fondaco dei Tedeschi was a trading post for German merchants before becoming a customs house under Napoleon in 1806. Depicted by Canaletto and other masters, and photographed numberless times as the impressive but anonymous backdrop for the Rialto, the Fondaco - at 11,000m2 one of Venice's largest buildings - now stands as a muted icon of the Venetian mercantile era. Twice destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 16th century, the Fondaco was radically altered again in the 1930s, its structure almost completely replaced by reinforced concrete to allow its new use as a post office. The Fondaco has constantly reshaped itself, accumulating many layers of 'authenticity': its preservation is a history of change.