In the heart of Venice, there are places shrouded in mystery that merit a visit: such as the Palazzo delle Prigioni, where the darkest traces of the history of La Serenissima are still to be found today.
A few yards from Piazza San Marco and Riva degli Schiavoni, both generally packed with tourists, there is a place that retains its air of mystery and takes us back centuries in time: Palazzo delle Prigioni, the Palace of Prisons. It is a building connected to Palazzo Ducale by the famous Bridge of Sighs, designed at the end of the 16th century by architect Antonio da Ponte (who was also responsible for the Rialto Bridge).
Together with the Piombi, which were located in the attic of Palazzo Ducale, the jails were considered the most secure and feared of Europe! Inside the Palazzo – where the torture room, tiny cells and narrow passageways can still be visited today – prisoners who were charged with serious crimes against the Republic served their punishment in incredibly harsh conditions, separated into areas according to the gravity of their crime and their social status. Due to the poor hygiene and the unhealthy environment, life in jail often became a real death sentence. This was not the case for the illustrious personality that was adventurer and writer Giacomo Casanova, who, waiting for judgment, when taken to the Piombi of Palazzo Ducale, managed to escape by means of deception. Today the Palazzo delle Prigioni houses the Artistic Circle of Venice, which hosts shows and concerts.
To immerse yourself in the darker side of civil life and the judicial institutions of La Serenissima and discover the secret itineraries of the prisons of Piazza San Marco, it is possible to book a guided visit.