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If you think about prison architecture, you are not going to believe that this beautiful, refined Venetian bridge could be one of its important examples.
The Ponte dei Sospiri is almost a symbol of Venice, appearing in tourist brochures about the city, postcards, and behind the smile and the fingers raised in victory of visitors, who choose the bridge as the backdrop for their photos.
Its history dates back to the early 17th century, when the architect Antonio Contino di Bernardino was commissioned to design a bridge that had to connect the Courthouse and prison cells of the Ducal Palace with the new building erected for the Prisons of the Inquisition. The bridge was built over the River Palazzo.
It is a construction that hangs over the Rio di Palazzo, closed and covered. Built with fine Istrian white marble, this bridge within Baroque style has two corridors separated by a wall. Some tiny windows are placed in the outer walls, allowing the light from the Venetian sky to filter in.
Although its beauty will make you sigh, do not think that this is the reason the bridge has this name, but in fact has its origins in something much sadder and more sinister. In the 19th century, in the period of romanticism, it is said that the leading man of letters Lord Byron called this bridge the Bridge of Sighs. The writer justified it romantically, saying that the prisoners who crossed the bridge from the courts sighed with pain, in the knowledge that they would be spending the rest of their days in the cells.
The sighs of the prisoners, then, were lost through the windows facing the canal, and from which was made out, and can still be made out today, a small but idyllic painting: Saint George, the lagoon and, above all, freedom.
You can get a great perspective view of the Ponte dei Sospiri from the Ponte della Paglia or, if you are not afraid of the dark, go to the inside of it from the Ducal Palace, following what is called the Secret Route.
There, knowing that you are free, you will be able to live the experience and sigh for the old prisoners, and you will see the beauty of the landscape that can be made out through the windows, also implying the last taste of freedom. If you think that, when you finish the route, you will be able to go for a ride on a gondola, eat a delicious ice cream or take a photo of the sunset over the lagoon, the experience will be that much profound for you. Your sighs will be to return to this city soon.
Gran Canal (1A)
Chiesa di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (22)
Palazzo Ducale (6)
Ponte dei Suspiri (10)
Santa Maria della Salute (42)
Basilica de San Giovanni e Paolo (36)
Columns of Saint Mark and Saint Theodore (8)
Palazzo Grassi (26)
Ponte dell’Accademia (3)
Torre dell’Orologio (9)
Basilica di San Marco (5)
Ca’Vendramin Calergi (19)
Fondaco dei Turchi (17)
Palazzo Labia (16)
Ponte di Rialto (2)
Chiesa dei Gesuiti (33)
Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo (41)
Statue of Colleoni (38)
Calle del Fumo (30)
Chiesa del Redentore (47)
I Gesuati (43)
Malibran Theatre (35)
Palazzo Mocenigo (25)
Calle Larga XXII Marzo (14)
Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto (31)
La Giudecca (45)
Mercato di Rialto (18)
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni (39)