It’s the only of the many iconic bridges in Venice that you didn’t ever want to cross.
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Bridge of Sighs, one of the most remarkable bridges in the world.
1. It crosses the Rio del Palazzo
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the over 400 bridges that cross any of the approximately 100 canals that run through the Italian city of Venice. It crosses one of the smaller canals called the “Rio del Palazzo.”
It’s located in the south of the city and just east of St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco in Italian) and the St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the most famous spots in the city.
2. It connects a palace and a prison
The bridge connects the famous Doge’s Palace, which was originally built in the year 1340, with the “New Prison” called the Prigioni Nuove. It directly connects the interrogation room of the palace with the prison.
3. Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?
The Italian name of the bridge is the “Ponte dei Sospiri,” which literally translates to the “Bridge of Sighs.” It was the famous English poet Lord Byron who first used the English version of the bridge’s name in the early 19th century.
The name is a reference to the fact that prisoners were led from the interrogation rooms directly to their cells in the prison and the bridge provided them with the only view of Venice before being locked up.
That’s enough to release a sigh of desperation, don’t you think?
4. The bridge is over 400 years old
The construction of the Bridge of Sighs started in the year 1600 and was completed just 3 years later in 1603. This means the bridge is now over 400 years old making it one of the oldest bridges in the city as well.
5. The designer of the bridge had a famous uncle
The arch bridge was designed in the Baroque style which became increasingly popular in the late 16th century in Italy. It’s one of the smaller bridges in the city as it only has a length of about 11 meters (36 feet).
The designer of the bridge was a man named Antonio Contino. More important is the fact that his uncle was one of the most famous architects in Venice at the time called Antonio da Ponte. he created the designs of the Rialto Bridge and the Ducal Palace in Venice.
It’s believed that his nephew helped him with the Rialto Bridge.
6. It’s constructed with a popular type of stone
The materials used for the construction of the Bridge of Sighs were a typical type of limestone called Istrian stone, or Pietra d’Istria in Italian. These stones were quarried in Istria, a region of modern-day Croatia.
Istrian stones were used for numerous buildings in and around Venice and are often confused for marble. This is for the simple reason that this particular type of limestone has nearly the same strength and density as marble.
7. The final view from the bridge wasn’t all that great
It’s believed that the time of the inquisition and subsequent executions was long gone by the time that the bridge was built, and it was only small-time criminals who actually crossed it.
That didn’t mean it was a pleasant experience though when being dragged off to a prison cell in the early 17th century. To make things even worse, the final view of the city was very limited as well.
One of the most interesting facts about the Bridge of Sighs is that the small windows of the bridge are covered with stone bars, making it virtually impossible to get a clear view. And it’s not as if you would have been allowed to take a nice long look as well, you weren’t on a sightseeing tour!
8. This was the most famous prisoner to cross the bridge
So who was the most famous prisoner to ever cross the Bridge of Sighs? His name is world-famous as Giacomo Casanova was once arrested for an affront to religion and common decency (how was that possible?) and imprisoned on the top floor of the Doge’s Palace.
Being sentenced to 5 years in prison wasn’t something he was up for, so he conceived a daring escape plan, which succeeded with the help of a monk, just 1.5 years after his initial crossing of the Bridge of Sighs.
9. Here you can get a great view of the Bridge of Sighs
Because the Bridge of Sighs is located in such a small canal in Venice, it can only be seen from a few places unless you’re on a Gondola. On the northern side, there’s the Ponte Canonica, which provides you with a view of the bridge toward the sea.
The most popular spot to get a glimpse from the bridge is the Ponte della Paglia on the south side, giving you a clear view of the bridge towards the city. This bridge is usually pretty crowded as well!
10. The bridge is special for Diane Lane
One of the most fun facts about the Bridge of Sighs is that it played a major role in the movie “A Little Romance” (1979) which revolves around a French boy and an American girl falling in love. In order to seal their love forever, they kiss beneath the Bridge of Sighs.
What’s remarkable about this movie is that it’s the movie debut of Diane Lane who was 24 when the movie came out! This surely means that the Bridge of Sighs is pretty special for her, and not in a way it has been special for numerous convicts who used to pass it on the inside!
You can watch the trailer of the movie here.