The whole Venice is a monument in the open air. It is indeed unique in the world, romantic, dipped into centuries of history and hung upon traditions that are thoroughly looked after. If you have in mind to visit Venice, you must absolutely see the Bridge of Sighs, one of the most beautiful places in the lagoon city.
Nowadays, It is known as the bridge of love: couples kiss and exchange promises while on a gondola passing right below its stone arch, however, it hides deeds, very far away from being sentimental. Here for you the history of the bridge and its legends.
The history of Bridge of Sighs
Palazzo Ducale was devastated by a fire in 1577, forcing the Republic Senate to move from there its famous Venetian prisons: the Pozzi and the Piombi. The new jail cells, wider and safer, were relocated on the shore in front of the Rio di Palazzo and then used through the following centuries until 1919.
At the beginning of the 1600, the doge Marino Grimani commissioned to architect Antonio Contin the edification of a bridge to connect the rooms of the Magistratura directly to the prisons, in order to have the culprits transferred there straight after the sentence.
The bridge of Sighs was built according to the Baroque style, using stones from Istria, known as a calcareous microcrystalline, solid and barely porous ones, particularly resistant to the erosion caused by the salt. You can notice the figure of the Justice with the doge Grimani’s family crest below it, right in the middle of the external facade.
Why the name ‘Bridge of Sighs’
Perhaps you are wondering why it’s been called ‘Bridge of Sighs’. The prisoners, usually handcuffed while crossing the bridge, were probably having one last look at the sky and, while giving it up, heaved the last sigh of their now lost freedom. Following the vox populi, it was Lord Byron, who had found in Venice his safe haven from his debts and his motherland’s scandals, to give this name to the bridge. With the time passing by, the elegance of its structure and its charming view have become a proper spot for the lovers.
Legends and fun facts about Bridge of Sighs
Among the many adventures of Giacomo Casanova’s rocambolesque life there is also that of his escape from the Piombi, thanks to a hole practiced in the ceiling by his cell companion. His adventurous escape is narrated in his book of memories “Histoire de ma fuite des prisons de la République de Venise qu’on appelle les Plombs”.
You can look at the Bridge of Sighs from the outside, specifically either from Ponte della Paglia or from Ponte della Canonica, although I strongly advise you to join one of the guided tour to fully experiencing the atmosphere of the interiors. If you book a tour, you’ll be able to follow the steps of the old inmates, to see the Torture Room and the Inquisition Room. What are you waiting for?