Venice has an impressive collection of bridges known for their finest baroque architecture. The most famous of them all is the Bridge of Sighs, built in 1600.
Designed by Antonio Contini, the bridge passes over the Rio di Palazzo, connecting the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the picturesque Doge’s Palace. Made of gleaming white stone, it stretches high above the channel, and it’s 36 feet wide.
Although the bridge is mostly associated with romance, the story about the origins of its name ‘Bridge of Sighs’ or ‘Ponte di Sospiri’ in Italian, has no romantic background at all.
As one of the legends says, prisoners walked across the bridge on their way to the executioner or back to their cells.
The view from the bridge was their last view of Venice, and their sighs of despair and depression are the ones credited with the famous name of the bridge.
Bridge of Sighs initially served as a corridor from the courts of the jail, split into two parallel passages intended for prisoner’s custody and separation before they were transported to jail or executed. However, its sad history doesn’t change the fact that the picture-perfect bridge is a beautiful sight and one of the main tourist attraction in Venice.
With a close observation of its external decoration, many sculptures, of which mostly angry and sad faces, can be noticed. Only one of the faces seems to have a happy expression, and it is believed that this particular sculpture is the bridge’s guardian.
Bridge of Sighs can be seen from Canonica Bridge and Ponte Della Paglia or by sailing beneath it in a gondola which is tourists’ most frequent and favorite way of observing its infrastructure and decoration.
Undoubtedly, couples are the most frequent guests who sail beneath the bridge in a gondola because of another timeless legend. Couples believe that if they kiss while drifting under the bridge at sunset, as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile ring out, they will enjoy eternal love and happiness.
The bridge has been an inspiration for the building of several international bridges with similar structure. Cities in England, America, Sweden, Germany, and Scotland have their ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and, considering the beauty of the Venetian bridge, no one can blame them.
Despite all of the bridges with a similar architecture around the world, the original Bridge of Sighs will always remain as one of Venice’s most beautiful landmarks and, also, one of the most popular attractions among tourists, especially couples.