Perhaps when it comes to romance, Venice, Italy could claim the label of most romantic city in the world. Its tight streets wind through the city in tandem with coursing waterways all set amongst some of the most stunning architecture. Spanning the Palazzo Rio, or Palace River, is the historically eerie Venice Bridge of Sighs. Tale of local legend says that lovers will be assured eternal love if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge. Thus, it was thought by many that the Bridge of Sighs name was inspired by the sighs of lovers overwhelmed by the romance of it all. However, beautiful and endearing as that may be, it is for much darker reasons that the Bridge of Sighs takes its name.
Bridge of Sighs Venice
This bridge at Venice, designed by Antonio Contino,
was built at the beginning of the 17th century with the
purpose of connecting the Old Prisons and interrogation
rooms in the Doge's Palace, or Palace of the Dukes, to
the New Prisons just across the river. Situated
just off the side of Saint
Mark's Plaza, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most
famous scenes of the city and its beauty masks what was
likely a devastating last walk for many condemned prisoners.
Inspired by Romantic literature and one of the most romantic
of visiting northern European poets, Lord Byron, the Bridge
of Sighs name is actually borne of the notion that one
could hear the sighs of these prisoners as they looked
one last time upon the outside world before being locked
up. Although by the time the bridge was built and
summary executions at the hand of the inquisitors had
become a thing of the past, many of these prisoners most
likely did not see freedom again. Still visible
on some of the concrete cell walls are pictures and graffiti
done by past prisoners, many of whom had only committed
Among the most famous of these prisoners was Casanova, who was arrested in 1755 for spreading antireligious sentiment throughout the devoutly religious republic. Fifteen months after he crossed the Bridge of Sighs, he would be one of the few prisoners to escape the dark and dingy confines of the Palazzo delle Prigioni, or Palace of Prisons.
Bridge of Sighs at Sunset
The Bridge of Sighs Venice, is renowned worldwide for
being one of the finer examples of bridge architecture,
along with the Ponte di
Rialto, or Rialto Bridge, which was actually the work
of Contino"s uncle, Antonio da Ponte. Its
location at the center of the city and its proximity to
Saint Mark"s Plaza, makes the Bridge of Sighs not only
easy to access and find, but moreover a must-see.
Maybe after buying seeds at Saint Mark"s Plaza and posing
for pictures as you are assailed by a swarm of pigeons,
you can make your way to the Venice Bridge of Sighs to
reflect on what it might have been like to take this famous
walk of prisoners and imagine that you yourself are one
of them thrown back in history. Your eyes gather
one last glance out to Venice before you are condemned
to a dark and gloomy cell.
It is interesting to note that there are two copies
of the Venice Bridge of Sighs, both located in England.
One can be found in Cambridge, the other in Oxford.
The Bridge of Sighs Venice has long been an inspiration
to poets and visitors to the city. Tours offered
at the Palace of Dukes are popular and offer a rare chance
to see the inside of the Palace and cross the Bridge of
Sighs into the historic prisons. These tours fill
up quickly in the spring and summer, and booking ahead
of time is a good idea. You will not want to miss
this chance to access the otherwise often restricted and
hidden quarters and passageways that offer a glimpse into
centuries of Venetian politics.