Where Is the Bridge of Sighs?
The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) is a bridge located in Venice, northern Italy and connects the east side of the Doge’s Palace. The enclosed bridge is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, passes over the Rio di Palazzo, and connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. It was designed by Antonio Contino (whose uncle Antonio da Ponte had designed the Rialto Bridge) and was built in 1600.
Its name symbolizes the sadness of the prisoners crossing the bridge. The Doge’s Palace was begun in the 14th Century and took several centuries to complete. The Bridge was not built until the 17th Century. It became path by which prisoners crossed to the “pozzi” the prisons on the other side of the canal. The Bridge of Sighs is one of nearly 400 bridges over some 150 canals which make up the thoroughfares of Venice, a city built on wooden piles driven into the mud of the lagoon.
The city became known as the “Mistress of the Adriatic” from the custom carried out each year by the city’s rulers, from the 12th to the 18th Century, of throwing a wedding ring into the Adriatic in token of their claim to dominion over that sea.
The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge’s name, given by Lord Byron as a translation from the Italian “Ponte dei sospiri” in the 19th century, comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells. Lord Byron’s famous reference to the Bridge of Sighs appears in his poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; A palace and a prison on each hand.”
In reality, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built, and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, little could be seen from inside the bridge due to the stone grills covering the windows.
The other, happier, tradition connected to the Bridge is that if you kiss someone beneath it at sunset (which you can only do on a gondola) you will love each other forever. It’s unclear if this is just a bit of marketing spread by the gondoliers, or yet another legend that sprang long-ago from the fertile waters of the lagoon. Either way, there’s no doubt that a kiss under the Bridge at sunset is a supremely romantic moment.