Popular myth suggests it was the last view of Venice that convicts would see before they were led to their dungeons.
However much one may wish for it to be true, in some weird sort of way, it isn’t. It is actually from the pen of Lord Bryon, who, perhaps high on Laudanum, let his imagination run wild while writing ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ and decided to interpret the Italian ‘Ponte dei sospiri’ to suit his purpose. And thus the quote, “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace, and prison on each hand.”
Thankfully, the days of the inquisition and executions were long over by the time the bridge was built, it was mostly small-time convicts who did the walk across the canal. Though there was one famous prisoner to walk the bridge – Casanova in 1755. Turns out he hated the prison so much that he was able to escape from there, with a little bit of help from a monk. Amen.
The Bridge of Sighs is the only covered limestone bridge in Venice and supposedly one of the finest examples of bridge architecture anywhere in the world. It was designed by Antonio Contino and was built in 1600. It is the second most famous of Venice’s bridges, right behind the Rialto Bridge, which was designed by his uncle, Antonio da Ponte.
However, it is not all gloom and doom for those who pass under it. Many a gondolier are known to whisper into the ears of lovers that should they kiss on the gondola, at sunset, right under the bridge as the bells of St Mark’s bell tower toll, then they will be granted eternal love.