Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Venice: The Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs, designed and built in 1600 by Antonio Contino and known in Italian as Il Ponte dei Sospiri, is one of the most famous sites in Venice. It’s one of over 400 bridges and structures across the 100 canals and waterways of Venice.

“Sighs?” You ask. “Sighs for stories of romance? Sighs for its beauty? ”

Not exactly. Legend has it that prisoners crossing over to the prison cells on the other side would sigh at their last look through the bridge windows at the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio.

The Bridge of Sighs is architecturally unique with its fine, white limestone and lattice-like screens covering two small windows. The bridge is totally enclosed and passes over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the State Inquisitor's Room on the third floor of the Doge Palace to I Prigioni, the prison. The bridge was originally meant to be the passageway from the interrogation area over to the prison cells. The truth is... by the time the bridge was built the days of inquisitions and executions were over. Only small-time criminals were kept in the prison.

In actuality, it came to be called the “Bridge of Sighs” much later after Lord Byron's 19th century reference to it in his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.  "I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand."

Locals say that if lovers kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge Of Sighs they will be granted eternal love and bliss. Hmmm. My guess is that the fellas who book the gondola rides started that legend! In any case, the Bridge of Sighs is one of the many special places in Venice not to miss the next time you’re in that neighborhood.

(Be sure to check out the links under the photos for more info!)

- Nina Spitzer

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