The Bridge of Sighs: A building between melancholy and romance #veniceclassics

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The famous Bridge of Sighs (“Ponte dei Sospiri” in Italian) in Venice spans the eight-meter-wide Rio di Palazzo, while at the same time connecting the Doge's Palace to the new prison, the Prigioni nuove. Over this way, the prisoners were once led to their trial and then back to their prison rooms, where they had to serve their sentences or wait for execution. One of the most famous prison inmates who crossed the bridge was Giacomo Casanova. The sigh that the condemned people supposedly gave at their last look into freedom gave the bridge its name.

The Bridge of Sighs

The construction of the bridge

The construction of the Bridge of Sighs started in 1600 and was completed three years later. The architect of this building was Antonio Contin, a grandson of Antonio da Ponte, who had already been responsible for the construction of the Rialto Bridge. Contin had already been involved in this construction and had gained experience in bridge construction. Overall, the Ponte dei Sospiri is eleven meters long and at the same time quite narrow. It was built of limestone and is adorned with baroque decorations. The barred windows on both sides are richly decorated. The prisoners were allowed to take a last look into freedom from them. This is how the bridge got its name from the English poet Lord Byron in the Romantic Age, because he suspected that the prisoners sighed wistfully as they crossed the bridge - after all, their fate was usually sealed at that moment. Inside, the Bridge of Sighs consists of two paths separated by walls, so that the prisoners could not meet.

„I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and a prison on each hand.“
Lord Byron

Best View

One can enjoy a good view of the Bridge of Sighs from the Ponte della Paglia. It also extends over the Rio di Palazzo and was doubled in width between 1840 and 1844. Nevertheless, it often happens that the tourist crowds are very big, so that the bridge has to be partially closed. If you walk past the Doge's Palace and turn right, the bridge catches your eye. Alternatively, you can also see it from the Ponte della Canonica. However, in order to be able to explore the Bridge of Sighs up close, you should book a tour of the magnificent Doge's Palace, as this also leads over the Bridge of Sighs.

View from the Bridge of Sighs

The art thief Vincenzo Pipino used such a tour in 1991 to steal the 16th century painting "Madonna col bambino". Therefore he hid in one of the prison cells and at night went over the Bridge of Sighs to the Doge's Palace, where the artwork was kept. The next morning it was in the possession of the criminal group Mala del Brenta, but they had to hand it over to the police only a month later. Vincenzo Pipino was the first to successfully steal the Doge's Palace.

Madonna col bambino, das Gemälde, the painting that Pipino stole from the Doge's Palace on October 9, 1991

Romantic Ritual

If you want eternal love, you should take a Venetian gondola under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset. According to legend, a kiss should then seal eternal love. It's definitely worth a try.

Other bridges outside of Venice were also named after the famous model "Bridge of Sighs" - including a bridge at the University of Cambridge, at the University of Oxford and one in Bremen. In addition, "The Bridge of Sighs" is the name of an opera by Jacques Offenbach from 1861, and the American love film "A little Romance" also deals with the romantic view of the Bridge of Sighs.

Bridge of Sighs Oxford
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