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Visit Venice

The Bridge of Sighs


The Bridge of Sighs spans the Rio di Palazzo or Palace River connecting the Doge's Palace with the Old Prison so that convicts could go straight from being sentenced in the palace courtrooms to their prison cell (or execution) across the bridge. Rather than connecting two roads on either side of the water, the bridge travels from one building to the other.

The origin of the name has several stories. Perhaps it got its name because of the prisoners who crossed the bridge and "sigh" because they had their last glimpse of the free world through the bridge windows before being confined. Alternatively the bridge could have been named for the sighs of lovers as they pass beneath the bridge in a romantic gondola and watch the sunset. The poet Lord Byron immortalized the bridge in his writing: "I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand." In the classic movie A Little Romance starring Laurence Olivier the legend was created which promised eternal love to those who kissed on a gondola while passing beneath the bridge at sunset as the bells of St. Mark's were ringing.

The bridge was designed by Antoni Contino and built in 1602, it took about 2 years to build and is 11 meters wide. The Bridge of Signs is enclosed and made of white limestone, the two small windows on each side have stone bars on them. The bridge roof has a gentle arch which echoes the bridge's arch over the water. The bridge is adorned with sculptured faces each with a sad or angry expression.

You can see the Bridge of Signs from the outside by taking a boat ride beneath it or take the a guided tour of the Doge's Palace to see the bridge from inside.

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