Bridge of Sighs Venice – History & Fun Facts

Bridge of Sighs Venice – History & Fun Facts

Let’s Start With Music Inspired by the Bridge Of Sighs

Here are the 2 most famous songs and music videos inspired by the Bridge of Sighs:

Music Video 1 – Bridge of Sighs – Louise Goffin

Louise Goffin is the daughter of the famous singer Carole King. Her “Bridge of Sighs” video was a classic VH1 hit which includes scenes from Venice.

Music Video 2 – Bridge of Sighs – Robin Trower

Robin Trower was inspired by the Ponte de Sospiri in Venice to compose the “Bridge of Sighs” song. He said that he knew the opening guitar riff 6 months before he composed the final section. His band played the song for the first time in Winterlaand in San Francisco, California to a 10 minute standing ovation.

This video sets his music to Venice scenes of the bridge.

Bridge of Sighs Legend

If lovers kiss on a gondola at sunset under the bridge as the bells of St Mark’s Campanile toll, the lovers will be given eternal love.

Movie Inspired by the Bridge of Sighs Lovers’ Legend

“A Little Romance”

“A Little Romance” is a 1979 romantic comedy. The plot of the movie centered on the legend of the Bridge of Sighs. A French boy and American girl meet in Paris. They want to bind their love forever as they kiss under the bridge at sunset.

“A Little Romance” was the film debut of the young Diane Lane.

Famous Quote

Dusk at the Bridge of Sighs Venice Italy

Bridge of Sighs Venice Italy – Photo By Artorusrex

“Many an innocent man to walk the Bridge of Sighs and descend into the dungeon which none entered and hoped to see the sun again.” Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

Bridge of Sighs History

The Bridge of Sighs is known as Ponte dei Sospiri by Venetians. It is the only covered limestone bridge in Venice, Italy and a tourist favorite. The baroque style arched bridge was designed by Antonio Contino. Taking 2 years to complete, it began construction in 1600 to span the Rio di Palazzo (Palace River) while connecting Doge’s Palace to a prison. The bridge is known as one of the finest examples of bridge architecture in the world.

According to folklore when prisoners crossed the canal on the bridge they sighed in despair as they approached their end of freedom and thus the bridge acquired its name.

The bridge’s famous name gained popularity in the 19th century from a quote in Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. “I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand.”

In 2007, a piece of marble fell off the adjoining Doge’s Palace and struck a German tourist in the leg. This brought about the Bridge of Sighs restoration which cost $3.7 million and took 3 years to complete.

Fun Fact – Most Famous Prisoner

Latin-lover Casanova was the most famous person to cross the Bridge of Sighs to the prison in 1755. Apparently not finding the prison to his liking, Casanova was able to escape the prison after 15 months with the help of a monk.

Seeing Ponte dei Sospiri

Bridge of Sighs - Venice Night

Venice – Bridge of Sighs – Photo by François Philipp

The view from the interior of the bridge looks out on the lagoon through lattice-work grates.

The Bridge of Sighs is best viewed from two places. Ponte Canonica on the northern side of the bridge but the most popular view is seen from Ponte della Paglia on the southern side.

A fun way to see the bridge is to visit on a gondola ride. Make sure you notice the many sculptures on the side as you pass under the bridge.

Google Map & Directions

Here is a map with directions which will help you find the Ponte dei Sospiri.

Venice Tip

When visiting Venice, don’t miss one of Venice’s most photographed sights. See our list of Free Things to do in Venice.

Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries Tour

The Secret Itineraries Tour ends at the Bridge of Sighs. You can skip lines and book the tour in US dollars through Select Italy.

17 Bridge of Sighs Facts at a Glance:

#1 – The Bridge of Sighs is located to the left off of the Piazza San Marco if you are facing the lagoon

#2 – When was it built?  It was build around 1600

#3 – How long did it take to build?  It only took around two years to build

#4 – It is built in the Baroque style which originated in late 16th century Italy

#5 – Who Designed Fact – it was designed and built by Antonio Contino

#6 – The uncle of Antonio Contino designed the Rialto Bridge in Venice

#7 – Bridge of Sighs translates to Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian

#8 – It is made of Istrian Stone which is common in Venice and is a type of impermeable limestone quarried in Istria

#9 – The Bridge of Sighs connects the new prison (Prigioni Nuove) that was actually built in the 1500’s to the courts and interrogation rooms located in the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

#10 – Bridge Naming Fact – the name of the bridge supposedly comes from the sighs uttered by prisoners as they have their last view of the Venice and the lagoon as they walk across the bridge from the courts to the prisons

#11 – The bridge can only be seen from two places: The less crowded Ponte Canonica on the northern side and the Ponte della Paglia

#12 – The windows on the bridge are covered with lattice like metal work making it very difficult to see anything

#13 – The Bridge of Sighs is one of over 400 bridges in Venice crossing about 100 canals

#14 – By the time the bridge was build only small time criminals were kept in the adjoining prison cells

#15 – Unique Bridge Fact – It is the only covered bridge in Venice and it is entirely enclosed

#16 – Giacomo Casanova successfully escaped from the prison with the help of a monk. He mentions the Bridge of Sighs in the “History of my Life”:

The Leads, used for the confinement of state prisoners, are in fact the lofts of the ducal palace, and take their name from the large plates of lead with which the roof is covered.

One can only reach them through the gates of the palace, the prison buildings, or by the bridge of which I have spoken called the Bridge of Sighs.

#17 – Poem Fact – the first prominent mention of the English name “Bridge of Sighs” comes from the 19th century poem by Byron “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” :

Byron’s Poem:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,

A palace and a prison in each hand:

I saw from out the wave her structures rise

As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:

A thousand years their cloudy wings expand

Around me, and a dying Glory smiles

O’er the far times, when many a subject land

Looked to the winged Lion’s marble piles,

Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

 

The Bridge of Sighs in Venice may be the most famous bridge of that name but it is not the only bridge named the Bridge of Sighs. Here are some other Bridge of Sighs:

  • The Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge, England
  • The Bridge of Sighs in Chester, England
  • The Bridge of Sighs in Oxford, England
  • The Bridge of Sighs in NYC that connects The Tombs (the Manhattan Detention Complex) with the Criminal Courts Building
  • The Bridge of Sighs at the Allegheny Courthouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the US
  • There is also a medieval building in Frankfurt, Germany called the Bridge of Sighs

Click here to read Amazon reviews and to purchase Bridge of Sighs: A Novel written Richard Russo:

Bridge of Sighs Review - Richard Russo

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