The Bridge of Sighs offers a pleasant solution to a very serious problem. The common criminal prisons in Venice were moved from the Doge’s Palace to a new building across the narrow canal. It was a question of how to move the prisoners who had just been forced into confessions in the torture chamber to the new building.
Antonio Contino, a young architect, was selected to build a passageway cum bridge. His creation consisted of a narrow, enclosed span made from white limestone and with stone bars covering its windows. Its whimsical appearance, its sad history and possibly a little poetic license by Romantics have made it famous. Its facts and lore, like many other parts of Venice are hard to discern, adding to its appeal.
The Bridge of Sighs
Antonio da Ponte, the Rialto Bridge architect, decided to move the Pozzi prisoners to a new building along a narrow canal in 1600. He then asked his nephew Antonio Contino to design it. The prison passage that Antonio da Ponte created was perhaps the most beautiful in the world – at least from the outside.
The tiny Baroque bridge – Venice’s only covered bridge – was quickly incorporated into Venetian lore by Lord Byron as “Bridge of Sighs” or the Ponte dei Sospiri. The origin of this name is not clear.
It is believed that it is the sound of life-sentenced prisoners sighing as they view Venice through the small window at the bridge. This theory was popularized Romantic writers such as Byron, who visited Venice during their Grand Tours. This theory has a problem. Very few people were being sentenced to life in prison at the time that the bridge was constructed. The bridge was used mainly for small-time crooks who were released after serving short sentences.
Another, more romantic legend about the bridge is that if you kiss someone underneath the bridge at sunset (which can only be done on a Gondola), you will forever love them. Although it is unclear if this is a marketing stunt by the gondoliers it is still an extremely romantic moment.
Tips to See the Bridge of Sighs
Tip The bridge can also be seen from the outside using two bridges, the Ponte Canonica in the north and the Ponte della Paglia in the south. The Ponte della Paglia is the most famous.
The tour lasts for 1 hour and 15 minutes and costs EUR28 (full-price). It includes the guided tour of the Secret Itineraries, and allows access without a guide to the Doge’s Palace.
Alternativ, you can also check out our Venice In A Day Tour. Here, you’ll visit the Doge’s Palace as well as St. Mark’s Basilica with a local expert guide. Then, take a gondola ride through the canals.
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It is not accessible for wheelchairs due to the narrow spaces and steep stairs. You are not permitted to bring large bags or luggage into the museum, but you can leave them at the cloakroom.
Note According to current government regulations, museums and other sites will be accessible only with the Green Pass. This does not apply to children younger than 12 years old or to those with a specific medical certificate. The Green Pass must be presented together with a valid ID document.
The Bridge of Sighs is best seen at sunset
Given its romantic connotations, some would argue that sunset is the best time to visit Venice. This is because sunset is when most people in Venice are out exploring romantic sites. If you aren’t afraid of crowds, it is a great time of day to see the Bridge of Sighs outside. If you want to enjoy a bit more solitude, we recommend that you go at sunrise.
Venice, despite being crowded most of the year is still quiet in the mornings. The earlier you get up, the better. The Ponte Della Paglia is the best place to see the Bridge of Sighs if you are able to get out of bed. It’s just as the sun rises above the rooftops.