The Bridge of Sighs, beyond the legend

The Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs
Among the first places to visit in Venice, and a monument often represented as a symbol of the city, the Bridge of Sighs has always inspired legends and mysteries. A place not only to be admired from the outside, but to be visited inside to discover its most restless soul..

After leaving St. Mark’s Square and continuing onwards in the direction of the Doge’s Palace, stopping for a photo on the ancient Ponte della Paglia is an absolute must. From here you can see the Bridge of Sighs, one of the corners of Venice most widely photographed by tourists.

These days, it is considered the bridge of love par excellence. It is said that if a couple in a gondola kisses as they pass under the bridge at sunset as the bells of St. Mark’s toll, their love will last forever, but in fact, its history is anything but romantic. Its origins date back to 1589, the year in which Doge Marino Grimani commissioned the building of a new structure on the opposite side of the canal hosting the Doge’s Palace to be used as a prison. The prime objective of the new complex was to safeguard the palace from the onerous duty of hosting prisoners within its walls. This elegant Baroque bridge in white Istrian stone was designed by Antonio Contin and his son Bernardo and served a very practical purpose. It was used to connect the Doge’s Palace to the building of the New Prisons.

As a result, in the centuries that followed it became known as the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, a name coined in the 19th century by Romantic poet Lord Byron who, in turn, was inspired by another legend. In fact, it is said that prisoners who crossed the bridge on the way to their prison cells or the execution chamber would sigh as they caught their last glimpses of Venice through the bridge’s tiny windows. An inescapable fate because, under the rule of the Doges, imprisonment lasted until death. It is said that Giacomo Casanova was the only prisoner who managed to escape from the dreaded prisons of Venice.

Today, the tour of the interiors of the bridge is part of the “Secret Itineraries” of the Doge’s Palace tour. This guided tour also offers visitors a chance to admire the interiors of the palace and the prisons, including the horrendous Torture Chamber and the deeply feared Interrogation Room.