Looking at the Bridge of Sighs from Ponte della Paglia, we can still imagine Casanova going over the Rio di Palazzo, from the prison to the Doge’s Palace, sighing for freedom.
The Venetian adventurer, who was arrested in 1755, would escape a few months later from prison, but for many others, this route over the Bridge of Sighs probably offered the last glance to the outside world.
The Bridge of Sighs (“Ponte dei Sospiri”, in Italian) was built at the beginning of the 17th century by Antonio Contino, on the order of the Doge Marino Grimani.
Antonio Contino, the successor of another famous architect, Antonio da Ponte (the creator of the Rialto Bridge), has built between 1600 and 1603 this baroque construction from white limestone to link the New Prison and the Doge’s Palace, where the prisoners were taken to be judged.
The bridge became famous in the 19th century because of Lord Byron, who painted it romantically in a poem called Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
Over time, the Bridge of Sighs will become a well-known Venetian symbol with bitter-sweet connotations, mixing the suffering and the desire for freedom of those who crossed it, with the hope of an eternal love for those who pass under it, today, in a gondola. If they share a kiss, at sunset, right at the moment they pass under the bridge, they will be blessed with a love that will never die.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Bridge of Sighs can be easily found. Coming from St. Mark’s Square, you make left after the Doge’s Palace, with San Giorgio Maggiore Island on your right, climb the first bridge (Ponte della Paglia) and turn to the left along Rio di Palazzo.
To cross it, you have to visit the Doge’s Palace. But do not expect, however, that the inside would be as spectacular as the outside.
The nearest vaporetto station is San Zaccaria, and you can get there with one of the ACTV lines 1, 2, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1 and 5.2.